by Durand Seay
Discover a definition of kitchen and how it imparts the heart of the home.
| The east window allowed morning sun to stream into the kitchen and feed the plants on the shelves with the warming light, best light of the day for violets. The kitchen table sat here at the end of the room. It sat eight in a pinch, mostly six. We would come to visit for a long weekend or at holidays, and it would be here that the day began. Having breakfast with fresh, home made biscuits, country ham, and scrabbled eggs, and of course coffee for the adults at my grandmother’s mother’s old table was always surrounded with joy in that small kitchen.
The sink looked out through a large window to the north with plate wracks to your right beneath the cabinets. Next to the sink was the marble topped counter. Always cold and lightly dusted with remnants of flour around the edges, this was where the preparation of the biscuits would begin. Below was the cabinet for the flour, baking powder; a pull out drawer made that process fast and easy to grab the sifter and bowls to start the mixing. The shortening came next with that touch of buttermilk. This was the baking station.
Behind you, cattycorner to the sink was the range and oven. You could still see up high on the wall the hole covered by a late tin sheet to hide where the stove pipe once penetrated. It was a modern oven, newest one you could get in 1950; gas fired. The flame on the stove was sure and true, easy to control the heat. That oven would have been already fired up to 400 degrees to begin the preheating for baking and to warm the kitchen in a winter’s day.
I was always up early to see what all was going on in there. Promptly put to work cutting in the circles from the lightly rolled out dough, I was always anxious for that first butter slathered biscuit. We would place the dough on the baking sheets and carefully place them into the oven. Moving over to the table to be put now out of the way while other activities occurred, like adults getting themselves that first coffee. As I sat under the violets and begonias admiring the glass marble and pottery bird embellishments in each pot, I would be queried as to how school was going or was I ready for Santa to come.
With this memory, you begin to feel the essence of what kitchens are about and need so as to generate a real living functionality and presents. The east window, the table and chairs, provide that location where we of course eat, but also to socialize. It is the place where one goes to wait, re-review that recipe to be sure we have everything included; verify the baking temperature and time. The table is that place where we need that moment of repose, to stop and recollect our methods, but to also have that place to discuss the momentary and future happenings. “Who died lately”, “how was your trip,” “what all have you been up to,” are among the questions of what the kitchen table motivates. Basically we need by human nature that kind of place.
Of course, not to neglect the kitchen, it is for preparation of food to be cooked and whirled into our creations. It is the place where family gathers. In our modernity, back to the future, it has also become the gathering place for everyone, including our quests. Cooking is theater and fun to watch. It is how we communicate with gastronomical socialization. We all want to help paint the fence with Huck, so in turn we want to be actors in the play, so provide everyone a comfortable place to perform.
That is done through establishing work stations in our designs. Of course there is the prep at the sink, the cooking and as recognized, a baking station with that stone top to keep the shortening or butter cold for flaky baking results. It should be near the oven. The objective basically is to prevent the overlap of persons working and bumping into each other (or tripping over the oven door when open). Our kitchens have become a nucleus of orchestrated activities with many performers and stage hands to help.
A central island with seating has become a more modern manifestation of the kitchen table, the first stage. Additionally, here we can wash and prep, and cook as an alternate. I prefer the wash and prep since that is what we do the most as a group function. The sink here directs our views out to the audience and open areas. Islands are for serving and then later for cleaning, receiving those dirty dishes. The island is where we spend most of our time as compared to the cooking, which is mostly done by few individuals. The perfect way station they have become.
Nearby, the refrigerator is for storage, but also for quests to help prepare the water with ice or be near a secondary sink as a bar at the end of the island to supply our libations. This is the best location to organize the silverware and table linens in drawers below. It is where food can be brought out ready to go to the buffet. The refrigerator is not so critical of being close to the other work stations. It works well to be more removed as the quest’s station and the place to prepare the preferred refreshment for the cook(s).
The kitchen once was the place for the servants or to hide the mess from our guest. It was separated with great intention. Not any more in today’s world; socially, the very heart of the home is there in the kitchen. So surround the kitchen with the other areas, opening up to dinning, keeping (sitting) room, television, and dens, so that we all may see what is going on. Get you a cup of coffee and have a seat. Speak to each other in conversations of the day, check the plants for water, and gather as we perform the quintessential acts of our lively hearts.