#6 cooking

This post is part of a series where I'm recording the appreciative thoughts and emotions associated with various spaces in our house. For context, read my post Thinking about houses.

In Myers Briggs Type theory, healthy psychological development means a natural tendency in middle age to take up activity that 'balances' our primary strengths. My dominant vocational contribution has been people oriented and conceptual in nature. So in hindsight, I guess I shouldn't be surprised that around 40 years old I became really interested in making stuff in the kitchen.

For me it started with ginger beer. It became a Saturday morning ritual to concoct and bottle the family's weekly supply in a collection of Grolsch swing top stubbies. Then it was bread. And soon ginger beer gave way to my own home brew, with experiments in multiple varieties until Maria became tired of the constant yeasty smell that permeated the house. But all that was preparatory.

On one memorable day when we were expecting guests for dinner, the oven door came off in Maria's hands, and our long dreamed-of kitchen renovation became a necessity. I had fantasised about what it would be like to stock a new kitchen with functional and well designed equipment, replacing the ad hoc collection of cheap stuff we had accumulated over the years. When that fantasy became a lived experience, I found myself completely drawn to working in this gorgeous new workshop.

Chopping stuff with sharp new knives and cooking in hardy heavy base pots filled my soul with joy more than I could have imagined. I began gravitating to the cooking section in bookshops and discovered stuff that my inclined path to the business, philosophy and sports sections normally bypassed. I started to teach myself about textures and flavours. And I began to learn the patterns and formulae that unlocked the secrets to well balanced flavoursome dishes.

But cooking for me has always been a family thing. It is not so much technical as communal. Music filled rooms, people coming and going and then gathering around a table to share home cooked wholesome food is what it has always been about.

And so when we set out to buy a home on the coast, the kitchen was always going to be a key consideration. Can you imagine my joy when I walked into this place to find the closest to a commercial kitchen I've ever seen in a normal house. Quite simply a little slice of architectural heaven.

Our pot collection has been refined over the years. The soup pot at the rear was from 10+ years ago when we were all living at home. These days we use it to brew big pots of our favourite soups to stock the chest freezer. The two in the front were acquired by Maria and Johanna when we lived in Launceston and I love them a lot!

The wide clay-orange spine book by Allan Campion and Michelle Curtis was my kitchen bible for many years. In language I love, they taught me the basics of the kitchen craft. The thin red spine is a compilation of hand written recipes that were our family staples and favourites from the years we lived in Brunswick. I wrote a narrative that explained why the dish was important, what it meant for us alongside the ingredients and methods. The Soup Bible to the right is as used as any on the shelf which also includes a good number of vegan and wholefood collections.

fruit including figs and tomatoes from the community garden
Johanna's lunch prep while I was writing this blog
more of Johanna's lunch
... and sourdough rye from Starfish, where we spent a good bit of the morning today along with many other locals; drinking coffee, eating breakfast and watching the kids and dogs play together.

Not long after we moved in, I spent a joyous day creating this spice drawer; labelling and filling jars with wonderful smelling ingredients. Sometimes when I'm feeling a little low, I open this drawer and ponder the rainbow of flavours and somehow feel a bit better. Sad I know.

There are few weekend activities I enjoy more than putting on some music and cooking up a big pot of soup or curry. Yesterday the colours where deep orange and the spices were cumin and smoked paprika.

But whatever happens at the bench, on the stove or in the oven, at the end of the day this room is about people. It connects important things like sustenance, sensual pleasure, love and friendship. A kitchen does not stand alone. It is a connecting hub.

This one works because of many design factors, some of which are:
1. The golden triangle: in kitchens that work well, the stove, fridge and sink form a triangle - kitchen design 101.
2. It has two entrances, which facilitates ease of movement.
3. It has line of sight to the two other key communal areas; the dining table and the lounge.
4. It has natural light in abundance.
5. Design elements such as ceiling steps, light shades and indents create a connected yet distinct feeling.
6. Seats at the bench. Sitting and talking with whoever is in the kitchen is a 'family building' basic in our book.
7. Functionality; Stainless steel bench-tops. I wasn't sure when I first saw them. I'm a convert now. Plenty of space for consumables and equipment. Big drawers. Tall (hidden) cupboards.
8. Beauty; Woodgrain, clean lines of steel. Sunlight and shadows.


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