All the homes I have known have been entered through the kitchen. There were alternative entrances, front doors, side doors, other ways to enter the home, but the most common door was the kitchen door, usually with a screen door to let the summer breeze in. The kitchen entrance is the nature of architectural design, but it also the way we welcome others in, where we nourish people with food, conversation, and comfort. The kitchen is the gathering place.
In my family women gathered in the kitchen, though men would often join in as well. Tables were various sizes in our kitchens. Some held large groups while others were smaller for more intimate conversations and sharing. One aunt had a counter where we could pull up a stool so we could watch her cook while she talked and shared memories and recipes. One had a table that was pushed up against the stove. If I sat in the corner, I was engulfed in rich aromas, deep conversation, and laughter for hours. In the home where I grew up my mother gathered her friends and sisters around the gray formica and chrome table. They talked and shared recipes while “Listen to the Mrs.” played on the portable radio in the background. I sat, a silent observer of the life of women.
Kitchens were filled with stories, more than words, the stories were also actions. My mother and aunts were experts at “throwing on a lunch,” the last minute meal when unexpected guests appeared at the kitchen door. Unruffled, these were women who were always prepared with a meal pulled together from the freezer or hot dogs with tails quickly purchased from Mr. Wisneski’s grocery store. It was magic. This was the way they showed love – Aunt Esther’s brownies, Mrs. Holly’s sugar cookies, Mrs. Evan’s rolls, and casseroles. Food was the central symbol of caring. Plans were made, dreams were shared, hurts were comforted, always around the tables of my youth.
These are precious memories from long ago. My kitchen is also a gathering place. I cook and share the space with friends. But our conversations and care go beyond food. We share practices that enrich health and well-being in other ways. Yoga, meditation, writing, art journaling, to name a few. In my gentle warrior’s kitchen we’ll incorporate many ways to care for ourselves. I’m looking forward to hearing your story too.