It’s funny what makes you nostalgic. Snapshots, old clothes, yearbooks, ticket stubs –– those are the obvious triggers, but when I packed up all of those things a few months ago to move back to New Orleans, it was in such a blind hurry that I didn’t really take the time to think about it. I threw everything in boxes, marked “Misc.” on all of the lids and loaded up the truck. I thought maybe I had escaped the weepy reflection that so often characterizes a big move for me.
But no. Kitchens, of all things, one of the main highlights of this month’s issue, got me thinking, started me remembering and even made me a little bit homesick for Columbia, Mo. Because after all, I spent my childhood in New Orleans, but I became an adult in Columbia.
As I looked at the gorgeous kitchens in this month’s issue, I thought back to the kitchen in my very first apartment. The electric stove was improperly wired and would shock my roommates and me if we leaned up against it, but that didn’t really matter because, except for Jell-O shots and a few batches of Christmas cookies, we didn’t cook a single thing.
When I moved into my own place a few years later, though, it had a gas stove and plenty of counter space, and I started cooking a few old family recipes and slowly worked my way up. By the time I moved again, this time to a house I bought with my husband, not even a soufflé could scare me. In that kitchen on Melbourne Street, I made strawberry tarts with citrus glaze, coq au vin, brioche, lamb chops, risotto. In the bitter cold Missouri winters, I made hearty chili and stew and stroganoff. In the Missouri summers that were almost as oppressively awful as they are here, I made wheat berry salad, gazpacho and cold couscous with garlic vinaigrette. Several times, full of maternal energy but not yet ready for a real baby, I made dog biscuits from scratch, lovingly mixing peanut butter and carob chips into the batter and cutting them carefully into bone shapes for my enormous –– and enormously spoiled –– mixed-breed puppy.
And it was in my last kitchen in Missouri that I started to suspect, following a fight-or-flight response to the smell of a frying onion, that, ready or not, that long-awaited baby was on her way.
By the time I moved back home to New Orleans in January, I was officially a grown-up. The baby and the husband were pretty good indicators, but the sheer number of kitchen gadgets I’d amassed was irrefutable proof. Zesters, mandolins, juicers, a Kitchen-Aid mixer: These are not the tools of adolescents.
My kitchen has come a long way from the days of that faulty electric stove, but I must admit that it is nowhere near as nice as the ones in the pages of this magazine. But regardless of whether you have a granite island and a Wolf range, the kitchen is one of the best rooms in the house and is full of nostalgia potential. Especially in New Orleans, where food is a way of life, the kitchen is a prime place to congregate and make memories.
In fact, as I write this, I have beans soaking on the stove and a pot of chicken stock cooling in the fridge, getting ready to become gumbo. I’m giving two dinner parties this week, busy making new memories in a new kitchen in New Orleans.
noteworthy home and garden events
On May 14 at 7 p.m., Karen Blackburn will present “Gardening in the Heat of the Moment,” part of the New Orleans Botanical Garden Spring Education Series, at the Garden Study Center. Blackburn will talk about the best plants to use and maintain during the hottest months of the gardening season. The cost is $10. On May 21 at 7 p.m., Richard Sacher will present “Water Features for Small Gardens” at the Garden Study Center. Also part of the education series, this lecture, with accompanying slides, will demonstrate how a small water feature will attract birds, mask street noise, provide soothing tranquility and bring your garden to life. The cost is $10. For more information about either of these classes, please call 483-9473 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. On May 28 from 10 a.m. to noon, design expert Peggy Stafford will present “Floors, Walls & Countertops, Oh My!” at Longue Vue House & Gardens. This program is free thanks to a grant from the Helis Foundation, but reservations are required. For information or reservations, call 488-5488 or e-mail email@example.com.
This article appears in the May 2008 issue of New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles