This is not the time to be working on my blog. I should be preparing for class. Precious minutes are ticking away, and I don't want to be up too late this evening, particularly since, yes, the flu seems yet again to be tickling at my throat and in my sinuses, threatening to bloom if I push myself even a little bit too hard. But I can't. Concentrate on preparing for class, that is. My head is full of kitchen cabinets and wiring and how deep the countertops should be and whether we'll be able to afford that beautiful mosaic tile work that our designer showed me today. My husband is anxious about the time of year that we'll be doing the work (winter) and where all the stuff from the kitchen, back bedroom and pantry-soon-to-be-utility room is going to go, but I don't feel anxious so much as ecstatic: I am finally going to have a kitchen to be proud of!

Who knew that this was the thing that was depressing me most about my life, something so apparently frivolous as cabinetry? But for years now, ever since we moved into this apartment and I learned what it meant to be able to change the floors (carpeted when we bought it), hang anything we wanted to on the walls, choose our own faucets and other hardware, it has seemed a kind of penance still to be stuck with some other woman's kitchen. No, stronger than that. A failing. Something to be ashamed of. Somehow a judgment on whether we had actually "made" it or not. Every time I would visit a friend or a colleague, my stomach would curl at the sight of their kitchens, invariably newly installed, invariably beautifully designed. And then I would come home to my hovel of a room and wilt.

Not that it is a bad kitchen to cook in. I have made full-scale Thanksgiving dinners in it with comfort and relative ease. It's actually--for all that it is definitely on the small side compared with all those other kitchens I've been envying--very well-shaped, no dead space to move through to get from one counter to another, workspaces nicely adjacent to things like the stove and the sink. But it's ugly. And dark. And cheap. But I've said all this before. So why do I still feel like I need to say it again? Perhaps to give myself courage. But also, I think, to reassure myself that it's really going to happen: within the next few months (give or take a room full of dust) I am going to have an elegant new kitchen. And I'm interested in why this seems so important to me.

It is an act of taking possession but also, more simply, of rearranging the furniture. I can have the washer and dryer in this other little room so that you don't see them while you're sitting in the dining room? Great! I can put a cabinet there where there isn't one now, so that I don't have to look at all the recycling all the time? Fabulous! The kitchen being what it is (fitted), it is the one room that I have not been able to arrange with things that I chose. And yet, still it goes deeper than this. The kitchen is the heart of a home. Fix the kitchen and you have transformed the entire space.

Oh, how I wish I could find the words now to express what I'm feeling. It is as if changing the kitchen is going to change my whole life, make the apartment truly my and my family's home, not just a place where we happen to live. It's funny, because at the time that our building was built--1909--the kitchen was not even considered a living area. It was back in the back with the maid's room (now the back bedroom). The Family would not go there, only the Help. Now, however, kitchens are typically the center of the home, sometimes (to judge by the photos in the sample books I've been looking at) the largest room in the house.

It is, as others have pointed out, ironic that in an age when people cook less and less at home, kitchens should have become such sanctuaries. But I do cook in our kitchen (although, just at the moment, my son is making dinner for us tonight while I'm writing this post--ironic, eh?) and we do not have and do not want a microwave. To be sure, I only tend to cook full-scale Thanksgiving dinners at Thanksgiving, but even something so simple as making rice and steamed vegetables takes a stove. And I bake altar bread every other month or so for our church. I used to bake cookies quite regularly, and I've even gone so far as to make a Martha Stewart pattern gingerbread house. I don't think of myself as a very good cook, but sometimes the things that I make are quite good. So (I suppose what I'm saying) this kitchen isn't just for show; I do cook.

Am I apologizing now for wanting to make this change? Yes, I suppose I am. Do I not yet deserve such a beautiful kitchen? Why not? Why should I not have a beautiful kitchen when all of my friends and colleagues do? See? I simply can't get away from the fact that having this kitchen-work done will make some kind of statement about my whole life.

But I think my son has finished cooking now. Dinnertime!


  1. Kitchen renovations are absolutely worth the pain and effort! Cooking lies at the heart of human evolution (really, I was just reading a recent paper about that), so it is near and dear to our biological hard wiring. It is comfort and nurture and the building of social ties. And it is a great (and rare) opportunity to exercise your creativity on such a large scale.

    Our kitchen also was build, circa 1915, as a place relegated to servants, where the family never really lived. By knocking it together with a strange little room next to the powder room we got a decent sized kitchen (which became Badger Bakery) and turned the hall that used to join them into a coat closet and a gloriously large pantry, both much needed.

    So, give your imagination free rein (within budget constraints, of course) and have fun. And really, camping out in the dining room for a couple months isn't so bad. With a toaster and a rice cooker, many wonderful food adventures are possible...

  2. My real concern now, I suppose, is that I am being too timid. This is our chance, as you say. Budget-allowing, what could we do?!


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