Thursday, April 12, 2012

Home: The Kitchen

Years ago my husband made a very astute observation: "Our country took a turn for the worse when it traded in Erma Bombeck for Martha Stewart." I'm thankful that he sees things that way because I sure as **** ain't no Martha Stewart. In fact, Erma herself might be a bit skittish about setting foot in my well-lived-in domicile.

Our kitchen is front and center in our house. Because the "front" door is inaccessible to all but the likes of cats, bears and perhaps Spiderman (there is a doorbell there), all bipeds must enter the back door and pass by our tiny heart of the home. Our house was built in 1989 and, as my dear husband says, the builder spared every expense. It functions perfectly well as long as no more than 1 adult or 2 pygmies attempt to cook at a time.

Appliances aren't bad but would likely be immediately replaced by anybody with a few pennies to rub together, were our house to change hands. The refrigerator we bought new in 2005, when we moved in, howls a low, ghastly, ghoulish howl, off and on, for no apparent reason. There are parts of its interior that are impossible to get clean. So I hope nobody ever looks in there.

The stove doesn't appear to be that old but, at any given time, only two burners will work. The sink (I know....not really an appliance) is a shallow, stainless steel job with a faucet that squeals a high pitched, dog-torturing squeal, often in tune with the ghastly fridge howl—and the spray thingy only dribbles mildew-strewn water down the hose.

The microwave is a little, on-the-counter box of a thing, normally sold at Wal-Mart to college students (Note to self: Will NOT fit turkey or full-grown cat in microwave). Every so often I must chisel the dried splatter of spaghetti sauce and buttered goo (a la Rorschach) off of every square centimeter of the interior.

Dishwashers. Blast them! Our first we bought in 2005 and it sputtered and died four years later. Some builder friends had pity on us, offered us the last of an overstock of dishwashers from their warehouse, installed it for us, and left us to kill it off in less than a year (I'm not doing this on purpose.....really). So when we bought our last one I decided to purchase the cheapest dishwasher possible that Consumer Reports didn't spit on (After all, how different can dishwashers really be? HA!) Enter Dishwasher #3. It looks like a dishwasher but sounds like a jet engine gearing for takeoff with all our dishes aboard. It cuts down on chatter within the family considerably.

The cabinets were pretty much the off-the-shelf late 80s, which I painted green, in hopes of disguising the fact that they look like they were stolen from a cheap apartment complex remodel. The counter is perfectly fine, laminate counter that some dimwit chose in solid ivory shade so that you can never slice a strawberry or defrost blueberries or spill Tropical Island Potion of Love or whatever without leaving a faint representation of your food or beverage behind for posterity. The end of the counter is coming off, half having broken off at some undetermined time in the past, so that what is remaining will snag your shirt and then snap back in place, sounding like someone just came after you with a plastic ruler.

There is currently a bag of potatoes on the counter. I bought them with grand hopes of expanding my culinary skills and making cheap and yummy comestibles for the family, and freeing up the food budget for more important items like coffee, guacamole, and Chocolate Frosted Sugar Bombs (kidding). Problem is, I hate upon hate to peel potatoes. That being said, those little buggers are just sitting there... lonely, growing eyes out of the backs and fronts and sides of their heads. Eyes so stupendous that they resemble centipedes (shiver) and are busting through the Green Giant plastic bagging, at the bottom of which is an expanding soup of rotten potato juice that, given enough time, will stink up the house and hatch a country of fruit flies.

Behind the bag of potatoes are the uncounted bags of bread and bread-like products. Whole wheat, raisin, French, bagels, and buns in various shapes and shades of staleness (hot dog buns in an advanced state of breadhood make great flying torpedoes), all begging to becomes part and parcel with the meat loaf I'm not making... yet.

Between the sink and the microbe-oozing tubers is a cappuccino maker my sister-in-law gave my daughter that was seemingly designed by NASA. All other small appliances reside in the bowels of a lower cabinet, scheming to strike en masse some Thanksgiving when I'm feeding 284 people.

I enlisted the help of a wire file holder to hold my cutting boards, wire cooking racks, and notebook full of printed out and typed up recipes. At one point all recipes were snug and neat inside their protective plastic covers but entropy abounds and batter-covered sheets stick out, willy nilly, seeking escape before it's too late.

The rest of the counter is strewn with stray flatware, sticky goo puddles hanging on for dear life to cereal boxes, half drunk cups of coffee, a cannibalized cell phone, paper clips, a bottom retainer, a glass of water that is permanently adhered to the counter, bottles of medication, etc. Atop the refrigerator are box after box of cheap, out of date cereal. On top of the cabinets are all those things I rarely use (or never use) but need to keep anyway....crock pots, pitchers, vases, soup pots, fancy crystal stuff that somebody's somebody's somebody owned 7 generations ago.

Inside the drawers are crumbs. There is other stuff in there, too, but it's mainly crumbs. I used to have my plastic ware in a cabinet, but plastic doesn't like the low altitudes of cabinet hell and rebels. When I got to where I would open the door, throw the goods, and slam the door shut again before anything could escape, we knew something had to change, so the plastic is in the pantry and the flour and sugar are in the land down under and like it there.

Then there's the whirligig. That thing in the corner that goes round and round and pinches thumbs. Measuring cups and mixing bowls live there with crumbs. Lots of crumbs.

At any given time there is a village of dishes awaiting to board the dishwasher jet but they must wait until the arrivals disembark. When counter space runs out or the microwave is in use, these dishes use the sink as an overflow waiting room.

In the sink is usually a stinky dishtowel, food that got lost on its way to the disposal, and some pot too large to board the jet (they discriminate) and therefore must be washed by hand.

For a small kitchen, a lot seems to go on there. It's fun. It's useful. It's just not terribly tidy. And it's NOT Martha Stewart.

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