Monday, October 8, 2012

If I Had a Kitchen Like Yours

I've heard this time and time again in the last nine years.  "If I had a kitchen like yours. . ."

". . . I could cook every day too."
". . . I would can too."
". . . I'd be able to bake more often."
". . . I'd make my own bread too."
". . . I could teach my kids to cook like yours."

I do have a nice kitchen.  Scratch that, a wonderful kitchen. A kitchen that many wives are jealous of. It was designed and built for me.

However, it was also designed and built by me (mostly.  I did consult two kitchen designers who couldn't believe what I was telling them I wanted drawn up.  And DH did do a lot of the building too).  I had to earn this kitchen, both in culinary skill, in food production volume, and with the muscle and sweat of physical labor.  I don't know too many women who can say they held a cupboard up on the wall so their husbands could screw it into the studs.  (Those things are heavy, believe you me!)

My humble beginnings in the kitchen started as a child helping my mom bake Christmas cookies.  As I got older, we also did a short (very short) stint of canning tomatoes.  By the time I was a teen, I was cooking dinner two nights a week when my mom worked, as well as doing the majority of the baking (boy, did my dad miss his weekly cookies when I moved out!).

The first place DH and I lived together was a single-wide trailer, with a very small kitchen.  So small the table was in a corner of the living room, as there was no space for it in the kitchen.

It was at this table that I rolled out my first pie crust, with a drinking glass (since I didn't own a rolling pin yet) and in that dinky kitchen that I baked my first apple pie (in a round cake pan, since I didn't own a pie plate yet).  Yet people tell me if they "only had a kitchen like yours" they could bake pies too.

The next place was slightly better, another single-wide trailer, but with a kitchen big enough to fit the table into.  In that kitchen I made my first cinnamon rolls from scratch.  Yep, I have people who tell me today "If I had a kitchen like yours" they could make breads and rolls too.

The third place we lived was an old farmhouse, with an enormous kitchen.  Enormous in that it was a third of the downstairs of the house.  Tons of floor space in that kitchen.  But no counters.  It came equipped with a sink, a range, and about two cabinets.  No fridge (we used an old Kelvinator DH's dad had taken from a remodel job a decade before), no counter space, nowhere to store food.  In this kitchen I not only made breakfast, lunch and dinner every day, I also packed DH a lunch before he left for work every morning (this was the first place we lived after he graduated from college.)  Everything was prepped, mixed, and assembled on the table.  Which then had to be cleared and washed before serving the food that had just been prepared there.  If people "only had a kitchen like yours", with tons of work and storage space, they could save money by brown bagging for lunch too, as well as not eat out for dinner so often.

The fourth place we lived had a smaller kitchen, but it at least had a counter.  We still had to use the old Kelvinator for a fridge, though.

ignore cute little boy under sink (it's a wonder he didn't grow up to be a plumber);
focus on ugly old fridge on right side of picture

Sometime during our year in this fourth home, the latch on the door handle for the Kelvinator broke.  Being an antique, parts were not readily available, so we used a bungee cord to keep the door shut.  In this kitchen I made my own baby food (cute little boy can attest it was healthy and thoroughly edible, hence his growing big and strong enough to terrorize the kitchen cabinets), and also began my journey into child-requested birthday cake designs.

DS1's race car cake for his 4th birthday
(think early '90s nascar style car)

Several moms have told me if they "only had a kitchen like yours" they would bake cakes too instead of buy them.

The fifth place we rented, the kitchen was similar to the fourth in size, but much much darker.  Everything was brown, the wall paneling, the floor, the cabinets, the counters, the sink. . . Hardly a motivating work ambiance.  Again, we had to provide our own refrigerator, so continued to employ the trusty ancient Kelvinator with the broken handle.  More homemade baby food (DD1 had arrived by then), more birthday cakes, and we hosted our first extended family Christmas.  With about four feet of counter space, I cooked up a feast for more than a dozen people.  You guessed it, if people "only had a kitchen like yours" they could host family events too instead of going out to eat for holidays.

