The kitchen. I remember being young enough not to be able to see over the counter. Countertops were a plane of existence that only adults (and my stupid older brother) were allowed to make part of their everyday lives. I wouldn’t exactly call them mythical, but they were certainly part of a world only accessible to most everyone else in my life. But I grew taller, and my universe expanded to encompass the banality of napkin holders, stainless steel sinks, and microwave ovens. But the kitchen was always a place I could spend time with my mother. I burned my hand testing the heating coil of an electric stove top. I saw my mom crying silently over a box of mac-n-cheese. I pushed around a chair so that I could raid the overhead cabinets for Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate chips. I remember the first time we tried out our electric air-popping popcorn popper. It made terrible popcorn, but we slathered it in butter and told ourselves we were modern. My mother and I had our most honest conversation around the island countertop in our kitchen. The kitchen is the only place I ever saw my mom kiss my step-father. I don’t have a single memory of my biological father in a kitchen. The idea of kitchens in our culture is rich in mythology. The actual kitchens of our lives hold an incredible wealth of memories. And the kitchens we live in now are filled with foods and tools we’ve built up over time, each with their own stories to tell about us. If you’re ever at a loss for a story to plumb, dwell in your kitchen for a while. Look at what’s around you. You’ll find stories everywhere. Here are some prompts to get you started.
- What’s the most important conversation you’ve ever had in a kitchen? Or what’s the most important conversation you’ve ever heard in a kitchen? Think childhood, your first apartment, your first house, your lover’s kitchen, the kitchen of your childhood best friend, your uncle’s kitchen, etc.
- Think about the appliances, dishes, pots/pans, silverware, and utensils you have in your kitchen. Take them one at a time. One object. How did you acquire it? Why did you buy it? What were you telling yourself about yourself when you bought it? What was it going to accomplish for you? Who gave it to you? What did their giving it to you reveal about what they thought of you?
- Consider your kitchen (any one of the kitchens of your life) as a place of dwelling. Tell the story of a moment in your kitchen when you wished you were somewhere else? Tell the story of a moment in your life when you wished you were back in your kitchen instead? Tell the story of a moment when you wished someone who wasn’t present with you in your kitchen was present? Can you think of a moment when you wished someone who was with you in your kitchen wasn’t there with you at that moment?
Hopefully, one of these prompts has you thinking about a story you might tell. I would love to hear any ideas these prompts might have elicited. Please share below. It might prompt someone else to tell a story in response to yours. Or if you’ve got another prompt about kitchens, please share it below. (Note: I’ve purposely avoided focusing these prompts on food. That’s going to be an entirely different set of prompts. But like I said, please do share any ideas these might have sparked for you, even if they’re about food more than your kitchen itself.)