I still have a split personality when it comes to food: I sometimes eat cold Beefaroni from the can, and I really like one slice of Oscar Meyer bologna with plain yellow mustard (which household did I get that crave from, I wonder?) and I confess to a chocolate addiction. Most of the time, however, I sow seeds, weed, harvest, feed, butcher, salt, can, bake, soak, preserve, dry, freeze and root cellar. Over time, we have managed to set up a household that has the tools for our lives, tools that have taken us years to accumulate. We knew for a fact who our true friends were when we received for wedding gifts things like pots and pans, a pressure canner, and a beautiful cutting board.
When we first came to look at this farm, while waiting for the realtor to arrive, we walked around peeking in the windows. When I looked in the kitchen window and saw the double drainboard sink, I was sold. It's the old style, porcelain and cast iron. It's so heavy that the kitchen drawer below it drags when you try to open it. We replaced the teeny woodstove with one you could cook on, and it is in use from November until April most years. We changed the wallpaper, and started refinishing the red oak wainscoting, starting by stripping wallpaper, eleventy-seven coats of apple green paint and paneling.. (That was in 1998. Not done yet.) Flooring and countertops remain unchanged. Luckily, the previous owners had put in excellent cabinets and lots of shelving in the pantry. We are too busy most of the time for remodeling.
I like to think of our kitchen as an example of "Style vs. Substance." It's never pretty. There are overflows baked onto the stove. Canning jars by the basement door piling up waiting to go back down. Vegetables, fruit and herbs in various stages of preservation. Books, bills, lists galore on the table. Cookie sheets that need washing. Dishwasher that needs unloading. Coats on EVERY chair back. Muck boots on old towels by the door. A crockpot that dates back to the 70's. In the background, in what used to be a shower/tub, are multiple bags full of beans drying, awaiting shelling. Foil and plastic bags drying. During July and August (and sometimes September), summer goes into jars. In the winter, summer comes out of those jars and sustains us through the non-growing months. In the fall, the root crops plunge into the darkness of the root cellar (really just the basement) for retrieval throughout the winter months. There is always a pot of coffee on, or in the summer, a gallon of iced tea brewing. I am constantly rearranging freezers and refrigerators to accomodate meats, vegetables, grains, flours and fruits. Sometimes there is is box of baby chicks on the table. Cats wanting to come in. Cats wanting to go out. But out of this chaos, dinners, breakfasts and lunches, and even an occassional snack, somehow appear.
Despite the apparent and constant lack of order, my kitchen remains the heart of our home. We listen to music and the news, we talk of all the important things, we eat together. We pet the cats, we dry off the dog, we grab a drink of water. All life on this farm revolves around this space. The smell of drying herbs, or cookies baking, or onions frying never fails to intoxicate. It brings to mind a little sampler that my grandmother had hanging in her kitchen: "Of all the places I serve my guests, it seems they like my kitchen best."
Granny had it right.