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From My Window

Issue Date: September 13, 2018

Kitchen Musings

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

We are building a home on our land and it is both exciting and intimidating to have so many decisions to make along the way. As a result I have spent a lot of time in home improvement stores and design centers seeing things I'd never seen before. I am no interior designer and I don't do "Houzz" or "Pinterest." Nor do I watch those TV shows on home flippers. So I've been out of the loop in kitchen trends. In the meantime, we are in week 13 of living in our camping trailer and some of the contrasts could not be more interesting.

In the trailer I have about 18" of counter space total; a three-burner stove; an underperforming tiny oven, a small fridge/freezer unit; and a really small microwave along with some storage space (but not much.) Now I am not complaining, as there are millions of humans on this planet that would be overwhelmed at the luxury of this kitchen. I'm not trying to cook on a fire of dried dung without any running water; nor am I limited in access to food choices.

Most of our meals the first month or so of living in the trailer were a salad, fried potatoes and something from the grill. In other words, we ate like we do when we are camping. But that got old about the sixth week.

As a result I started trying to do more complicated meals; and as the weather has cooled, began to long for my trusty crockpot. Now every single thing we own in this world is in a box in our barn here, and finding one specific box was going to be tough. But I had sorted most of the "K" (kitchen) boxes into one area. So I cut open and rooted through about 13 boxes " without any luck at all. So I went to a discount store, found a crock pot for $11.99 and bought it. You guessed it, within 30 hours my husband found the "K" box I had sought, clearly labeled "crockpot." No matter, it is beef roast, chili, vegetable soup and pulled pork on the menu now.

But while I work in my teeny kitchen, the sights in the design centers are astonishing to me. I've seen kitchen islands larger than the entire galley-style kitchen in our first beloved river home on Highway 180. I found that little kitchen perfect, compact as it was. I find myself wondering how anyone could even reach the center of some of these islands to wipe them, although based on the design centers, most people plan on heaping the centers up with enormous flower arrangements or peculiar-looking sculptures. Maybe they buy those "mops on a pole" things to clean these enormous islands.

We've seen stoves with six or more burners " and one with four conventional burners on top and more yet in a drawer that pulls out from the side to add two additional burners PLUS a griddle.

Sinks have gotten enormous too " almost bathtub sized ones with no internal divisions (all one undivided vessel.) These have "exposed" fronts " requiring cutouts in the countertops so that the decorative side of the sink will show. Why, I have no idea. I see no utility in it, and I would imagine petite people would have trouble even reaching the bottoms of these huge sinks. An important trend is additional sinks for additional cooks in the islands themselves or even separate "washup" sinks in additional cupboards. Each of these requires separate plumbing and fixtures, of course " and you can imagine the finished product costing as much as a surgical suite in a hospital.

There are double ovens; convection ovens, and huge bays intended for your instapots; coffee grinders and other high-tech appliances.

Now, I can fully imagine our pioneer great-grandmothers astonishment at this display of high-tech gadgets and expansive spaces. They worked in small, dark kitchens on wood stoves, canning meat, vegetables and fruit enough to sustain their families through the entire winter in their tiny work areas. Some had a "summer kitchen," " a separate lean-to for such large operations, probably plagued with flies and mice. At least it kept the smoke and heat of the woodstove out of the un-air conditioned farmhouse.

So most of those women would have been dazzled with even my tiny trailer kitchen facility at the peak of the food preservation season.

But meanwhile, while our kitchens grow in size and complexity, the perplexing trend remains " Americans are eating more and more of their meals either outside the home completely; or they are buying prepared meals and bringing them home to eat. According to one survey on line 10% of Americans say they love cooking; 45% hate it and 45% felt somewhere in the middle. You have to believe this data, with the proliferation of prepared foods at grocery stores; the number of restaurants in every community; take-out meal delivery services and those on-line services that deliver "cook yourself" pre-measured ingredient kit meals.

Another survey I saw said an average American spends about $3,000 a year on eating out.

So trends in kitchens are bigger and better; yet more and more Americans don't eat and/or cook at home. Much less prepare food for an entire winter for their family at home.

I could cope indefinitely in my trailer kitchen. But I have to admit I am really looking forward to the modest-sized kitchen in our new house. I guess I belong to that minority group of people who like to cook " but I don't need a massive kitchen to work in. Although I must say after a few months of trailer life the new kitchen will seem like a Taj Mahal facility to me.

Meanwhile, somewhere in America, a family with a massive kitchen with multiple sinks, a kitchen island an acre in size with an enormous flower arrangement on it and double ovens is ordering in a pizza.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: Janiethibmartin@gmail.com.


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