Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Kitchen

"If you're interested in cooking, you're also just naturally interested in art, in love, in culture."

(Madame Jehane Benoit)

This is my favorite place in the house. Not specifically this corner, but the whole room-- the kitchen. This is where I spend more time than any place else. This is where I like to be.

Melissa got a new camera today. It was delivered to our door just a little bit before she had to leave for work. She quickly snapped a few pictures, and this corner of the kitchen was one of them. When the photo was taken, I'd just made cabbage with lemon and cream for lunch, and the mess had not yet been cleaned. But that's okay because that's how it is in a kitchen. I think Melissa will have fun experimenting with her new camera, figuring out how it works and what she can do with it. I hope she'll shoot some photos that she won't mind me posting here.

One of my favorite books to browse is A Pattern Language, an architecture book that contains a series of patterns one can choose from to create a desired design and spirit in their home. The patterns explain how design and use of space affect the people who inhabit those spaces. Why do certain rooms draw people and others don't? Why do people tend to gather (and remain) in certain spaces and not in others?

One of the possible recommended patterns in house design is "Farmhouse Kitchen." Here's an excerpt from the explanation of that pattern:

"In the farmhouse kitchen, kitchen work and family activity were completely integrated in one big room. The family activity centered around a big table in the middle; here they ate, talked, played cards, and did work of all kinds including some of the food preparation. The kitchen work was done communally both on the table, and on the counters round the walls. And there might have been a comfortable old chair in the corner where someone could sleep through the activities. Therefore:

"Make the kitchen bigger than usual, big enough to include the 'family room' space... Make it large enough to hold a good big table and chairs, some soft and some hard, with counters and stove and sink around the edge of the room; and make it a bright and comfortable room."

My kitchen is old and a bit beat up, but it fits this pattern. We brightened the kitchen by painting the cabinets, and we get wonderful light in the area, so it's cheery. The end of the counter has sitting space with two stools that are in constant use when people are here. The kitchen is wide open into the dining area, which is only a few feet away. So, while the table is not directly in the center of the kitchen, it's right there. And off to the side of the table is an overstuffed green chair with a little table and reading lamp beside it. Also adjacent to the table is our wood stove, which is in constant use during the winter. There are big windows in the dining area and kitchen, so there is a lot of nice natural light coming into the room.

This is the area of the house where people gather most of the time. The living room is right on the other side of the kitchen counter, wide open and in plain view to the kitchen and dining area, but for some reason, people would usually rather hang out in the kitchen-dining area. There's almost always someone sitting on the stools at the counter (and often someone sits on the counter, too, chatting or helping in the kitchen). The green chair in the corner is also in constant use, most often for reading or napping. And there are also usually people at the dining table, reading, writing, playing games, eating, or just hanging around to visit.

I love the kitchen. It's a warm and buzzing social place. It's a happy place. It's often filled with talking and laughing and good smells.

The last thing I made there? Pancakes. For dinner. Melissa asked if I could make a healthier version of Barefoot Contessa's Banana Sour Cream Pancakes. I did, and they were yummy! We liked them better than the original recipe.