Of the things in my kitchen, a basket which one of my grandmothers took to church suppers and a striped stoneware bowl my other grandmother used for mixing are my favorites. They bring me closer to lives lived in the country.
I treasure memories of real country kitchens overseen by my aunts, where I got to spend time in the 1950s and 60s. I don’t suppose there are many left: family farms (excepting those of the Amish) are a thing of the past. People running modern conglomerates probably don’t have a dinner bell to welcome them to to a table weighed down with meals of garden vegetables, hot bread and homemade jam, and meat they’ve raised themselves.
My mother cooked like her sisters, but we lived in town where the environment was quite a bit different. Usually there would be a large number of people when we were company at the relatives’ houses. Kids ate at card tables while grown folks and babies were over at the big dining table expanded by leaves. We listened in on storytelling that went on well beyond the time that the pie, with its sweetened apples or cherries enveloped in flaky, lard-laced crust, disappeared.
One of my uncles was a dairy farmer. I remember the smell of milk separating in the room off the kitchen. There were other smells, from boots left inside the back door, that weren’t so pleasant, but you had to have one to have the other.
And cleaning up after dinner? No shiny, super-efficient dishwashers then. Girls separated into washers and dryers (the boys must have been out chasing pigs or something). I never could keep up with my cousins when I washed, so I usually dried. When the counter filled up they’d help me.
A few weeks ago, a Sunday newspaper feature proclaimed the computer-friendly kitchen with the latest appliances and docking stations to be an “epicenter.” I’d prefer it without docking stations. I don’t care if I have a stainless steel refrigerator. The real epicenter of a home, when food was grown just outside and its producers came in to a real dinner, was a country kitchen.