Monday, June 4, 2012

Teachers Write! Lesson 1 - Yay!

I am excited to participate in Teachers Write virtual writing camp hosted by author Kate Messner. If you haven't heard about it, check it out! Join in! 

Check out Jo Knowles's site for today's mini-lesson.

My critique...I feel that this prompt opened so many other doors. Instead of just writing about our kitchen I jumped to other related topics finally ending with the family table, which would make a good post in and of itself. I think I could worry over this topic for hours, tweaking & editing, but at this point I'm ready to put it on the back burner and let it simmer a bit. Thanks for reading & feel free to comment!

One of the favorite places in my childhood home was the kitchen. I grew up in a very 70's style tri-level house. The kitchen was the physical and spiritual heart of the home. It opened up to a dining room, front foyer, and stairs to the basement level. It was the sort of floor plan that encouraged frenzied laps around the ground floor. Kitchen, foyer, living room (don't touch anything here), dining room (mind the plastic runner), kitchen, foyer, living room (don't touch anything here), dining room (mind the plastic runner)...repeat indefinitely.

True to the times it was all dark wood and mustard yellow accents. The carpet (yes, carpet in the kitchen) was a rug-burn-inducing, yellow and brown diamond patterned, short pile.

Not unlike this....

The kitchen was relatively small, but held a large round table, four giant colonial style chairs, and a hulking butcher block where we proudly displayed our very first microwave back in 1981.

I loved our home. I thought it was pretty nice, even fancy in some places. The kitchen, however, was not one of those places. There was that one drawer that you had to yank open and then do a full body check to get it closed. It was the junk drawer so thankfully we didn't have to employ brute force too often. All the cabinets and drawers had the same little knob which I discovered made the perfect bottle cap opener...until I broke one. It was cool while it lasted though. You could wedge your 16 oz Pepsi under a cabinet knob and then slam your hand on the top of the bottle and voila! 

As far back as I can remember my dad loved to cook. He didn't do the bulk of the cooking, but he'd get hooked on one thing, master it, and move on to the next one thing. The first of these I can recall are his perfect milkshakes. Frequently after the dinner dishes were loaded into the mustard yellow dishwasher, he'd fire up the blender and turn out a perfect milkshake served in a tall, blue cup WITH a straw of course. Next came chocolate chip cookies. He made these almost weekly until the recipe was perfect. He'd let the butter and eggs warm up to just the right temperature before whipping them with sugar. He always added extra pecans and cooked them to perfection - not chewy, but not too crispy either. It didn't matter that the kitchen had barely 2 feet of counter space or that the oven didn't exactly cook at the temperature you set it for. Other food projects included scrambled cheese eggs, biscuits, butter pecan ice cream, country ham, mashed potatoes, roast turkey, barbecue pork, and the list goes on and on and into our next kitchen when we moved in 1988. Despite its compactness, that first childhood kitchen was a gourmet test kitchen.

My dad ran a grocery store and often worked through the dinner hour. My mom handled most of the dinners and would make a plate that we'd deliver to my dad in his little raised office at the front of the store. I remember being so proud to carry that homemade dinner dish carefully through the automatic doors, past the tut-tutting old lady cashiers, and up the three steps to his desk.

My mom was a teacher so her summers unfolded much like mine do now. Settle into a routine with the kids at home. Breakfast cereals, sandwich lunches or (JOY!) Spaghetti-o's, and then family dinners. Occasionally though, we'd get to play 'restaurant'. Mom would write out a menu of the items available for lunch and then we'd set the table and pretend that we were at a real restaurant. She would take my order on a little notepad and then whip up whatever it was I'd ordered (usually Spaghetti-o's, lucky her). 

Spending hours watching and helping my parents in the kitchen made me eager to learn too. I made my first scrambled eggs, my first hot dog, my first hot chocolate, my first can of Spaghetti-o's, and my first Kool-aid in that kitchen. I loved to make potholders and back in the day we used 100% cotton loops which I discovered would catch fire if you gingerly touch one of the hot stove element with them. I never actually started a fire, but was fascinated by getting a corner of the potholder to smolder a little. 

Most of all our kitchen was love. So many birthdays, holidays, and just plain ol' every days were spent there, gathered around the clunky round table. I recently donated that precious family table and chairs to a family that our school counselor was helping to get on their feet. The mom pulled up in a beat up pick up truck and two young, ragged boys tumbled out to help her load the table and chairs. As she and the boys lifted it into the back of the truck I told her that she was getting some good karma in that piece of furniture. Many meals and much love had been shared over it's heat-proof, laminated wood top. 


  1. Loved reading about your childhood kitchen!

  2. WOW!! I love this so much. Great job!!!