Mumís kitchen was the hub of the house. Actually, Mum had a variety of kitchens, large and small and in-between. Dadís work required him to relocate every two or three years. That way you donít tend to build up more furniture and furnishings than you absolutely need. Most of the houses we lived in had no electrical power, so there were a lot of things that today are considered absolutely necessary that Mum did not have.
From time to time my children remind me that I am BBT Ė in other words I was Born Before Technology. In the most modern sense this is true. But I sometimes wonder what would happen today if the power went off and didnít come back on. As a back-up I keep a packet of candles and a box of matches in my kitchen cupboard, but that will solve only one small problem. Candles donít provide hot water for hot drinks or washing up. Candles donít provide hot meals on a cold day.
These things werenít a problem for Mum. She had no electricity to fail and leave her stranded. What did she have in her kitchen?
She had a black, iron, wood burning stove. To one side she had a box of firewood that had to be kept filled. Sometimes there was a sink and a tap providing cold running water. Often there was just bucket and basin, and perhaps a large container for water, which had to be kept filled. Her kitchen table had a shelf underneath to hold her pots and pans. And Dad added a slide-away ironing board just below the table top. He made the original table, too. Chairs stood in the nooks and corners.
In winter a large iron tub was brought in and placed in front of the stove. Starting with the youngest child we bathed, adding hot water as needed from a saucepan on the stove, refilling it for the next one.
Every week the stove was dismantled, washed and black-leaded, and the chimney was swept. Every day the firebox was emptied and a fresh fire built. Every day the kitchen was swept, dusted and washed down.
There was no refrigerator or icebox. With the exception of tinned and bottled goods, supplies were bought fresh every day. Where possible Mum planted a vegetable garden wherever we were, and kept a few hens for their eggs.
In this switch flicking, button pushing age we spend less time in the kitchen and less time being family. The bakery supplies us with our bread and cakes. There are no bowls to lick, or scraps of uncooked pastry or dough to snaffle. The fruiterer or greengrocer has not only the in-season produce, but out of season treats from faraway places, sometimes overseas. Mumís peas and beans came from the vine, carrots and beets pulled and potatoes dug from her well-tended garden patch. Lollies come from Lollyland: Mum made the best caramel, fudge and toffee!
But the best part of Mumís kitchen was the warmth. Not the heat from the stove, welcome as that was in winter. The warmth was her own. She served it with her welcome, garnished it with hot buttered scones and cups of tea or coffee. Always busy, she was never too busy to give you her attention while her hands performed the needed tasks.
Workroom, studio, entertaining area, Mumís kitchen, small or large, was all of these.
It was also her correction centre and a dreaded part of the sentencing was to be banished for a period of time.
In the multiplicity of kitchens where Mum worked her way there were many differences. Mum wove the magic.
My kitchen is neither larger nor smaller than many of the kitchens where Mum held sway. I have the usual electrical appliances and well stocked cupboards of pots and pans, cups and plates. A workroom when necessary, it is otherwise unoccupied, definitely not the hub of the home. Just another room.
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