It is interesting, though probably not very polite, to take a walk in the evening, when lights are on, but blinds are still not down, and watch the passing display of rooms, in other people's houses. I've heard that when I was small, and looked at picture books with adults, I often asked unanswerable,
but non-cosmic questions such as "What is in that cupboard?" , "Is there a bedroom behind that door?", and, of course, "What is that they're having for dinner?" When I was a little older, I read the Laura Ingalls Wilder books over and over, at least in part because they anwered these nosy questions of mine in such complete detail.
You will probably not be all that surprised to hear that other people's kitchens are a particular interest. I like to see how they have set things up, what equipment they chose and how they adapted to what they were stuck with. Often, someone's kitchen, when you know them, has some detail which is particularly characteristic or revealing, because for an involved cook, it is a pretty personal room.
It is also fun to consider what it would be like to cook somewhere different. It is interesting, and at times unnerving to cook in other people's kitchens, helping them, or taking over to give someone a break. Sometimes it seems as if each inhabited kitchen has its own set of assumptions, which may not be obvious. These must be explained, intuited, or puzzled out, so that you can function without messing up the place, or the food. Tact may be needed, or imagination.
So I've been thinking about those kitchens of family, friends, and acquaintances, and also of some total strangers (whose houses sometimes appear in the press) which strike me , for some reason, as particularly pleasant, or cleverly done, or provoking or horrible.
The kitchen pictured here belongs to my cousin and friend L.. I visited her in England this spring, when she was in the middle of remodeling her kitchen, which was going to be quite different than before. There were already fewer fitted cabinets, and it was lighter in feel, and filled with daylight. She had installed new sleek cabinets just before I arrived . You can sort of see them in the photo, which was not taken with foodblogging in mind. They are honey colored wood, and quite satiny; they have modern looking brushed silver metal handles, and feel very warm and smooth. Her window looks out on a pretty patch of her garden.
While I was there, the plasterers came and did the walls, preparatory to painting and tile setting. You may be able to see that the plaster was creamy and dark at first. It needed to dry out and cure before further work was done, and it was cool to watch it change color as it dried. It was still in the drying process two weeks later, when I left for home. The mottled plaster fresco-like look was very appealing , but it would, of course, be impossible to leave bare plaster in a kitchen, since it would absorb every molecule of ambient grease.
We went and looked at ceramic tiles together; L. had not made her selection yet when I left. There were so many beautiful ones, and she was going to pick tiles for the floor, as well as some for a backsplash behind counters. It is hard to decide what to get- I would have the same problem. You may have these tiles to look at for the rest of your life. How do you reconcile the desire for something really interesting, and the hope that they won't become tiresome? And, too, you'd like them to be flexible enough to accomodate changes in wall color and the like, which you may wish for later.
This is a happy kind of dilemma, which allows you to examine lots of beautiful things.
Brighton is the very place for doing that. I have never been in another city with such an ambundance of beautiful, unique arty and otherwise appealing shops (and restaurants). L also intended to get new pots and pans with glass lids, and had whittled down her dinnerware to what was needed, all looking nice together, simple, and clean. We browsed pots and pans and other kitchen goodies in The Lanes, including at the posh Steamer Trading Cookshop, with its 3 stories of kitchen things. There I bought L. a house gift of a good knife. This was a hectoring sort of present, really. Everyone had made exuberent fun of me when I mashed up and ruined a lovely, very fresh loaf of bread from a special bakery, cutting it up for picnic sandwiches. All the household knives were very dull; it was like beating the bread with a baseball bat. However, when L. took over, she was able to cut nice neat slices with the same, club-like tools . So who was this gift for, anyway? I hope she will enjoy it regardless.
I'm not sure if L. is planning to keep her round table, where everyone tends to gather to talk. Her kitchen is a very welcoming room and clearly her own. Even in its unfinished state, it is a place where people want to sit and talk, because they want to sit around with her.
When ever L goes food shopping, she always gets fresh flowers for her house and puts some on her kitchen table. I now do the same (although I do not have a kitchen table- so my flowers go in my dining room). I read somewhere, awhile back, that if you have fresh flowers, really good coffee, and the best available bread, you will always feel rich. I agree, with the caveat, of course, that you must also have enough to eat and a bed to sleep in and a roof over your head, or there is no chance that you will feel okay. Having all six makes me a fairly priviledged character.