Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Dream kitchen

One day when I have my old house, I will have an O’Keefe and Merritt stove in my kitchen. I don’t require a lot for my dream kitchen. I don’t need granite countertops (but yellow and blue tile would be cool). I don’t need a dishwasher. I don’t need a microwave or a central chopping block. I do need a lot of sun, and a window sill big enough for me to make sun tea on.
Over my stove, I will have hang framed photos of all my Kitchen Gods, so that they might look over me as I bumble through my paces and mayhaps pass on positive blessings.
Here are my Kitchen Gods:

Barbara Cleaver Tilsner. My late, great stepmother, whose pots and pans (and dishrags) I rescued from her kitchen after she unexpectedly passed over to the big kitchen in the sky. This woman could pretty much cook anything, and did so with big love for her family and many friends. She taught me how to roast a chicken. She taught my kids how to make Princess Toast (buttered toast with sugar and cinnamon, cut into quarters, set on a pretty plate). She would love this blog. I miss her every day. With her watching over me, I can’t go that wrong.

Julia and Javier – artistic and intellectual, these friends make magic in a third world kitchen. Dining is an art with them (they did live for several years in France, after all), and when invited to their table, you break all previous engagements and attend. When last at my house they made gazpacho blanco, which involves almonds, and is something I would never deign to even attempt.

Audrey Smith – my friend and neighbor, a Martha Stewart type if Martha had gone to art school. She is the keeper of the womanly arts, circa 1900. She quilts. She grows a verdant garden and cans and jars the output. A master in her kitchen. Her husband and kids do not realize how lucky they are to eat this gal’s cooking. She recently made tomato jam – a French recipe – from her own tomatoes. It’s sweet, and yes, tomatoe-y, but the furthest from tomato sauce it can get. Guaranteed to bring the sweet taste of summer to your mouth in deepest winter. Even my six-year-old loves it.

Christina Bess – a friend from grad school, eldest daughter of a sprawling, slightly crazy Italian family in Rhode Island. Naturally she knows how to cook. She showed me the iron skillet her grandmother gave her and inspired me to find my own at a flea market. She’s sent me dozens of her favorite Italian recipes, including a few family favorites passed down through the generations that I will never try because I will never be worthy. Memorable eating with her include sitting on her villa’s patio just outside of Florence, Italy, drinking chianti and eating pasta she made herself, gazing at the orchard and the mountains just behind them. (“No 26-year-old has the right to live like this,” she commented at the time. I had to agree, but then somebody had to do it, right?). She’s the one who can throw tomatoes and basil into a bowl with a little olive oil and sea salt for an appetizer that will bring you to your knees. I do the same and it’s slop. Her husband possesses similar skills, particularly with fish. Kitchen Gods, both of them.

Tamlin Santos – Tall, blond, busty, a medical professional, tech geek, baseball fan…and she can cook!! (sorry boys, get in line). She Tivoes the cooking shows in her spare (?) time, and walks down the street to share her output with me. Memorable dishes are her Louisiana-style gumbo and spicy pastas. She makes a mean chocolate chip cookie, too, as my kids can attest.