Monday, February 13, 2006

In The Kitchen

“What’s for dinner?”

For over 35 years, this has been the daily question. I’m not alone. Women throughout the ages have asked themselves the same question. And if we aren’t asking the question, our families are certainly are.

Thus, we barely clean up the dishes from one meal before we start thinking about what to cook for the next. Add to that the shopping time and preparation time—which then leads to a continual cycle of more dirty dishes. Is it any wonder that we sometimes get a little weary of the never-ending process of “kitchen duty”?

Yet when we think about our kitchens, they are central to family life.
Much more happens in the kitchen and around the table than the feeding of hungry tummies. Hearts are also nourished by conversation and laughter. Stories are shared. Blessings and prayers are spoken. Birthdays, graduations, and holidays are celebrated. Families connect and reconnect. And have you noticed how family and friends all inevitably congregate in the kitchen?

I loved the bustle in both of my grandmothers’ kitchens. After we helped pluck the feathers off the chickens, Grandma N. fried up a huge platter of chicken. Put that with her homemade brown bread and some veggies from her garden. You couldn’t beat it! Especially, if she made a cake with brown sugar frosting.

Grandma H. made the best homemade dill pickles. She canned them by the half gallon. And it took a whole jar per meal by the time all of the grandchildren made trips through the kitchen to snitch. And who could resist her blackberry cobbler and biscuits? Grandpa would loving tease her about the biscuits, “Elsie Lorene, it looks like a cow stepped on these biscuits!”

When I was raising my children, they did their homework, worked on projects, shared snacks with their friends, and played games around the kitchen table or at the kitchen bar. As soon as they walked in the door from school—you guessed it—they headed for the kitchen.

Now my grandchildren often join me in the kitchen. We bake together. They color in coloring books or play with Play-Doh. We play games. The kitchen table becomes a fort. My youngest grand-daughter often builds a “cozy home” under my kitchen desk. And at the kitchen table, I teach my oldest granddaughter to sew.

From my kitchen, I’ve made meals for sick friends and for funeral dinners. I have pulled fresh baked bread or cookies out of the oven just in time for kids just arriving home from school. I have brewed mullein tea for coughs.

It’s where my husband reads the newspaper. And it’s here I often sip steaming coffee or tea with a friend as we share our lives and encourage each other. Today my writers’ group will gather in my kitchen to fill mugs with hot, herbal tea and to eat cranberry-apple muffins before we get down to the business of writing critiques.

Now and then I need to be reminded of the importance of life in the kitchen. Its legacy is far beyond its size or the occasional clutter—and has little to do with gourmet recipes, fancy dishes, or designer decorating schemes. The kitchen’s legacy is the family and friends that have been blessed as our hands serve and our hearts extend love and warmth.

Yes, I still must answer the question “What’s for dinner?” As I do, I will remember to cherish all the rich and wonderful history that has transpired within these walls. I’ll remember everything from the warmth of hot winter meals to the refreshment of cold summer beverages. I’ll remember the family and friends that have graced my table. I may loose my culinary joy from time to time, but for today I’ll count my blessings as I face with the daily-ness of cooking and doing dishes.

My kitchen: tis’ a blessin’!

Bless our hands and hearts, O Lord,
as we prepare “daily bread” for our families
and nourish the hearts of those we love.

(c) 2006 Marlene Depler


Sharon K said...

Your story about your kitchen is beautiful. It sounds like many happy memories were shared in that special room of your home and home is where the story begins.

Paula said...

you captured the warmth and richness of the kitchen at the center of family life and legacy...thank you for sharing your story