My kitchen is 16 inches by 36 inches, made up of a single-basin sink and a two-burner propane stove. I have two pans (I mistakenly left my third pan in Portland, d’oh), four coffee mugs, four bowls, a french press, and a whole gaggle of water bottles. Needless to say, I don’t get a lot of hard-core cooking done in there, though I do usually manage to keep us fed.
I expected that giving up all the pots and pans and tools and accessories from my kitchen would be a lot more traumatic than it has turned out to be so far. I live in the kitchen, but I also hide in the kitchen. The kitchen is a convenient excuse, a refuge. Giving up my own kitchen has forced me to let go of ideas about myself that seemed so deeply ingrained that I imagined they were immutable. Letting go of my attachment to the kitchen feels like a good practice for examining my other attachments, questioning how they came about and what they’re actually bringing into my life.
Living on the road and spending our time in other people’s houses has meant spending a lot of time in other people’s kitchens. Many a day, I start our routine on someone else’s stove, in someone else’s toaster, with someone else’s tools. More than their tools, though, I enjoy seeing the way that other people organize this critical part of life, the kind of priority that they give it (or don’t). Which things are most carefully cared for? Which things are absent? Which are present, but neglected? The kitchen is not exactly a window into the soul of a household, but I think it can be a telling snapshot.
Most of the people who welcome us into their homes have done so intentionally, knowing who we are and what we’re about. They’re like us, in some way, or they simply do like us. Spending time in their kitchens feels like a gift, like guidance for how to take the good things and the necessary things and stop worrying about the rest. The task of purposefully rebuilding our life is immense and often feels overwhelming. There are plenty of lessons we’ve learned from our loved ones that that seem impossibly far removed from where I am now. Coming back to the kitchen gives me a tangible place to start reshaping our life to take the best care of our needs.