I loved everything about our first kitchen in the beginning. The maple butcher-block countertops, the cream-colored side-by-side refrigerator, even the country-kitchen style cabinets, with their dark wood veneer. It was our first kitchen together. In our first home together, and I knew it would be the start of something very special.
For twelve years, the old kitchen served us well. In it, we learned how to roll pasta, render lard, carve turkeys, and make everything from soups and stews, to pan sauces and poached eggs. I learned how to make custard and curds in that kitchen, and how to fix a broken Bernaise sauce. We cooked weekly, and later monthly, “Soup Night” meals for groups of 5 to 25 friends. We made marshmallows, hamburger buns, pizza and bread. We canned jam and pickles, made bitters and sipped bourbon. All in that old kitchen.
There were lots of hits, and plenty of misses along the way, some of them leaving a permanent mark on the kitchen. The old refrigerator started to leak, leaving behind water damage in the wood laminate flooring. Once, when brewing beer with my late-brother Jon, we boiled over a batch of wort on the stovetop, leaving it forever sticky and stained. The butcher-block countertops got nicked, banged-up and burned. They could easily be sanded down and treated with mineral oil to look new again, but we liked the rings left behind by the many bottles of red wine we enjoyed in that old kitchen.
As the years went by, we slowly replaced the old fridge, the old stove and the old dishwasher. We never invested a lot in these upgrades, knowing we’d someday remodel. Our next kitchen, we thought, will have better countertops, modern cabinets and appliances as top-of-the-line as we could afford. We continued to become better cooks, almost smug in the fact that we were better cooks than most people, despite our old, beat-down kitchen.
When we started this remodel project, there wasn’t anything about the old kitchen we thought we’d miss. We took down and dismantled the old cabinets. Four layers of old flooring were removed and the old butcher-block countertops were taken out. We replaced the wiring, plumbing and several studs. As I write this, our old kitchen is a shell of its former self. An empty room, a blank canvas, ready…for our new kitchen.
The new kitchen won’t have loose kick plates under the cabinets, wasted storage space behind the sink, or holes in the wall that we need to strategically cover up with framed prints. It won’t have a microwave over the stove, with a too-weak fan that causes food smells – and sometimes smoke – to fill the house. The new kitchen won’t have fluorescent under-cabinet lighting that casts an eerie, peach-colored glow, or a dishwasher that sounds like a jet engine taking off. But it won’t have cabinet door handles perfect for pinning up a recipe card or printouts either. And it won’t have the scars and stains of cooking successes and failures either.
The new kitchen won’t have kitchen cabinets above the stove, but will have a hood, a hanging rack and open shelving. It will have a counter-depth fridge, with ice and water in the door. The new kitchen will have cabinets and appliances from Sweden, and a custom double bowl stainless steel sink with a built-in drainboard. It will have countertops impervious to stains, even though we’ve saved the old countertops and may repurpose a section as a pastry/pasta board.
And best of all, the new kitchen will have us. And we are ready to cook.