Sunday, October 07, 2007

A Meditation: On Kitchens

Sometimes I get frustrated with the state of both kitchens I inhabit. How they're never sparkling clean; how there are always spice jars and loaves of bread and the day's mail and "bits and bobs" (Lizzie's expression) littering their counters. The counter was almost invisible under junk when I walked into the dungeon kitchen tonight. The dish rack was full of sparkling clean dishes, to my relief; however, even after I put them away and washed another whole sinkful, there are still more dishes to do. It never ends; it never reaches perfection. But usually after one of my cleaning frenzies I realize that perfection is not the point.

Community is the point. It is, of course, the point throughout these ACU houses: in the commons room, in shared bedrooms and bathrooms, in the worship time we share on Sunday nights (which is about to start). But it is especially the point in these kitchens. When I make a batch of cookies or a loaf of peach bread (my newest experiment, as there is NO pumpkin to be found in England) for all to share; when Moose concocts a delicious salad with homemade dressing; when Nathan makes French toast in the afternoon; when Nick downs cup after cup of coffee from our beloved French press. When various of us abide here for hours at a time, studying or reading or just being; when we take turns washing mountains of dishes and putting them away.

Yes, community is the point. I will continue to swab countertops and range spices in neat rows and scrub dirty pans and stack plates in the cupboards. It's part of my nature. But I will also continue to drink cups of tea with Nick over conversations about books and travel, with Nathan in companionable silence, with Moose over talks about life. Because this, more than anywhere in these houses, is where we live. This is home.


Blogger Jacque said...

Canned pumpkin (same brand as in the States) is at the Sainsburys in Kidlington. I usually hoard 3 or 4 cans when I drive out there.

Great post. :)

7:21 PM  
Anonymous Julie Rich said...

its funny you talk about Community cause that is what we talked about at the sunday night time at the willis (his U100 class and sophomore class go to his house on sundays). hehe. anyways, miss seeing ya!

12:56 AM  
Blogger Bethany said...

I agree that community is so very important in spaces. It is not the clean house that you remember, but the people and the memories therein. Every time I move somewhere new, I feel it isn't really home until I have people over, and make some happy memories there. Even when I live alone, the community (or the memory of community shared there) is what makes my home home.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Bethany said...

Also, I want to point out to any future, as-of-yet-unknown-but-one-day-to-be spouses or roommates of mine, that this post clearly indicates that Katie's previous kitchen (i.e. my kitchen) must have been relatively clean! Just take note. ; )

11:37 PM  
Anonymous Deb said...

Hi Katie -

I've enjoyed reading about your current sojourn here. You may not remember me, but I was the stranger lady who came up and tried to say hi (it appeared I scared you by the look on your face) at Highland when we were visiting my folks there this past May.

You don't know me but we have mutual friends, reading through some of your faithful readers’ comments. My husband and I have been trying to visit with the Morgans for the past six years to no avail! (Janine and I were actively involved in the ACU Missions programmes together, and she was a sweet fun friend and is fondly remembered.)

This post caught my eye, because I just recently posted a piece on my blog about the hard time I had finding pumpkin-in-a-tin my first year here. You can always find good old Libby’s Pure Packed Pumpkin at Waitrose,even if there is not a heavy concentration of Americans living nearby. The Brits don't know what to do with it, but hey!, it's American and looks exotic and, well, you know Waitrose. :) And like Jacqui, I always stock up, just in case. I could never find it in any of the Sainsbury’s near places we’ve lived.

The Libby’s you get here has British measurements for the pie recipe. Let me know if you cannot find measuring utensils that have conversions, and I’ll order you some from Lakeland (a sensible inexpensive place, and great online service!). And you probably know by now that baking soda is known over here as bicarbonate of soda? I didn’t have any American friends here for my first year here, and it took me a few months to figure that one out. As my husband is British, he didn’t know what I was talking about (but he was a dear and helped me cut the real pumpkin up for pie).

Sorry to write so much (now you ARE scared!). As this comment is late since you've posted, you’ve probably had Janine give you all the helpful kitchen/baking conversion hints by now, or knew them when you were here in 2004. If you need anything, please know you are always welcome to ring me (the Morgans have our tel no). Perhaps we will get to meet you while you’re here, as Oxford is not far and we have friends and connections there. And I promise not to frighten you too much. If it will help, we can alert you when we’re on our way and bring along some Velveeta for you.


PS: Let me know if you would like my recipe for Pumpkin Walnut Chocolate Chunk muffins (uses buttermilk, which all the grocery stores here carry).

6:57 PM  

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