March 15, 2012 in Uncategorized
I stood in this kitchen which I had made mine for just over a year now this morning, and, for the so many-th time in three months, smiled a little smugly, reminding myself that very soon, in 10 days, I shall be standing in a lovely other kitchen in a little but lovely new house which my lover has bought for us, for me I sometimes feel… I remember the moment when he saw me standing in that kitchen, and said: “Shall I put in an offer?” One of those moments in a couple’s life which is told of over and over to grandchildren, maybe, but certainly to friends and followers…
I have had, roughly counted now, 16 kitchens in my life. I mean of course, places which I have lived in and cooked in, in my adult life. As a child, I can remember another at least 7: those of grandmothers’ and my own mother’s.
There was the kitchen of my maternal grandmother, which never changed, and then the kitchen of my mother’s, which I grew up with and which took on slighty different incarnations over years; my paternal grandmother’s which changed as they moved from mine house to mine house as my grandfather moved up in the ranks to mine captain, and finally upon his retirement, the kitchen in the house right next door to my parents’ house where I spent an inordinate amount of time listening to my gran telling me stories about her youth at her formica table, while sometimes she was scouring pots sometimes at the sink off to one side. She was the kind of woman who measured the worth of a good woman by how shiny her pots were…
That’s actually what triggered this memory: I found myself really scrubbing the bottom of a pot vigorously this morning with fine steel wool, and thought: oh my! How often, and in how many kitchens, have I done exactly this!!
My first kitchen as a kind of a grown up, was a little rent-controlled flat above a greengrocer/café in Mayfair in Johannesburg, where, on moving in, I scrubbed and scraped dirt from the kitchen tiles and the little New World gas stove which was caked with that gas-stove goo of the hardly-ever-cleaned type, with cat hairs sticking to the gunk to boot. The previous owner was the cat-loving girlfriend of the best friend of my new, reluctant husband: I was pregnant when he married me. I gagged my way through cleaning a kitchen, which held no more than a sink, a stove and a little fridge. When I washed the dishes with my increasingly pregnant belly pushing against the sink, I had to wedge a wooden spoon against the plug, lest the people above’s dirty dishwater gurgled up into my sink while I was washing dishes in fresh smelling sunlight liquid water…. I used to entrance myself with the bubbles one can push out of the squeeze bottle if one is very patient: and watch it lazily and a bit magically float up until it bursts… I sometime still do that.
My next two kitchens were shared, mess style camp kitchens: I left Johannesburg with an 8 week old baby at the breast to live in the namib desert in a geological camp with my young husband, first in a very remote camp in a caravan, one of about five which were permanently parked in laager style around the infrastructure of a mess, bathrooms and thank goodness; flushing toilets and storerooms and such. That kitchen was the domain of two Ovambo men, Thomas and Paulus, who cooked their own meals in there and cooked for the various geologists who flew in from time to time. Whenever I did venture in there to cook, they almost subtly shooed me out and took over the process. I was very young, and happily let them.
The next camp was less remote and we shared with more people, geologists and geophysicists and such. The kitchen in the second camp was also more used by me, even though I was known to have cooked a leg of lamb in the caravan’s small oven which famously was refused by our guest, who took one look at the succulent meat with roast potatoes stylishly arranged around it and said: ”I don’t eat sheep”. I opened a tin of tuna for him!
I have had several mine house kitchens, or company rentals, which never felt quite mine(pun intended):my then husband was a geologist, and the first kitchen which I could legitimately have made my own, had belonged to my parents in law at the time from whom we bought a house as we moved to Johannesburg from Springbok in the Western Cape with a young family. I sometimes think that contributed to the break-up of that first marriage: I lived in what had been her house, cooked in a kitchen which in all ways still was the domain of a formidable mother in law, who visited often to see her only two grandchildren and whose kitchen and house I did not feel free to change much in.
A series of kitchens in rentals followed: all small, some modern and well equipped, others awful and impractical, but somehow my love for cooking continued to grow. My potted herb garden followed faithfully my many meanderings, on balconies and back porches: Always Rosemary and thyme, and basil and Italian parsley: the mint I would plant into gardens and take a cutting to the next place, ditto oregano.
The two kitchens I had with houses that I owned with two other men(one another ex husband), did not really inspire either. Although more spacious, neither was what I would have chosen if I had to design a kitchen. But here I am: two rentals after leaving the last long term relationship, at the threshold of for the first time having a kitchen which comes very close to exactly what I would indeed have designed for myself …
In a very short time, I shall, in the morning, be wandering barefooted to the kitchen in my wholly impractical kimono, and grind coffee for the Moka on the smallest burner of a six burner gas stove in a central work station to make my beloved his cup of coffee, while I will flip on the kettle for my cup of tea, and we will sit out on the back stoep which the kitchen opens up to through double doors and smile at one another and toast to a forever after. And I have already earmarked a patch in the garden where I shall have a permanent herb garden, one step down from the porch: a short couple of steps from my beautiful new kitchen.
One big leap for me!