By writing this blog, I attempt to get a simple idea across: that the glow of travel can last long after a trip has ended. I hope my offerings trigger ideas for you to find this special kind of at-home travel joy. I’ve talked about small domestic pleasures, such as sponges and teas from England, coffee served en cafetière, and finding the poetic in a “runcible” melon spoon.
So, what is the thread that ties this together? You’ve guessed it: the kitchen—the heart of the hearth.
Every day, my heart fills with joy in my beautiful kitchen, the one where I’ve chopped and sautéed and baked and broiled throughout my marriage of twenty-five years. And there once was a time I did these wifely, motherly things in a kitchen in England that is distant from me now. Two kitchens, the one here and the one there, are sacred places where the poetry of family life touches my heart.
Two kitchens live within me, their joys as vivid as the colors of two oil paintings in circular frames on my kitchen wall.
The painting on the left recalls the scarlet blooms on vines in the spring, flowers I saw from my distant kitchen’s window. When I see that painting, my years in that kitchen in England come back. I fix my eyes on the petals and hear the gurgle of water for tea boiling in my kettle. I hear the saw-like scrape of my bread knife slicing through the crusty bread which will be toasted and honeyed for my ten-year-old daughter’s breakfast before school. Later, my palms warm as they fold laundry fresh out of the dryer. My lungs take in soothing warm steam as I iron the long-sleeved shirts of the Harry Potter-esque uniform my daughter wears at secondary school.**
So it is that a modest painting brings back the mornings in my cozy townhouse in a small city nestled in the English countryside.
Now, my eyes swerve to the right. I see in the second wood circle the painting of a blue hydrangea. I ponder how this adjacent work of art symbolizes my English kitchen’s California twin.
My kitchen here is done in blue and white; its walls are papered with tiny blue flowers and its windows decked in white curtains ruffled in blue. The brush strokes in oils echo the colors of the room where I toil now.
When I lived in England I thought often of this kitchen in California. I yearned for it at times. I longed for the American spaciousness; for the double ovens and the warming drawer. Even missed my separate laundry room. I missed the California sunbeams pouring through the windows, and the smell of pines and oaks outside my door. Even amid joys of life across the Pond, I longed for my kitchen in California.
Now, I’m back in the USA. I live and work and love in California. And now, perversely, amid the joys and comforts of the present, sometimes—just sometimes—I long for that cozy English kitchen that served me so warmly in the past.
Life has brought me the joys of kitchen in two distant time zones. This makes me want the impossible. Why can’t I be in both kitchens at once?
And so it is that two paintings have metamorphosed into precious symbols. Every day, for a few seconds, they soothe the kitchen ache that never ends. For a few seconds–just a few–two modest paintings unite my English and my California kitchens. I cherish the treasures of each in the chambers of my heart.
** “middle school” or “junior high” to us.
P.S.: This picture hangs near my kitchen window. I especially love the inspiring phrase.