Gary and I love to watch HGTV. I once toyed with the idea of becoming a real estate agent and even took a few classes. Gary and I have lived in a variety of houses in several states. We’ve done some basic remodeling with our fathers. Gary’s father was one of the first “flippers” in his area. So each aspect of the home acquisition process is appealing to us. The buying-selling shows are a fascinating glimpse of other lifestyles. The renovation shows are entertaining and enlightening. The “dream house” shows…million dollar mansions on the beach…are just eye candy. And of course we have our favorite house-flipping, renovating, designing gurus and there are a couple that we refuse to watch.
Several universal truths become crystal clear when you have watched these shows for as long as we have.
First, people have little or no concept of the difference between “need” and “want”.
People have unrealistic expectations about everything, especially their own abilities.
People assume that the solution for their inability to clean and organize is simply more space.
People want a great deal of value for very little money.
People assume that the perfect environment will ensure the perfect relationship.
People assume that the perfect house exists…
and that house has a perfect kitchen.
It’s been amusing to watch the concept of the “perfect” kitchen evolve over the past few generations. My great-grandmother thought the perfect kitchen had a sink with running water and a stove that didn’t require wood. My grandmother wanted two ovens so she could bake a turkey and a pie at the same time. My mom wanted enough counter space to chop vegetables and safely complete her canning procedures. I don’t think any of them ever asked for a kitchen big enough for everyone to “hang out” in or open to the living room so we could all see the dirty dishes stacked in the sink after lunch. Nor do I ever remember any of them complaining because the appliances weren’t all the same color. They were just happy if all of them worked!
All of this came to mind because last night a woman made the comment “I can’t see myself cooking in this kitchen.” I almost laughed out loud! I thought back to the roughly thirty-five kitchens I’ve cooked in since becoming an adult. Believe it or not, I can vaguely recall most of them, and clearly remember at least a dozen. Perhaps it is true that the kitchen is the heart of the home, or maybe I’ve always been obsessed with food. I can also remember the kitchens of several friends and relatives, but not other parts of their homes. Anyway, I can’t recall ever thinking I “couldn’t cook” in a kitchen of any size, shape, or configuration. Yes, I saw some as a challenge. Others seemed luxurious and I was sad to leave them behind. But all of them met our needs and I managed to cook in them without losing my mind or burning too many meals.
I suppose my acceptance of my less-than-perfect kitchens came from years of observing and assisting my mother, grandmothers, and aunts in their kitchens. My mom could, and did, cook dinner for fifteen people in a kitchen the size of a closet. My grandmother’s kitchen barely had enough counter space to set up the coffee pot and make a salad at the same time. Somehow she always managed to make a Thanksgiving dinner that left us begging for leftovers.
I’m not condemning those of you who want a gorgeous kitchen. But I do want to remind you that the perfect environment may not make you a better cook or your spouse more willing to assist you. It won’t make the dishes magically disappear; someone still has to load them into that pretty stainless steel dishwasher. And it won’t suddenly make cooking your favorite activity if you didn’t enjoy cooking in the first place. Maybe that’s the real reason I never worried about having a perfect kitchen. I could watch the food channel all day long and never be a perfect cook!