Just before my sophomore year of college, I got my first apartment and kitchen. Because of its high cupboards and actual refrigerator and sink, the kitchen was a marvel to me. On the first day of class, my roommate and I invited over the boys next door for breakfast. We had oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar. Compliments abounded. None of us could cook anything in those days; we lived on Whoppers and Ripple wine. To have a bowl of edible food before us, prepared by our own hands—well, what was next? A walk on the moon? (Actually, that was next, though of course not by us.)
It took a lot of kitchens to get me to the one I currently love. You can eat in it, at a little round French-style table with ladder-back chairs. The kitchen has lots of counter space and a wooden center island for chopping. There's a pantry-cupboard with plenty of room for everything, including alphabetized spices. It's also where my dog eats. Above the dog dish are photos of dogs and a really tacky porcelain head of a dog I bought—on extreme sale—even though it's kind of creepy because it looks just like my pooch. He licked it when he first saw it. (My dog, Homer: big heart, little brain.)
My kitchen has plenty of cupboard space, and I can finally have all my dishes in one room—in my last house, pots and pans were in the linen closet. I have cool tools: A Microplane grater, a bench scraper, a zester, a meat massager, a Mixmaster stand mixer, a baby-bear Cuisinart and a papa-bear Cuisinart, and the Rolls-Royce of garlic presses. I have All-Clad pots and pans, standard-size and odd-size measuring cups and spoons. I have tins for baking teeny tiny cupcakes or cupcakes the size of your head. Last Christmas, I asked for (and received) a professional-sized box of plastic wrap, which I can barely lift and find irrationally comforting. I have a pizza stone and cutter, parchment paper, and pie weights. I have custard cups and individual-sized ramekins in three different colors and a little fork I took from a coffeehouse in Florence. Twine. Cheesecloth. Doilies and heart-decorated muffin wrappers. Vintage aprons, beautifully embroidered. I have, in short, every single thing I need.
Kitchen Soup for the Soul continues... continued...
There's a vast difference between my first kitchen and this one. But what has stayed the same is what makes the kitchen my favorite room no matter where or how I live—I believe the kitchen is the soul of a house. It's the place where people always seem to gravitate, to become more relaxed and approachable, more themselves: No matter how we're dressed or what we have on our feet, we're all kind of barefoot there. The kitchen is where we nourish ourselves and one another, and not only with food. A friend of mine suffered terrible earaches as a child and used to wake up crying from the pain; he always felt better when his mother said, "Why don't we go down to the kitchen and share an orange?" When I lost a good friend to cancer, I sat many hours at my kitchen table to try to make sense of things. Later, when I myself was dealing with a troublesome diagnosis, where do you think I sat and held my husband's hand to tell him all my fears? Each of us has a memory of having some primal need satisfied in a kitchen; perhaps we love to linger there because we hope that it will happen again—and again.
If you really want to know me, then come into my kitchen. Have a seat. Wait until I put on an apron. And then we'll really talk.
Berg's latest novel, Dream When You're Feeling Blue (Random House), was published in May 2007.Learn more about Elizabeth Berg and her Oprah's Book Club selection Open House.