Saturday, June 18, 2011

Everything But the Kitchen Sink

I long for spontaneous asparagus prosciutto pasta, fresh from the roller and quickly cooked in the tall pot. Creamy from a zest of aged cheese, showcasing that spectacular and brief spotlight of fresh asparagus...just dreamy. But that pasta roller is tucked away in a box marked 'KITCHEN', along with its best friends: the cast iron skillet, the blue tea kettle, the new bread knife, the striped dish towels, the dough hook attachment for the Kitchen Aid mixer, the empty kombucha jar. The inspiring buckets of goat milk whey sitting in the cheese house at Dreamfarm can not yet contribute to savory loaves of bread to be kneaded with the aforementioned dough hook and sliced with the yet-unused bread knife. The last of rhubarb season can't mate with the first of the strawberries, sugar, oats, butter and flour to crisp in the oven. There is no heavy, thick oak table at which to sit and savor a meal, a table slowly acquiring its own stories and marks (the Sharpie stain, the mysterious engraved X, the rub marks on only one side from its previous life as a desk). There is no one with whom to slowly enjoy a story-filled, gratitude-sprinkled meal.  This temporary lack-of-kitchen lifestyle requires patience, lots of patience.

At the end of May, immediately following a raucous weekend of graduation celebrations, we quickly packed up our hodge-podge belongings into cardboard boxes, marched our life into the moving truck and drove West. I steered the 16' moving van, and followed Nikki, who masterfully drove the wagon in the direction of our new home. It was absolutely smooth sailing, the most peaceful and uneventful move I have ever experienced. (Well, barring some white knuckles speeding through the less-than-friendly freeways of Chicago.) We floated into Nikki's family's driveway just in time to enjoy some delicious fresh-off-the-grill burgers and the sun setting over the no-till soy fields of Wisconsin. All was good in the world, and I was so happy to have a good night sleep on a real bed after a few days of packing and driving.

And soon it was the first of the month, and we caravaned into Madison for the much anticipated big event: Moving Day. Nikki's Dad and Grandma lead the charge, I followed in the moving van, and Nik held up the rear for the 90 minute drive west to the big city. We arrived at our new home, we entered, our hearts collectively sunk. This new apartment (yup, the one with the yard, washer/dryer, porch, farm house sink and claw foot tub) was a total bust. Not remotely comparable to the pictures sent from the landlord three months ago, this place was just a pit. Not at all what we had in envisioned for our home. Serious conversations ensued, and we decided to find a new place to make our own. Everything was back up in the air...or more aptly...all packed up in the moving truck. We trudged back to the family farm, heads hung low, defeated, waiting for a new plan to unfold.

And magically, as it  sometimes does, in the next twenty-four hours every detail unfurled. A lovely, currently-being-renovated pad was discovered and rented to us on the spot. Our landlord and new neighbors even helped us move our boxes and furniture and miscellany up the stairs to be crammed into the two finished bedrooms for storage until our official move-in, two weeks down the road. I was even welcomed to camp in the house during renovation, before our official move-in date, to avoid long daily commutes to my new jobs. After a long, successful day in Madison we headed back to the family farm (again), spirits lifted, housing conquered and ready to take a rest. I do believe in miracles.

What we expected to be a few day of packed boxes and mayhem has become twenty. The count will total twenty four days by the time we truly arrive and a few more to unpack after that. An experiment in impermanence, for sure. However, this adventure is far from miserable. Opportunities for laughter abound, I get quality time and delicious meals with Nikki's wonderful family, and there is nothing better than a shake-it-all-up-not-what-you-expected situation to help shatter expectations about your new state, city, neighborhood and life. Living without any amenities is an excellent excuse to walk the neighborhood to stake out delicious food, coffee, yoga and free internet. It's a practice in living without, as most daily items (clothes, non-basic toiletries, journals, shoes, a real bed) are still tucked away in their piled-high boxes. Why have I acquired all this stuff if I don't really need it...
However, there is one thing I am missing. Not the feeling of being settled, not the familiarities of home, not even my girlfriend and dog (ok, that one's not true). What I miss most? My kitchen.

This new kitchen, like much of this new house, is still under renovation. The cabinets, although freshly painted, are missing their hinges and handles and doors. The refrigerator is full of used paint brushes wrapped in plastic bags, along with my five apples from the coop and some cheese from the farm. The stove remains untouched, covered by a sheet for protection while the floors are refinished. Everything but the kitchen sink is not quite ready, yet. A neatly stacked pile of moving boxes, still taped shut, now waits patiently in the dining room, keeping a collective eye on the kitchen. And I excitedly, anxiously and hopefully count down the days until we can mold this kitchen into our kitchen, starting with whatever meal happens to come first. I bet coffee will be involved, and I can hardly wait.

It is possible to live a fulfilled life for long periods of time without the sewing machine, the tool box, the paint box, or a full wardrobe of clothes. But a kitchen (any kind of kitchen), and all it cooks up, are something different. An art studio to highlight the short-lived flavors of a season. A spice-filled journey across the world. A table for grace and companionship of all kinds. A place to cook, brew, stew, ferment, slice, heat, melt, roll, steep and percolate love.

Go, hug your kitchen.