Kitchen Clarity (… in which I consider what I love and hate about kitchens…)
We have cracked tiles, peeling plastic, an odd window ledge and a chronic issue with heating, so we are hopeful that 2022 will be a year to get our kitchen under control. It has done well, though: three children raised into three teenagers – suitably(ish) fed and watered and the laundry done.
Brewing in the background is a debate about the merits of “clean lines and surfaces” versus “curated clutter on open shelving”, but we will leave that for the future. Today I want to think about great kitchens of the past and what drives me nuts about the kitchens I hate.
Corner cupboards? I hate them. I especially hate them when they have oh-so-clever mechanisms that make them seem not really like a corner cupboard. I hate any kind of a whizzy wheel gadget or clunky basket contraption that supposedly brings all of your corner cupboard things out to be easily accessible. It is all a myth.
I have one corner cupboard that is like an honest corner cupboard, but I don’t even like it. I literally have to put on a head torch to get anything out of the further back half. And inside the cupboard, there is the opportunity for baking trays to fall down a hole into kitchen oblivion. The other corner cupboard is cursed with an over designed mechanism that just sticks, judders and generates rust, dust and still makes things nearly impossible to reach. Even with the items in view, the mechanism itself takes up so much space, I can’t hardly get anything out. So, no corner cupboards.
What else do I hate? I hate “up” cuboards – at least the top shelf of them. I am short and cannae reach them. What is the point? They just get filled with things that are never used, so those things should be “gone through”, clearly. What is in my up cupboards? Excess snacks, plastic plates, water bottles that are no one’s favoured/used water bottles, nuts and dried fruit for baking I won’t get around to, calpol, random alcohol that we don’t drink, electrical gadgets that we don’t use, odd socks and impractical drinking vessels of every genre. Instead of wobbling about on a chair looking for birthday candles up a height, I would rather there was no ‘up a height’ to consider.
This is all a bit negative. There are some things about kitchens that I love. The best kitchen I ever worked in was the camp kitchen in Ballater. It was all under canvas. The kitchen was a screened off corner of a massive marquee. The quartermaster’s store was adjacent to the kitchen. We had two big gas Dominator ovens, a water boiler, a Salamander grill, and every utensil you could ever want in full view on open shelves. Between the ovens and the shelves were four tables shoved together to make one massive table for prep. We had the purest of running water from a burn to a sink and a bucket under the plughole to catch the water. That was the dream. Had the design not been perfect, it could have been reconfigured – but every year, we set it up exactly the same way. It was weird, reaching for a ladle that you knew would be there, even although it had been in storage for the previous 48 weeks! The best feature of that kitchen was that, if it was too hot, you could take the walls down. No refrigeration was required; the butcher would deliver the meat as we needed it. Them were the days… (“Intents Catering: We’re in a field of our own”)
I think the trick to a great kitchen is the flow. You want the food to be in one place, then the prep to be in another, then the cooking, then the wash up, then the serving. So, I want to come in the back door with the shopping, then have the fridge and whatever storage immediately to hand, and so on.
Kitchens without that flow make me want to scream. I want an oven that is idiot proof, sharp knives, colour-coded chopping boards, a meat probe, useful things to hand and not banged up in the inaccessible reaches of corner cupboards.
So that would be fine, if all a kitchen was was a kitchen. For us it is also a place for general kipplization. Shoes multiply. Bags, likewise. Jackets. Sport stuff. Jotters. Chargers. Bobbles. Masks. Bibles. Drying laundry. Baskets of clean laundry. The sweepy brush and mop. Bits of paper. Opened mail. Things that no one is claiming but no one feels like disposing of in case it is important. There is a whole transfer station zone that shouldn’t exist in an ideal world but kind of needs to exist for anyone to leave the house ready to go somewhere and do something.
What are your biggest kitchen regrets? What was your best kitchen epiphany? When is a kitchen not a kitchen? Please share your ideas with me before I am in a space age corner-cupboard supposed utopia of clever storage solutions, wondering why I didn’t listen to myself.