Sunday, January 27, 2013
The Heart of the Home
Sometimes I take for granted that the kitchen is the living heart of my home. That is, until someone reminds me. And, invariably, that reminder comes in the form of them telling me how “old fashioned” or “cozy” it is.
I’ve got generations of memories of the kitchen being the command post of the home. My grandmother’s kitchen was alive with conversation, cookie baking and ironing. We did our homework in the kitchen while she stirred the soup kettle over the woodstove. There were knitting projects by the rocking chair in the corner and grandpa read his book at the kitchen table while dunking cookies in coffee.
It’s not much different at my place. And, I forget that this is “old fashioned” or “cozy.” To me, it’s normal.
Every now or then, a well intentioned friend tries to bring me up to speed by reminding me that most modern homes center around the TV or home entertainment center. Folks in these households gathers around the television to eat (if you can call the consumption of processed junk-foods eating), nap, and veg out. This sounds de-vitalizing to me. I get an impression of people who are eviscerated and socially alienated.
My kitchen is vitalizing. People are animated and active. And, they are socially engaged with one another through lively conversation and shared projects. Things get done and company gets kept. Quality time isn’t scheduled — it just happens naturally.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics LS American Time Use Survey (A.C. Nielsen Co.), American households spent 5 hours and eleven minutes per day watching TV. Compare that to the 0.55 minutes that, according to the same survey, people spend in their kitchens per day. That’s right. Americans spend less than one hour a day in the heart of their home: the place where food — the nutritional foundation of human fuel — is prepared.
Americans spend more time engaged in passive distraction than active self-nourishment.
My kitchen is where we cook and eat; stack firewood; hang culinary herbs to dry; make floral elixirs; grind flour; dry wool socks and mittens; grow sprouts; and visit. It’s the first place people head when they come in the house. And, it’s a commercial-and-propaganda-free-zone: nobody is extolling the virtues of sugary breakfast cereals, weight loss programs, or celebrity trivialities.
I cleaned a horse bridle by the kitchen woodstove today. And, when I got it done, I hung it from the lamp so that everyone could look it over. I did yoga in the kitchen today—early in the morning before the press of activity took over. I read for a while in the kitchen this afternoon—after I had meditated by the woodstove while re-kindling a dwindling late-day fire.
Maybe it’s because I don’t have a TV. Or, maybe it’s because my kitchen opens into all of the surrounding rooms. Or, maybe it’s because my kitchen is huge — like a healthy, fit heart that pumps vitality into the whole rest of the body.
Whatever the reason, I want it stay this way. I want the kitchen to remain the living nerve-center of my life. I want it to remain the domestic command post, the hub of the household wheel. It feels right that the really important things in life — good food, good friends and good times — all take place there.
I don’t want to come up to speed and be “modern.” I don’t want to lay on the couch and watch TV. I want to stir a soup kettle and make real, living memories.