What Is It With Kitchens?

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.

10 thoughts on “What Is It With Kitchens?

  1. We have been on a real purging spree lately. Guilty as charged on kitchen items (there are good knives however … lol). My mantra has become simplify, simplify, simplify.

  2. Also guilty as charged. We all have too much.

    But notice that we are now at the age when we start to divest ourselves of all these items. I call it “de-bulking”, as one might do when surgically removing a huge tumor.

    That’s what all this detritus feels like. A giant tumor that we are dragging around with us.

    I certainly don’t want a fire again however a clean sweep does have its up side.

    When I was 19 years old the house I was living in burned to the ground. All that was saved was my vehicle, my motorcycle (but no key), my dog and my cat. After I mourned the few things that were irreplaceable (the photos from my trip to Africa, my brown sheepskin coat the likes of which I’ve never found again), I felt very free.

    I left a few months later for Europe with a very small carry-on that represented all my clothes in the world.

  3. We downsized by half 16 months ago. I have missed nothing except the back support belts that somehow vanished without our intention to give them away–and now we need those, because we are moving again…. I DO use iced tea spoons–to get mayo or pasta sauce from the bottom of the almost empty bottle.

  4. Funny how we spend the first half of our adult life accumulating “stuff” and then in a flurry become panicked about having too MUCH “stuff”. When we moved to Texas 5 years ago it was overwhelming how much “stuff” we had. Of course we had combined 2 households and ended up with multiple everything. Maybe it should be mandatory to move or re-paint every 5 years if for nothing else than to be forced to do a Purge. And on top of the physical part of PURGING there is the emotional toll, too – nostalgia over dishes or remembering when you did use that mixer to make cookies for your (now adult) kids. I must admit I do not relish the time when I must plow through my mother’s things. It will be hard.

    • Jackie and everyone else, have you heard the George Carlin routine about having to have bigger and bigger places for your “stuff”? If not, it’s well worth a YouTube listen. M

  5. Stuff Stuff. I have way too much. My kids have all they need to SO I am sorting into clear glass, metals, and plastic. Perfect plastic to the thrift shop. Clear glass to recycle, Metal to scrap yard for 1.47per ? by my son who will use the proceeds for gas money. Everything else will be put in the trash. Thanks for the inspiration.

  6. Yep, all of the above. I still have a hard time letting go of things that have fond memories associated with them (a great pate and the le creuset terrine, made for a fantastic party for instance). And re the ice tea spoons — right up there with coffee spoons. When was the last time you really drank coffee out of a demi-tasse cup? At least the long handles on the ice-tea ones make them more useful!

  7. Oh, heavens, iced tea spoons are Excellent for getting the last bits of ice cream out of cartons like Ben & Jelrry’s without getting ice cream all over your fingers and hand. I live alone, so can eat out of the carton whenever I want

    Two years ago a coworker got seriously ill, husband out of town, five kids at home – she was in hospital. We took turns going over to cook and round up the kids (oldest was a teen). I was amazed that a mother of five could run a household with one set of measuring cups and spoons – and she is a baker! I am still trying to figure out how. I have three sets of each aforementioned and still scrabble at times…..

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