Note bungee cord on handle of fridge. 
 Other end was fastened to the cabinet above.

The sixth kitchen was small again, no counter space, although it came with a refrigerator. What a novelty--a door that seals shut on it's own!.  However, while it had a fridge, in this one we had to provide our own stove, so for the first month we were there I had no stove or oven and cooked all our meals on a single hot plate, with the electric griddle, or in a crock pot.  If they only had a kitchen like mine, they could cook every day too, they tell me. . . it would be so easy to make meals for a family.

That was the last place we rented, as after nearly a year and a half at the sixth house, we were able to find a small home on a small acreage that had a mortgage payment less than our monthly rent.  So we bought it, and moved five people into a 900 sq. ft home.  Where the kitchen had one small counter (in the corner, so less than two usable feet, actually), a range, no fridge, and the washing machine sat in the kitchen next to the range.  It was also original 1960's decor that the house had been built with (we bought it Nov. 1996. . .), but it was ours. In that kitchen I made yet more baby food (DD2), and began my canning journey.

After a year at the seventh place, the first home we owned, and adding our fourth child, we began to remodel.  One of the improvements we made was to move and expand the kitchen (pre-renovation, it had been two small bedrooms).  In the end, I had a kitchen that was about 10' x 10', with an L shaped counter top and cabinets between it and the attached 'dining room' which was roughly 8' x 7', not counting the hallway that passed through one side..  Yes, this was a much better work space, and I was able to cook, bake, and can much more easily than in any of the previous kitchens. Not to mention host more birthday parties, Easters, Thanksgivings, and Christmases.

When we built the house at this little place here (our eighth residence, if you're still counting) we had the kitchen designed for: feeding six people daily and twenty or more on occasion, baking, canning, and brewing.  The five-burner cook top easily accommodates a 5 gallon pot, or five smaller pots at the same time.  It holds two canners boiling away, and still has room for cooking dinner at the same time.  The 6 foot by three foot counter on the island is perfect for kneading bread dough, or rolling out pie and pastry crust; or for holding a bushel's worth of canned tomatoes, peaches, or applesauce while the jars are cooling.  It also makes a great buffet line for extended family holiday gatherings or high school soccer team dinners.  The double wall oven has roasted at 36 pound turkey at the same time as baking dinner rolls or green bean casserole and candied sweet potatoes.  The pantry holds several weeks worth of food.  It is, truly, a dream kitchen.

the pantry

my 5 burner cook top

double wall oven with counter space between it and the fridge

island, cook top and sink area

sink area, dishwasher, more cupboards and counter space

view from the doorway to the mudroom,
 showing island and more cupboards and counter space past the pantry

It is a kitchen that has to be earned to really be appreciated.  It is a kitchen, that most people, if they were handed it, still wouldn't make full use of it.  You either cook, or you don't.  You either bake, or you don't.  You either can, or you don't.  If you do, the kitchen has very little to do with it.  If you don't because you don't have the right kitchen, you most likely never will.


  1. I love your kitchen and I can see that you truly have earned it! I have also been through many kitchens of various sizes and layouts, and through it all I also have canned, dehydrated, cooked, baked, packed lunches, prepared my garden harvest, and done crafts. It's definitely all in our heads! Someday I hope that I will have my dream kitchen too :)

    Enjoy your wonderful kitchen!

  2. Fantastic post...I love seeing all the kitchens you went through! We have a pretty dreamy kitchen ourselves; although, it was the first major renovation we did here, and besides the mudroom, it's the only rooms that are 95% finished (rest all are in stages of remodel or will be at some point). I've held up a cabinet or two and even put a few of the IKEA ones together myself, and helped pour the concrete for the countertops, and helped lay the wood floor; pretty cool to have a hand in creating our own spaces. I agree, cook or you don't, doesn't matter much what your space is like! Bigger sometimes makes it easier...but it's also more square footage to clean. :D