Watch carefully because I’m about accomplish this fancy, journalistic sleight of hand in which I start this post in a curmudgeonly vein and, by sheer dint of willpower end up with one that will make you say “Ahhh” or is it “Awwww!” and want to print it out and put it on your fridge with your new Etsy magnets.
I mean, anyway, that’s Plan A. Plan B is that I’m still in a bad mood when I finish.
The bad mood is partially caused by The Snowstorm, by which you can tell I am writing this on a weeknight after eating bad leftovers and drinking Chardonnay the color of watery chicken stock. Not tasty.
The other reason is my re-perusing New Yorker writer Jane Kramer’s review of a recent cookbook. Jane Kramer just happens to let drop in her review that she, Jane Kramer, has two kitchens.
Two kitchens. Well, la-de-dah.
The first one, inferior because it is so small, is in an upper West Side apartment Kramer moved into during the nineteen-seventies. It is so small and incommodious she has to use a stepstool to reach her paella pan. Quelle dommage.
Her other kitchen, the one by which she is “consoled” as she puts it, is in her farmhouse in Umbria (that’s, Umbria, as in Italy). Her kitchen there is an old cattle stall, large enough that after adding her fridge, stov
and dishwasher, she also put in “an eleven-foot table, ten chairs, a pair of outsized armchairs, and an old stone fireplace wide enough for a side of pork.”
Look, I haven’t accomplished the journalistic sleight of hand by which I turn this into a not curmudgeonly feel-good piece yet. And I’m the losing end of the word count. Bear with me!
Anyway, Kramer begins to discuss favorite kitchen items: her own mother’s large turkey platter, the bottle of Barolo that fell on her foot (honestly, for Barolo, I’d have been on the floor with a dripper siphoning off the dregs), her ten-pound granite stone mortar and pestle from Thailand and her presidential faces mug given to her by her husband.
Okay, I tried. I tried to find the common ground between her kitchens and her favorite kitchen items and my own kitchen and my favorite kitchen items. Especially since I have a lot of nice kitchen things. Dishes I got at Stickley when they had that big sale. Gold-leaf edged plates that must be hand-washed and dried and make me worry about that little boy who was dipped in gold-leaf for that Medici pope and who died from poisoning and whether the same thing might happen to my guests and me if I’m not careful.
I do have nice things. A five-pound mortar and pestle from Williams-Sonoma. An Emile Henri pot a boyfriend got me at Different Drummer’s Kitchen some years ago. French dish towels that the last owners of this house left behind before they moved to France.
But what do I use most? What do I love?
Nothing special, let me tell you. Or maybe. You tell me.
I love the little butter melter my mother bought in Provincetown when I was little. It’s got a long black handle and a tiny little body, ideal for fixing butter for popcorn. And I’d probably eat less popcorn if I didn’t have it.
I love the Mickey Mouse spoon that was my daughters’ when they were babies. It’s the perfect size for spooning out capers from those narrow jars.
I reach time and again for morning coffee in one of the two Italian mugs I bought at Starbucks in the nineties when I thought my life was going to take a turn that it didn’t.
And I swear by all my beautifully misshapen Bennington thirds pottery that I bought years ago when it didn’t seem gauche to buy something so imperfect. It was cheap and it’s been tough and I like to believe the hands that formed that clay also serve to shape me and keep me grounded.
(Which does not mean I would say no to a kitchen on either the upper West Side or Umbria. Or the south of France. With a vineyard and an olive grove. I could be grounded there, too, I’m just saying.)