Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Kitchen

I thought you might like to see a description of an early kitchen where I grew up:

The kitchen cupboards were made of Blazo boxes and mounted on the walls. Mama made little curtains for them with flour sacks. Blazo was a type of fuel, that came in a can, packaged inside a wooden box. I believe my sister still has a couple of those boxes, which she uses for end tables. The use for these boxes was legion and we even packed them full of our posessions in the 60's when we moved to Australia.

The main focus of the kitchen was the cast iron kitchen stove. It had so many features on it for cooking, that I probably can't remember them all. There was a hot water reservoir, a warming section, an oven, and a place for the wood. These stoves were quite common in those days and some people even threw them out when modern stoves came on the scene. I don't know how much they cost in those days, or if maybe they just got them for free, and I have no idea how they were transported to Alaska, but many homesteaders had them. These days they cost in the range of 3,000 to $6,000.

The cooking pans were all made of cast iron, and the coffee pot was of speckled enamel. I sometimes wish it was all still there, and that I could walk through the house as if it were a museam. I've often had dreams of visiting it, and I see the table with the plates on it, and hear us kids playing outside. If I were really rich, I'd have the place rebuilt and decorated the way I remembered. My mother went back and visited the area in the 80's, and said that the log home was gone. She said someone thought it had burned down, but she could see no signs of a burn, and thought, instead, that it had been taken apart and transported somewhere else.

The kitchen had a surface top against a wall, with more fabric curtains hanging from it to hide the storage area underneath. There was plenty of room to roll a pie crust or knead a loaf of bread.

What was so magical about this kitchen was not the contents, but the transformation of my mother when she was in it. She, like other homemakers of the time, felt a dignity in the kitchen, that is difficult to describe. If you've ever seen the classical paintings of women with glowing halos behind their heads; well, that is sort of what it was like, only it was something far greater. It was more like a flash of light on her face. On the homestead there was always work to be done--digging in the garden, weeding, harvesting the food, laundry, chopping wood, etc., but when Mama got in the kitchen, it was not work, it was pleasure. Even today when she cooks for us it is with gusto, and not begrudgingly.

When someone dropped by, she would go in the kitchen to get them something to drink, which was customary. When she did that, she had an air about her that was akin to nothing I know of today. Even a teacher, a nurse, or a head of a corporation, does not carry the same aura of importance and service that these women had when they went into their kitchen. It was like a surge of current, as she pulled up her posture, wrapped an apron around her waist, and begin clinking and clanging the cups and the spoons, putting hot water on the stove to boil, and just being in charge. She was pleased and happy to have her own kitchen, and being a hostess meant she was even more important. She wouldn't have felt happier or more dignified if she'd been given a jeweled crown or elected President.

In ordinary times, the kitchen didn't have such significance, but you could really see and feel the difference when company came. There was a different look on her face, one that said she was in her glory. She ruled from her throne and became the light of the home, in that kitchen, as rustic and as humble as it was.


Anonymous said...

What a lovely memory to share with us! Thank you. I pray I can have even a *touch* of that type of glow about me while working in my own kitchen, in my own home.

Such a timely post for me as well. Thank you again.

Sarah Joy said...

You know, this brought tears to my eyes. We are missionaries, just finishing up deputation. When I started out married life I struggled with some of the indoctrination of the world that the work I did was a pain, and thus had a real hard time making it look nice at all. Truth was it was always a mess, always drugery to be in, never a pleasure. I asked the Lord to help correct my attitude, because I knew it was wrong. Then we moved out of our home and have been on the road off and on for two years. What a blessing it is to have space of my own to explore creativly and prepare a nest for my family! When I get to be any place where we can settle in, I treasure the ability to serve my family and just delight in keeping the home things well taken care of. God sure answered my prayer! We still need to work on habits, but God is faithful to help us with our attitudes when we let Him!

Thank you for a beautiful picture of a real woman!