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Kitchens Part 1 – The Good, the Bad, and the Really Ugly

Posted by tinako on July 10, 2009

I have cooked extensively in five kitchens, and I have developed an opinion about them.  (Yes, there are actully subjects on which I do not have an opinion.)  I thought it might be interesting to compare two kitchens in particular that I currently use.  Today I will talk about the summer kitchen, at my parents’ cottage.

11 Willowdale 1976 kitchen before


This house was built by my great-great-grandfather in the 1880’s, though this 18 x 10′ room was added on later.  Here are two pictures of the kitchen as it looked when my Dad’s father inherited it in 1976.  The first shows the back, and yes, that is a view of a cliff face.  On the left is a huge storage cupboard, and on the right is a white stove and, in the foreground, a black enamel wall-mounted sink (a doorway is between them).

12a Willowdale 1976 kitchen


The next picture shows the front of the kitchen.  This had actually already been improved, since there was no sink there originally (the original sink would have been just out of frame to the left).  I believe the counter, complete with tin wrapping, was there.

The original kitchen was a small step above camping.  Despite its large size, there was no place for the fridge, which was in the living room.  The fridge had one of those small built-inside freezers like you find in hotel fridges now.  The small enamel sink, providing hot and cold lakewater, was mounted on the wall with only a built-in drainer, no counter space, so washing dishes meant walking across the kitchen to get each dirty dish.  I was  young so didn’t do any cooking, but doing the dishes this way got old fast.  Lighting was bare bulbs with pull-chains, and how about that linoleum!  The walls were pink with blue trim.

20 Willowdale 1979 kitchen after 1


In 1979 they overhauled the kitchen, partly because the back of it was sinking into the earth.  Here you can see the kitchen at its best, sparkling new and not a dish in sight.  Look, there’s no junk on the windowsill!  It has never looked this way again.

20 Willowdale 1979 kitchen after 2


And here is the back of the kitchen.  No one has done anything about that back view yet.  But now you can stand back there and not bounce up and down.

Picture 051OK, here it is today.  The pantry is still great – you can see it holds a lot of stuff.  The Fiestaware was already here, and that’s where my brother and I have gotten our love for it.  Many of the pots and pans and utensils were here, too.  My Dad built that nice white drawer under the cups.  It perfectly holds a Rubbermaid utensil tray, nice and tight so the mice can’t get in.

Picture 057Here’s how the sink counter usually looks now.  That dishwasher doesn’t work, so the counter is usually covered with clean and dirty dishes of the many people here, and so not all that helpful for cooking.  I push stuff aside to chop and wash veggies here, and that’s about it.  Great view, though.

Copy of Picture 053OK, here is the back of the kitchen, with that pantry on the left.  That table is not very helpful.  We feed the cats there so the dog won’t get their food, so it is not clean for food prep. But on the right you can see the latest big improvement.  Instead of a pile of chairs, there’s a Hoosier cabinet I talked my Dad into getting a few years ago.  It gives me counterspace, tight cupboards, and drawers.  The mice don’t really bother this thing, even though I store flour and beans in it.

WedHere’s a front view.  He had this antique cabinet restored, and I had them take out the flour bin, or as I like to call it, the Weevil Dispenser, which would normally fill the left-hand cupboard and sift flour and bugs below.  The right hand cupboard has a cookbook holder, and on the other door some bins I can’t figure out.  I keep various things in what I guess we’d call an appliance garage at counter level – cookbooks and my bread machine.  That enamel counter is on rollers and it pulls out to make quite a large work surface, but then you can’t really get to the drawers.  It has 4 big drawers, including one metal-lined one where I keep onions and potatoes, and an immense bottom cabinet with pull-out shelves and a nice door-rack.  This thing is like a Cadillac.  Best of all, even though it has a tempting horizontal surface, because the Hoosier is off in the corner people are not inclined to leave their stuff on it.

Picture 052But this blog isn’t about Hoosiers, it’s about kitchens, and the point I would like to make is that this kitchen, at a nice 10 x 18, is still not very convenient.  Instead of being grouped together, the important stuff is spread into the corners of the room.  I do a lot of walking.  The Hoosier is stuck in a corner 9′ from the pantry as the cook walks, and about 10′ from the sink and fridge, which are 6′ apart.  The toaster and microwave are 15′ from the pantry.  The clean dishes in the drying rack are 18′ away from all the places they belong.

Despite the many helpful upgrades, and our constant thinking about how to improve it, it is much more difficult to cook in this ample kitchen than in any other I have used, so it will make a good comparison.  It is a joy to be here, but not to cook here.  Next blog, I’m going to compare this with a tiny apartment kitchen and a kitchen I designed myself and rejoice in daily.


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