The original title of this blog piece was CLEANING OUT THE KITCHEN. I started it before I went to Colorado to clean out my mother’s house, and specifically her kitchen. It began: You know those old circus acts where a tiny car pulls up on the stage and then people and dogs start coming out and they just keep coming and coming and you keep thinking, “There is NO way all of those dogs and people could have fit in that tiny car!” Apparently that is my kitchen. And my mother’s kitchen, and probably the kitchens of a whole lot of other people I know. As it turns out, there seems to be a universal appeal of kitchenware and gadgets acquired, but not truly needed.
I found enough material in my mother’s kitchen to completely outfit at least three kitchens. There were two sets of everyday china, two sets of stainless steel utensils, two sets of pots and pans, and multiples of nearly every baking dish and tray known to man. There were two Cuisinarts, a large old one and a small new one, entirely unused. An ancient and lonely MixMaster was tucked into a corner cabinet and extra bowls for it were curiously stored in the guest bedroom. Two Osterizer blenders stood ready for service and there were hors d’oeurvres trays of every size and shape, Tupperware beyond reason, and a lovely set of glasses emblazoned with ground glass butterflies that I had never seen before, tucked in a cabinet above the cook range. There were two sets of fine china, both of which I remember from Thanksgivings as a child, and an additional set, a curious sky blue patterned with tiny gold stars that I had never seen. Good knives were in conspicuously short supply, lending credence to the idea that my mother did not actually COOK, at least not in recent memory, confirmed by a new rolling pin sheathed in its original cardboard wrapper. My grandmother’s silver, monogrammed and polished, resided next to my mother’s Grand Baroque service for twelve, including ice tea spoons. Who actually uses ice tea spoons? The silver tea service perched on the buffet was a relic from a bygone era, more genteel, more civilized, when folks actually had sit down dinner parties, and real conversations while seated uncomfortably next to someone other than their spouse.
Before I left for Colorado, I had the entire interior of my house painted for the first time in fifteen years. I decided to paint the old stained and worn oak kitchen cabinets a light cream color, which necessitated removing all of the kitchenware from them. In cleaning out my own cabinets, I gave away a brand new Crock Pot, never used, a juicer, also never used since I can buy fresh squeezed orange juice at my local market, a Quesadilla maker (yes, they exist), a George Foreman grill, a toaster abandoned in favor of the panini maker, and what was left of the cracked and chipped everyday dishes I’ve used since getting married over thirty years ago. Everything else was loaded into boxes, to be lovingly replaced in an organized fashion upon my return. Tonight we grilled salmon and steak and served them up on a set of my mother’s old china. The boxes are still packed and seem likely to remain so. Four boxes were mailed from Colorado to my son and his girlfriend setting up house in Washington DC.
I am continuously amazed at truly, how little we actually need of all of the things that we have accumulated.