I’m still unpacking in this new-to-me-hundred-year-old house in the redwoods. Every now and then I climb onto a stool in the very large kitchen, stir some cream into my coffee, and count my blessings. I’ve had galley kitchens, pullman kitchens and whatever other glorified descriptions we use for “too small.” One of my favorite memories is of my first kitchen as a family lady. It was a big, square room in a very small house.
Over the years we moved on up and up and up to modern and big and fancy – but nothing ever took my fancy again like that old kitchen where my daughter’s first birthday party took place.
Nothing makes home home-ier for me than a kitchen that is the center of everything. Modern houses have plenty of designated spaces for appliances and a granite counter for homework and a breakfast nook attached, but in these old places you can’t get from one spot to another without going through the kitchen and I like that fine.
In this house the kitchen is by far the biggest room. It’s not fancy, but it’s welcoming. It has some funky built-ins. A pantry and some curiously made shelves. Rustic? Oh my yes. It takes special mojo to keep the pantry door closed and leveling the new fridge into its spot is a joke. Nothing is level here.
A side note: Speaking of old houses, writer, Edie Clark, shares information about her restoration of the vintage “Mary’s Farm” in New England – with all its attendant quirks. She’s featured in Yankee Magazine as well as her own books, and she blogs regularly at http://www.yankeemagazine.com/blogs/marysfarm/ Edie’s stories are like fairy tales for a Californian who loves history. Not the ice on the pond and the shoveling of snow followed by the mud season, but the Currier & Ives pictures that make the farm look like a Christmas card all winter.
Back to my old house. When this cottage was built, there weren’t ranch-style residences with a long hallway. That was suburban architecture and back then there weren’t suburbs. There were no family rooms. No special acvitity spaces. The kitchen was the only space large enough for the family to gather – except, I guess for the homes of the very rich and their grand palaces, with which I have only a tourist’s acquaintance.
I like to think this little house reflects the way many families lived in ye olden days – tight but accommodating. The kitchen stayed warm all day, what with the cooking and the big table and the coffee and tea brewed all day long.
I’m a decent cook. Mostly Southern food. I’m already stewing-up and frying up a mess-a-sumthin’, but my daughter’s a far more accomplished cook and I can’t wait to taste what she’ll make when she visits. This Old House makes a person think of things like that.
Ó Anita Garner 2009