Kitchen mysteries

We had guests last night for our usual Wednesday night tapas (and I use that term loosely) night and I was reminded of an essay I wrote in Jay Paul's non-fiction writing class at Christopher Newport University (it was actually a college then) x years ago (I use x here not because I can't remember but I choose not to !). I was a "non-traditional" student (that means in my 30's not my 20's) in a class of fresh-faced 18-20 year olds, and our assignment was to write a short essay about a physical place that was special to us. Dr. Paul thought that it was a good idea for us to read our compositions to be critiqued by the class. You can only imagine my anxiety- I am a woman with two kids and a mortgage who had not written for years! Finally the day came and one by one my fellow students read their essays about walking on the beach, or sitting under a special tree, or gazing at nature from a mountain top. I read my essay last and it was a description of the kitchen in my tiny Hilton Village home (anyone who has lived in one of these 20's era duplexes knows what I am talking about!). It described the furnace in one corner and the hot water heater in another. I told how you had to open the oven door just right in order to keep your baked goods from falling on the floor, and its ugly linoleum floor. My essay was met with silence... then applause. I had taken my entire class into my tiny kitchen with the written word. My point? The point of my essay (and this post) was that no matter how ugly my kitchen, anytime we had people over, they congregated in the kitchen, because there is some kind of mysterious attraction that draws people to a working kitchen.

Back in my Hilton days, I didn't have much room, so I chalked some of this mystery to mere square footage, but that is not the case. Our new home has a good sized kitchen, an eat-in area and a fabulous (by my standards, not Martha's) dining room. My dining room is painted an inviting red, it is full of furniture pieces lovingly selected from Phoebus Auction Gallery and local antique shops, and my pride and joy - my Waterford crystal. So wouldn't you think that people would love to eat there? So would I, but instead they will balance their plates on their laps, and pull chairs from my beautiful dining room into the cramped eat-in adjacent to the kitchen. I really don't understand this, but I surrender to it. I thought about submitting this to Unsolved Mysteries but I decided to ask my readers instead if they could shed light on this (and ask if there is any hope that my guests will ever eat in my dining room!)

Here are some other food/kitchen mysteries that I would like solved:

1) Why does it always take me two tries to get the meringue right on my pie (the first one or two set the smoke alarm off!)

2) Why can my husband always tell me what he doesn't want for dinner and never what he does want?

3) Why do I always crave oysters, ...or grapefruit ...or asparagus when it is not in season?

4) Why can you never buy a ripe pear anymore?

There's a start. Solve my food/kitchen mysteries or add your own. I'll cue the scary music!


Sorcha said…
Oh, my God. Jay Paul. There go some memories. He was my advisor for a brief time at CNC.

I think the reason you can't get ripe pears is because, like with other fruit, they're picked too early to extend their shelf-life. If you want a ripe one I think a u-pick is probably your best option.

Here's a question: Why don't stores have salad bars anymore? Granted, they were pretty generic back in the day, but it's better than nothing. I'd love to see a really good salad bar at the grocery store next to my work so I could pop in and make a nice big salad to take for lunch.
Deborah Dowd said…
Sorcha- I think the answer re: salad bars is simple- E-coli. Now you have to have all the makings yourself if you want a salad... but then you only have to worry if you washed your hands, not the previous 130 diners!
Sorcha said…
Good point - though there's still no guarantee about the lack of e. coli in the stuff you get at the store! What I should do, I reckon, is make me a big bowl of salad at the beginning of the week and take it for lunch till it's gone. Or something. *G*

Back in the early 80s, Burger King used to have a salad bar and you could get pita bread to put your salads in. I remember doing that a lot at the BK there at the corner of Denbigh and Warwick. Granted, it was standard iceberg lettuce-type salad, but still, it was good enough that I chose it over hamburgers.
kitchenMage said…
a) We humans are perverse creatures so we sometimes present oppositional data by default or for amusement.
b) If you say something you want then you might be asked how you want it fixed, perhaps followed by the suggestion to do it yourself since you have a plan.
c) You preempt other people saying "oh I really want ____" when you've had it for lunch the last three days.

#3 See "humans are perverse". Also, you do crave those things when they are in season but you eat them and satisfy the craving. Plus, it's been longer since you have had any and thus the cravings seem more severe.

#4 I'm with Sorcha, sort of. Pears don't ripen on the tree and accelerate ripening when picked. Pick them even less ripe for shipping across country and you have pears that go from rock-hard to spoiled in about 90 minutes (while you are sleeping).

Where do you all live that they don't have salad bars in the grocery stores? Here in midCascadia (aka the Pacific Northwet) there are still salad bars. ANd this is where the rajhneshees plotted to poison the masses using a salad bar!
Sorcha said…
Kitchenmage, I was going to mention that salad bar poisoning but couldn't remember the details! It was in Hood River, wasn't it? It's a bit confusing, how they thought they were going to take over the world starting with Hood River.
Sorcha said…
Also, I'm in the NW too. There's a Fred Meyer right by my son's school, where I work, but no salad bar. There are some pre-made salads but they're either too small for a lunch, or way too big.
Oh I remember the pita bar at BK and also the make your own burrito bar at Wendys too. So why don't you blog about the wednesday Tapas dinners? I would like to see that.
Deborah Dowd said…
I will be covering "Evil David" and Tapas night soon, but I want to get some pictures that capture some of those dishes (I am trying to take more and better pix of my own)