I want to be honest with y’all. First and foremost, the blessing of this kitchen remodel is so exciting and I mostly just walk around my house saying “I can’t believe this is my house? I can’t believe this is my life!” I fully and entirely recognize that I am utterly blessed beyond anything I could’ve ever imagined. I never thought that this would be something I’d get to experience or be a part of, and it just feels surreal every day. But with that comes the whisper of shame. Quiet mean thoughts will sneak into my mind like “I bet people are judging you for what the kitchen is costing,” and “Pawpaw never got a new kitchen, so what makes you think you get to have one?”
I come from a long line of home cooks. Some who absolutely loved to cook, and loved to spend entire days at the stove, and some who loved their families, therefore had no choice but to spend entire days at the stove. I was raised in small kitchens with outdated cabinets, small single ovens, and formica countertops. In fact everything I know about cooking I learned in three kitchens; my mama’s, Noni’s, and Pawpaw’s kitchen.
My mama’s kitchen is the first place I ever did any cooking! I started in first grade by cutting up hot dogs, microwaving them, and squirting little dollops of mustard on each piece. My family started calling these “Appetizers” and would even ask for them! Mama taught me the home-cooking classics like Spaghetti, Salisbury steak, and chicken fried steak, and by the time I was in 5th grade, I was cooking full meals for our family. It was a rare thing for daddy to make it into the kitchen, but he’d venture in to make scratch sauerkraut biscuits and chicken and dumplings he learned from his daddy. My mom’s kitchen is where I learned what it means to be a family. What it means to have each other’s backs, unconditionally. Mama’s white formica countertops are the ones I’ve known the best my whole life. The formica I sat on when mama doctored my booboos, laid on when daddy washed my hair in the sink, and climbed on to reach the perfect rice bowl in the top left cabinet. That white formica has witnessed my family dying easter eggs, and decorating birthday cakes, and making cookies for Santa. The perfect kitchen for a family filled with love.
Noni’s kitchen taught me how to work. In Noni’s kitchen, there were no meals for small parties of 2 or 4. Meals were served for everyone. Family, friends, neighbors who might stop in, everyone! She cooked for a minimum of 7 when we were there, but more likely 30 people if everyone was around! Noni didn’t have a passion for cooking but had a passion for taking care of her family. She was the hardest working woman, possibly in the history of mankind. (Lord, help me rival her ability to work.) She took her responsibility as wife and mother seriously and refused to be idle. She would say “If papa is gonna spend his whole day workin’ in the field, then by George, I’m gonna spend my whole day workin’ in the house.” When we played, she did laundry. When we napped, she sewed. When we rode bikes, she worked in the yard. And after a long day of work, we would sit down to watch the evening news with Papa, and she would clean the kitchen, wash and put away the dishes, then come in with ice cream cones she’d hand-scooped. Noni’s kitchen has been the same for 60 years. Same cabinets. Same countertops. Same stove. Same dishes. Same everything! One time she bought a new teapot at the local community storehouse for a quarter. The following week she donated it to the community storehouse because she didn’t want to be “excessive.” Noni had Formica countertops too, just like my mama’s kitchen. 60 year old white formica with grey veining, reminiscent of marble, but peeling back on the edges, from putting in 60 years of hard work. I doubt there is a kitchen in this world that has the same potential to teach hard work as this space, and that’s what I’ve taken away from this old and worn kitchen.
Pawpaw’s kitchen. Oh I wish I had a picture to show you. You couldn’t believe it without seeing it. Pawpaw was a big big man. 6’2” and 350 pounds. He was my dad’s dad, and though he was already a big man, something about him made him seem even bigger! I’m tempted to say he was 6’6 and 450, cuz he felt that way to me. But pawpaw’s kitchen was a teeeeee-tiny galley kitchen with about 28 inches between the sink on the left, and the stove on the right. Pawpaw filled the entire space. Period. Filled it. Pawpaw’s cooking was the stuff of legend. It was beans and cornbread, and chicken and dumplings, and goulash in absolutely massive stainless steel pots, the size, truly, that is only sold at restaurant supply stores. One pot would cover 3 burners easily! Pawpaw’s kitchen taught me about true quality. Yes of course, the quality of the food, resulting from copious amounts of salt and lard. But more importantly about quality time and quality people. Pawpaw worked himself to the bone his entire life, just keeping a roof over everyone’s head, and food in everyone’s belly. He possessed a spirit of humility that felt like generosity. The type of humility that makes everyone around you think they’re a rich man. Pawpaw was the type to spend a little extra cash to get hot oatmeal for his baby boy, leaving himself no spare change to get himself any breakfast at all. He was free with his laughter, never said a harsh word to or about anyone, and loved his family with ease. Pawpaw was larger than life, and it was easy to want to become like him. He, himself, maintained the highest quality character. His kitchen, with the very old yellowish formica countertops are immaterial in my estimation of its value, as the highest quality component of his kitchen, was him. To think that a kitchen could teach a person so much can seem absurd, and yet, it’s the truth.
We haven’t ordered any of our furniture yet but here’s a little sneak peak of the kitchen!
Now is a great time to catch up all our previous videos before the final video comes out this week – so check back!
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