If you are shading the wrong side of 50, you are one of the unheeded senior citizens and you can always make an escape to your own personal hideout to get away from the witchy world of today by going into your own kitchen.
Here among the rich smells of good food cooking, and the sight of bottles cooling, you can surround yourself with blessed peace. God Bless the American Kitchen.
We often revert to the things of our childhood to accomplish a task. A favorite tree with the branches just right for sitting and daydreaming, perhaps we may have made a beach-head underneath the hanging branches of a cedar tree. I can even remember digging holes to build an underground room so that we could get away from our parents or the preacher, or some other self-appointed guardian of our childish rights.
Today the aromatic and fun laden kitchen is the in-place to be.
The bombings, the train wrecks and the Republicans fighting it out in New Hampshire fade into insignificance when you unpack the latest gadget for your kitchen; the coffee bean grinder. It will grind coffee beans coarse or fine, with several settings in between. It was to be a gift for my daughter at Christmas but someway I ended up with the thing. Now I must find a place for it. This is not easy when your supposedly neat kitchen is already cluttered with coffee maker, automatic can opener, you sure can’t discard the ice bucket and the lasagna pans. So where do we put this newest gadget? We push the toaster aside making room for it and put it near the bread holder. However, it’s nice knowing you are the gadget king of the county.
These specialty catalogues that will mail you anything from Christmas cookies to salmon and fresh steaks, will fill your every need in the culinary closet. In our kitchen, we have not one but two spaghetti combs. How did the Romans build the coliseum and the Parthenon without ever inventing the spaghetti comb? The reason would baffle the ancient scholars. As a mess of spaghetti rolls and boils, the spaghetti comb is used to straighten the whole mess out until it looks as smooth as one of the Breck girls’ hair on the back page of Good Housekeeping magazine.
There is one item that I feel I should warn you about, and that is whiskey marmalade. The ad asks: “Do you have the blahs each morning? Then have some whiskey marmalade with your English muffin. It will put zip into your life. Made from 80 proof Dewar’s Scotch whiskey.”
Now as you drive to work a man in uniform pulls along side and motions you to pull over out of the 65 MPH lane. He will get out with a toy balloon and tell you to blow it up. You can say severely, “When I was a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away my childish things.” Then drive on and leave the trooper standing there with a toy balloon in one hand, as he scratches his head with the other wondering, what happened? But I digress from my original theme, the kitchen.
Todays kitchen is a blessed retreat for those who wish to withdraw from the hurry-hurry of today’s world that is rushing by so fast. You can sit beside the kitchen stove, watch the early morning sunrise and listen to a pot of wild plum jelly happily bubbling away on the front burner while you drink that third cup of coffee. You can think back to your first presidential election when you first became eligible to vote. You voted for LBJ because he said he didn’t want American boys fighting a war that Asian boys ought to be fighting, and you didn’t hanker to go to Vietnam. But LBJ kept us into a shooting war with North Vietnam, to make the world safe for democracy. But, that’s neither here nor there, and the wild plum jelly is about ready to be put into glass jars and capped with a seal of melted wax.
The only thing that ever came easy for me in securing food for a growing family was the gathering of wild plums. They grow and hang in great clusters like grapes and you can take a machete and a couple of cardboard boxes and gather enough in five minutes that will make enough plum jelly for everyone from Eldon to Welling.
Now it is quiet and the kitchen is all mine as I listen to the purling and boiling of the plums, I can remember other days and other ways.
I can see an older man ramrod straight and dressed in greasy buckskins bent over a small cooking fire. He is turning bacon in a heavy cast iron skillet as his horse, a grulla dun crops grass in the background. His keen blue eyes never look directly into the fire, but the man isn’t too worried because the dun horse would have given a signal if anyone had approached, and he is grazing contentedly.
He has three cooking tools at his disposal, a long-handled fork, a heavy spoon and a skinning knife that has done double duty when the buffalo were plentiful. His name is not important, but he could be one of your ancestors, or mine. He is a scout, guide, ranger or perhaps now he rides on the opposite side of the law. Nevertheless he has led an adventuresome life with the trio of culinary tools and a coffee pot and the heavy iron skillet.
The coffee pot is rusting now in one of his many campsites, the fork and spoon just a memory, but on my kitchen wall, handy to the stove, hangs an iron skillet much the same as the one he cooked his countless meals in, fireblackened and about twelve inches across.
And that reminds me, the bacon is in the pan and store-bought biscuits in the oven, it’s breakfast time once more.
written by R.L. Briggs