‘No matter where I serve my guests, it seems they like my kitchen best’. This is the saying I stitched into a sampler, which is framed and now hangs in my renovated kitchen. Ah needlepoint. Yet another short-lived unfulfilled hobby, along with flute playing and stand up paddle boarding.
I’d always aspired to have a large eat-in kitchen like my mum’s – the one I grew up with in Geebung. (It’s true I also aspired to be an astronaut, a marathon swimmer and Joan Baez.)
Our Geebung kitchen was a huge room with terrazzo tiles on the floor, an enormous kitchen table, replete with seersucker tablecloth and a stove you could see from space. But oh, the fond memories I have of my mother’s kitchen. I especially remember the ‘warming oven’ of our big Westinghouse stove. Creeping in late at night after uni and maybe a music gig, I’d find that night’s dinner –shepherd’s pie for sure –deliciously warm and welcoming. A mother’s love wrapped in alfoil.
Sadly my aspirational kitchen never materialised.
As a single parent, I could never afford the large kitchen of my childhood – like the ones featured in ‘Home Beautiful’. These always seem to feature an enormous workbench (clean and empty), with myriad French cookware and utensils dangling from bespoke cast iron fittings. The table in these ‘country kitchens’ is always large, scrubbed and wooden (antique) with a tasteful crystal bowl of impossibly gorgeous, fresh flowers artfully displayed. Any children cavorting in these kitchens would also be gorgeous, scrubbed and tasteful.
My kitchen is small, and before The Renovation, sported a small pop up table attached to the bench just big enough for my daughter (gorgeous yet unscrubbed) and me to enjoy our spaghetti bolognaise together. And when I say together, we really eye-balled each other for years over a very small distance. All the surfaces of my kitchen were cluttered with china, photos, unpaid bills, children’s drawings, used batteries, the odd banana and musical instruments.
Still, I managed to host many meals in that tiny kitchen – family, friends and childhood pals of Katie’s being frequent guests. While meals were prepared, chairs would be dragged in, kids were on laps and other guests provided commentary from the adjacent room. Dinner might finally be eaten on knees in the lounge room, or perhaps out on the back deck. Then it was back into the kitchen for the washing up – no dishwasher in those days.
Once my daughter moved out and I had some cash, I was able to renovate my kitchen into a more workable space, with a dishwasher! I now have a lovely old pine table, not huge, but big enough for a few of us to sit around and enjoy the ritual of sharing food and conversation.
Because this is what kitchens are all about.
I wrote a song about my childhood kitchen. We all understood it was my mother’s domain. In the song I pay homage to the lessons I learnt around my mum’s kitchen table:
It was there I learned to see
To listen and to sing
I learnt patience
I learnt love in my mother’s kitchen.