Today, as I sit here in my haven in our Beach Condo (which will be sold next week), I reflect on the bittersweet feelings in letting go and moving on. As I watch the calming waters of the ocean in front of me, listen to the seagulls around me, and breathe in the salt air… I close my eyes and begin to dream of the next chapter in my life.
We are finally buying our very own home. A 200-year old fixer-upper on a pristine street lined with trees and beautiful houses, in a quaint picturesque neighborhood. Selling this condo here is buying our home there. It’s a bittersweet exchange. No more beach view and daily walks along the ocean. It’s time to let go, and look forward to something new.
And so, today, I am thinking and dreaming about…my kitchen. Not just any kitchen…
My very own uniquely designed kitchen.
I’ve been waiting for this since college; the time in my life that I would have practically done anything to have my own home and specifically my own kitchen. Growing up in South Philadelphia and the nearby suburbs, I consider myself privileged to have had most of my upbringing centered around family, kitchen, and food. My mom and grandmother were extraordinary cooks. You know, the kind of cooks that just “make it up” as they go. I was drawn to the kitchen. I wanted so badly to have my own place to do a little of this, and throw in a little of that. But, rarely did my mom want to relinquish control of her kitchen (understandably so). It was not until college that I first discovered not only my true joy in cooking, but how cooking would become an expression of my heart.
During my sophomore year in college, I became a nanny for a woman, named Katie, who is today one of my dearest friends. Back then, Katie was confined to bed-rest during a difficult pregnancy and desperately needed a caretaker for her home and 2 very young daughters. She had a beautiful English Tudor home overlooking the Hudson River in Nyack, New York; just a few minutes away from my dormitory. As Katie’s husband worked long hours and constructed an addition to the home including a new master bedroom and great room, I was asked to take care of things such as homework, stroller walks, light house-keeping, and cooking dinner. It was a wonderful 6-hours for me, twice each week. To this day, Katie and her family have become like my extended family. And that bedridden pregnancy, by the way, is now a handsome 21-year old engineering student at NYU.
I loved cooking in Katie’s kitchen! I will never forget the first time Katie asked for me to prepare supper. I don’t mean just warm it up or set the table, but actually determine the meal, get the ingredients, and serve it up. I thought to myself, “There is no way this lady is going to pay me to play mom and cook for her family in her kitchen!” I was thrilled but a little nervous. I remembered watching my mom and grandmother cook just about everything from Italian Meatballs and Gravy to Homemade Apple Cake, but I never prepared a meal from start to finish in a real kitchen. Thankfully, in a short amount of time (and after just a few mess-ups and one touch-and-go fire incident)…I became a little Nanny Crocker.
Katie and her husband enjoyed my cooking, and as the kids grew up, they liked it, too. It was a match made in heaven. Now 2 decades later, Katie and I are both equally convinced that we got the better end of that deal. She thanks me for helping her during a difficult time, and I thank her for paying my college tuition and allowing me the freedom to discover the core fabric of my being. I was desperate for it then, and I am more than ready for it now.
Fast-forward 20 years. I have owned three (let’s just say “temporary”) kitchens throughout my transient post-college life. I have dabbled a bit in gardening, improved my skills with my chef’s knife (Katie and I actually took a class at the Culinary Institute in NY several years ago)…I have done a bit of catering on the side (Rachel Maria’s Catering), and I’ve collected everything from stemware to cutlery, etc. But, never have I designed the kitchen that would do more than prepare meals. My own kitchen would truly express a part of myself.
Here is where I may lose some male-readers; While men like to eat in the kitchen, most women like to dwell there. It is her haven. It is a contribution of themselves to their family, their friends, and hopefully to the needy. A women’s kitchen somewhat reflects who she is.
When I think of my mom’s kitchen, I can hear Frank Sinatra playing on the radio, and smell the garlic, basil, and meatballs frying (yes, she was frying). Her kitchen was traditional, like her. Warm, like her. And classy, like her. When I think of my mom, I visualize her cooking in her kitchen and creating something extraordinary to share with those she loved. She was great at this! (And Katie, by the way, is also an extraordinary cook as she now has reclaimed her kitchen since I earned my Bachelor’s Degree.)
Moms, grand moms, housewives, and single women (although not enough, quite frankly) should enjoy their kitchens. It can be whatever she makes it to be. A woman who takes pride in her home will appreciate sharing a part of herself in her kitchen.
Today, I dream of my kitchen in that old home that currently sits vacant and in desperate need of TLC. I have this vision of my kitchen; an elegant kitchen with rustic and authentic touches. I see, feel, and taste… sunlight, warmth, nostalgic music, the smell of fresh herb-baked bread, romantic lighting, and savory flavors. This kitchen will be inviting. It will be extraordinary. Not such a bad trade-off from my ocean-view condo.
Do you have an extraordinary place? A place where you can express your gifts and share your heart with others? Perhaps you may also need to give up something first like your condo on the beach, a time-share, or that unrewarding time-consuming (fill in the blank). I assure you that it’s worth it. And remember, there is always something for you to give, and to share. To express your heart to others…in love, or food.