This morning I stacked a heap of purple baby beets into a black matt glazed porcelain bowl, handmade by a ceramicist friend of mine: pretty enough to paint a still life of. It now sits on the central island in my modest kitchen, next to another of her bowls, spiky white, with a huge gnarled chunk of fresh ginger and half a head of fresh garlic, the cloves shiny and thick. Next to that there is a clear glass jar with a handful of lavender flowerheads which I, still in my husband’s velvety winter’s gown, picked from the front garden this morning. I wear this around the house on cool mid-week mornings such as these, where there is nothing urgent to do except think about dinner tonight and have cupfuls of strong Ceylon tea.
Looking around my kitchen now, I am very aware of how fortunate I am. Everywhere I rest my eyes, there is something of beauty, at least to me. Not luxury: no coffee machine but a row of four iconic Moka pots, no gleaming Kitchenaid mixer (though I do covet one), but a selection of whisks and wooden spoons and a treasured Microplane to grate hard cheese over a bowl of steaming pasta.
Behind the gas stove top, just within reach, I keep utensils in wide jars: one handmade again by the same friend, one shop bought by Le Creuset, and yet another a pottery jar bought long ago at a shop with African artefacts. Perched on a tabletop wooden cutting board I have an old porcelain coffeepot with heavy headed roses from yesterday’s garden. Next to this an ancient silver plated sugar pourer, currently filled with cinnamon sugar, and a whimsical salt and pepper set, bought two years ago at a fancy French inspired interior shop.
On a server (an erstwhile ball and claw teak table cut in half lengthways with two legs added) there’s another display: a black cast iron teapot, agelessly stylish in a zen way, and next to that a little tin sculpture of a chameleon, and three fat glass jars with coffee beans and limes and lemons in each respectively. And some prints propped up against the wall where four of my husband’s early black and while photographs hang in a neat row, echoing some others further along the wall between two big windows, which we may fit wooden shutters to this winter.
I keep tea and coffee and sugar in similar, white metal lidded jars from India. My toaster and kettle both are years old, fat, rounded, retro in style, and stand on the black granite countertop housing a round prep bowl. I remember when we viewed the house, the then owner showed the tucked away switch which lights up this workspace with a hidden string of little globes, like those around backstage dressing room mirrors. I could see that she thought it quite a feature!
It makes me smile, looking around this space and its many varied objects, old and not so old. All my other kitchens seem to have been preparation for this one. Years of acquiring a bowl here, a cutting board there, a nifty whisk and a wooden carved olive spoon elsewhere, seem to be coming together in a seamless synchrony of my particular style, but more so, my needs for beauty and harmony fully met. This is a place where I can languidly write at the counter, or sip a glass of sparkling wine while cooking, or get sweaty and hot preparing dinner parties with ambitious menus.
Tonight I shall be standing here, cutting and chopping and cooking a warming early autumn vegetable stew for five: two of our sons, and a daughter-in-law who is as enthusiastic a cook as I am. In a fantasy of mine, this kitchen shall become one which they all remember, even when I am no longer on this earth, the way I remember my grandmother’s kitchen.