Saturday, February 5, 2011

Mom's Room

In my family the kitchen is my mom’s room. When I step in the front door of our house, her cooking penetrates each room with herbs, spices, and warmth only feasible from my mother.
Sometimes, on cool afternoons in her kitchen, she opens the small window in the back left corner overlooking the glistening Tennessee lake to better regulate the oven-heated room. She keeps her favorite herbs potted on the windowsill for easy access and the occasional scented whirl of basil, rosemary, and thyme.
That back corner is always busy when my six siblings and I are home. Protruding under a mosaic-tiled vent and in between a limestone sink large enough to bathe one of my mom’s little dogs, is her prized Wolf stovetop and oven. Just about anything can be made on the grease-streaked, constantly-in-use gas stove.
When new guests see our kitchen for the first time, they look around befuddled. “Where’s the refrigerator, dishwasher, or microwave?” Well, they’re all hidden. Most people wouldn’t know this about my mom, but she despises the appearance of appliances. Even more so, she never wants to admit that she might possibly use a microwave. So, she has all of her appliances camouflaged with dark-stained wood, as if they were just more cabinets, and the microwave shoved in the pantry.
With a large family, the 16-ft island is nearly always covered with red onions, aromatic garlic, kerosene-sized tanks of olive oil, one-peel clementines, and French recipe books. Every possible neutral color speckles her room—from the terracotta orange walls to the pale yellow tiles on the island, my mom knew exactly what would make her kitchen not only stand out and amaze, but truly capture a French-influenced grandeur. That kitchen is Saturday waffles, Thanksgiving dinner for forty, and cocktails when the babies go to sleep. That kitchen is home.

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