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  • Writer's pictureamyk73

Connecting in the Kitchen

For many of us the kitchen is the center of the home. It is where we connect with each other while stirring bowls of ingredients and creating meals that bring us together. It is where many of us eat sharing tales of our day and making plans. Our kitchens are the heartbeat of activity with its aromas and laughter. In all that has happened this year our kitchens still provide that place of solace and comfort when we need it the most.

When everything first started shutting down in an effort to flatten the curve, I started baking. I made cookies, brownies, pies and cakes. I made homemade dinners and even breakfast more often than I usually did. It seemed I was cooking and baking every chance I got which is strange as I'm not typically the person who wants to cook or bake for fun. During this time though it just felt right, it seemed the right thing to do and I was drawn to the kitchen. It felt safe, comforting and a place where I could control something in a time when it felt there wasn't much any of us could control.

Well into summer when the temperatures and humidity rose, I was still baking and cooking. We were no longer eating out or getting take-out for worry about how the food was prepared, who handled and it and just general lack of interest leaving the house and dealing with other people. It was during those times, I once again turned to my kitchen as a place of refuge to create interesting dinners and meals for the family. It gave me a sense of humbleness and gratefulness for the food we had and ability to create a meal with things in our freezer and pantry. I felt connected to the process of cooking from scratch sauces, meals and desserts that would meet my family's needs and gave me the pride of being able to prepare it for them.

I started looking for old recipes to make from scratch and going through dusty cookbooks I had once thought of getting rid of for lack of use. Now they seemed like comfortable old friends that I could look through at the kitchen table discussing how to use the ingredients I had available. Familiar meals from my own childhood came back remembering leaner times filled with simple yet hearty meals meant to last more than one meal. The kitchen the cornerstone of these activities where I knew I could take care of our most basic of needs while listening to news of chaos that ensued in the world. It would all be alright as I soaked beans, mixed butter and sugar and waited for the preheat setting.

In reading various articles about the depression and remembering my own great-grandmother's stories of hard times I knew what I was feeling was normal. The draw to my kitchen was natural in this time. It was something to do that was productive, helpful and comforting. I finally realized why people cook and bake when there is a death. It is the sense of doing something when you lack the knowledge of what else you could do in that time. Yet you are called to do something and feel it very strongly to act. It is an act of love and protection in a time when we lack explanation and answer for a world gone mad or changes we simply cannot reconcile in our heart as to why they were necessary. While a homemade loaf of bread cannot provide that answer any more than anything else can, it is symbol of hope, love, comfort and reassurance.

That's where I spent my time, working on blog posts waiting for the timer to go off on the oven so I could swap trays of cookies. Today's choice being peanut butter cookies. The kind with the fork marks criss-crossed on top like I was taught to make in home economics class back in high school. That kitchen was simple, white and old fashion in style. It was where we mixed everything by hand and learned the basics of keeping a kitchen stocked, cleaned and ready for the need to cook or bake something, including delicious simple peanut butter cookies with criss cross marks. Learning those skills has somehow stuck with me all this time as I sit in my own kitchen waiting for those cookies to finish.

As we prepare for a different kind of Thanksgiving meal this year, one without lots of family and friends around our tables, I am thankful for the knowledge of what my kitchen represents. I'm feeling blessed for the many years our house was full and my kitchen pouring our yummy aromas that kept drawing people in to check how things were coming along. I am mindful of this room's role in serving my family meals but also being a place of comfort when we need it. Even when I don't realize or want to admit it being in the kitchen stirring, cleaning or just sitting with a cup of coffee looking at old cookbooks connects me to feeling life in a pure simple way. It fills my heart as much as it nourishes my body. It is a place where I can go when things are confusing, challenging, chaotic and seem insurmountable to perform some simple task that brings me comfort. It also reminds me that I can endure the tough things in life. I can bring others together in this room to feel love, connection and encouragement when they need it too.

Our Thanksgiving meal may be different this year but with my family around our kitchen table and the rest of the family on Zoom we can still connect over a meal. Each of us in our own kitchen, using the strength and comfort of this room to connect with others. We can still share tales of our days and take refuge in the spaces called our kitchen. It may indeed be different but it is nonetheless still the heartbeat of our homes. It is still the place we can turn when nothing in the world makes sense. I believe returning to the most basic things of making a homemade meal gives us that strength to continue finding answers to the big problems and feeling connected to those closest to us.

It is my wish for all of us this holiday season. That blessing of connection to one another in ways that are simple, pure and natural.

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