The Heart of the Home
January 11, 2010 § 1 Comment
(Photo from an awesome apartment therapy post about my friend’s place)
This Saturday was one of those lovely expansive days, where time moves slowly without dragging, and you have nothing in particular to do but don’t feel bored. I think I spent almost 3/4s of the day in my kitchen. Cleaning a bit. Preparing some food for dinner with friends. But, mostly, actually, just hanging out there enjoying the space; sitting in a patch of sunlight that dappled the table. Oh, and dancing. I had cranked the radio up to a cheesy variety station, and I couldn’t stop myself from swiveling and jumping and twirling to the beat. (I actually love to dance around the kitchen – I find myself doing so with some frequency). My day in the kitchen got me musing about kitchens as spaces, beyond the food that is cooked there (we already know I think that’s important).
I remember talking to someone once about how to sleep better. They said that you should only use the bedroom (the bed especially) for two activities, sleep and then this other activity that starts with “s” that you know, ahem, you might sometimes want a bed for….This is to keep you from associating your bedroom with waking time activities. I think the kitchen is kind of exactly the opposite. It may be the place you cook (hopefully) and eat, but I find it to be such an important space for existing in at other times as well. There’s something about the kitchen, in my experience, that promotes gathering and mingling. Even the most cramped, awkward kitchens seem to have a way of coaxing people into them to sit and stay awhile – actually sometimes it’s the cramped kitchens that are best for this.
Whenever I go over to a friend’s house, try as we might to be demure and go sit in the parlor (er, that is to say, living room or some other space designed for sitting around in), instead we always find ourselves perched on stools and leaning against countertops in the kitchen. Sometimes there actually is food involved as a reason to stay there. More often there’s just a sense that this room is the heart of the home. The warmest, coziest, safest (which is odd, given that this is where the knives reside!) space. I wonder if, perhaps, this hearkens back to when people lived in drafty wood or mud homes in cold climates and really did need to gather together around the source of warmth and light in the home, the hearth in the kitchen. It is the sort of behavior (at least for me and the people I happen to know) that seems so deeply rooted, in the marrow of my bones, that it is almost an instinct.
I have two favorite kitchens in this world. Neither is a designer kitchen. Neither is noticeably well laid out, or full of amazing equipment, or is even very clean very often. They are cluttered, real, loveable spaces – one has a long table smack in the middle of the room with tall stools to perch on, the other is orange with soft lighting and a small table in the corner. But, what is important is there is always a mug of coffee or a glass of wine ready to be poured for you should you choose to stop in, and there are always people there to lend an ear, tell a story, give advice, tell a joke, or just be.