Number 59 was my favorite kitchen ever. In the back of a quirky Victorian home in London, it fed every part of my creative being (I just didn’t know it at the time). Because it went down a step or two, and had a separate door, it always felt like I was going into another world. In reality, years ago, it was probably the Maid’s quarters; a place where they chatted and relaxed after cooking a meal, politely separated from their employers, whispering about the events of the day.
Whenever I opened the door, I didn’t go in there to cook, I just wanted to be there; a fireplace, a table, and some squishy armchairs invited me in, and the warm comfort asked me to stay. I can feel the kitchen as I write this, and remember the shape of the chair that I always sat in (if Sally the dog didn’t get to it first. I think it was actually hers, she just allowed me to borrow it when she went outside). Through the sitting area was the tiny kitchen, and a door leading out to the back garden. Sunny days led to picking flowers and clothes drying on the line, and rainy ones a cup of tea and a slice of cake.
I baked my first ever Victoria Sponge cake in that kitchen, and had my first cup of Earl Gray Tea (which I still don’t like); I felt very grown up when I drank it, knowing it was quite posh, while trying to ignore the perfumed Bergamot that made me almost want to be sick. Even so, making loose tea in a teapot was special, a treat that I never refused (or told anyone that I didn’t really like it).
My Auntie cooked and baked all the time, and the kitchen (to me) was the best room in the house. We would wander in after work, poke around the cupboard, grab a chocolate biscuit, collapse in a chair, and tell her about our day. It was warm, and we would always ask what was for dinner, and when would it be ready. She would keep doing whatever she was doing, and she would listen. Like many mother’s, she had learned to let us talk, figuring out our own answers by the time we reached the end of the story. Sometimes, there were no words, just a cup of tea, or a nod of the head. It was a safe place to go; a problem solving kitchen.
On Saturday mornings my Uncle loved to cook. After walking the dog, he would make us the most delicious hot sandwiches, and we would just sit and eat, in yummy silence. (Maybe some people would have a nap afterwards, while the rest of us complained about doing the washing up). It was a quiet part of the week. Our bellies were full, Monday seemed far away, and I think I was quite lazy. I didn’t do my own laundry, but I would happily chat to my Auntie as she folded and ironed for hours on end. I want to believe that she never minded, that she secretly loved the repetition of the iron, and the nice, clean pile of teenage clothes.
Sometimes, it was really hectic, and we would be told to get out of the tiny kitchen; but we never went too far, and we could always curl up with Sally, and wait for things to quiet down.
It wasn’t a fancy kitchen. I couldn’t tell you if the stove was gas or electric, or what the counter was made of, but I know that it was a true gathering room; a magical place that made you feel warm and welcome, where the people in it were far more important than the things….
For more by Wendy and the Blue Giraffe, go to: http://www.thebluegiraffe.com/