The Women in My Kitchen

When I first looked at the Cincinnati apartment I would eventually move into, my (now) landlord gave me a tour. In pointing out the various features (built-in bookcases, a weird sink-closet in the bedroom) he lamented over the small size of the galley-style kitchen. After enthusiastically signing a lease (those built-ins!) I told him how much I like to cook. “But why take this place with that kitchen” he asked me. “Are you sure you really want the place?”

Yes, I really wanted the place. Small kitchen aside, the apartment had its charms (built-ins). Besides, I figured, I’ve lived in places with smaller kitchens, less well-organized kitchens. This would be just fine.

But, honestly, I didn’t expect it to be great. In reality, my kitchen has become one of my favourite places in the entire apartment. Its smallness obscures its functionality; its configuration belies perfection. Sure, it needs a dishwasher, a larger place for a trash can, a garbage disposal. But, it reminds me that not everything must be perfect to still be good. Just like me, the kitchen has its flaws; but it is overwhelmingly as unique and well-suited for its purpose as any kitchen I’ve ever lived with. Cooking in this kitchen comes naturally to me—it’s comforting, cozy, manageable. It feels like stepping into my own little world, a place where life mostly makes sense, where I know I will find the spice or spatula I’m looking for with ease, and where I feel good about what I’m doing (even when it’s occasionally a smoking-pan-of-dinner disaster). It is—in every sense of the word—charming.

Let me give you an example. On a whim recently, I decided to research the sink in my apartment’s kitchen. It seemed vintage, albeit in good condition, and I wondered if I could find out when it was probably installed. Never would I guess that it was most likely original to the building (1937) and that it was a top-of-the-line model that was also sold with a customizable mix of cabinets and drawers (all of which are still here). Somewhat shocked by my discovery, it led me to wonder exactly how many other women (or men) had stood in this same kitchen as I do every day—washing dishes, cooking, eating, staring out the window at the neighbor’s house. How many others were here before me, and what did they cook?

In a way, thinking about this makes me feel more connected, not only to the imaginary renters before me, but also to my mother. In some ways, I feel like I am reenacting her when I’m standing in my kitchen; I get these short flashes of what her life was like before me, but also of what our life was like when she was still here. Even though my childhood kitchen was very different (large, fancy, and also very 1990s), perhaps some of what I find so comforting about this kitchen is that very sense of connection I have to people across time, not only those I knew like her, but also those who will always remain unknown to me.


The sink itself: Whitehead Monel original

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