Week 1: Always Orange in the Kitchen

With September’s imminent approach and many headed back to school, I decided that a series of related posts might be a fun way to mark this season. In many ways, September feels more like the start of a new year rather than January so why not add a “new thing” to this season of beginnings.

When I started this blog in 2010, my intent was to write about everyday topics and relate them—sometimes explicitly, but often implicitly—to my life of faith. While some of my posts touch on work-related topics, much of what I write about flows out of the home—the place where I eat, sleep, read, work, think, play, and entertain. This morning while drinking my morning cup of Joe, I decided a riff on Robert Boyd Munger’s essay My Heart Christ’s Home would be the perfect vehicle for a series of posts related to home life. In Munger’s essay, he uses the rooms of a house as an analogy for the heart. It’s a short, thoughtful piece that is worth reading (or rereading) if you haven’t before.

Besides my bedroom, probably the room I spend the most time in is the kitchen. If you have spent any amount of time with me at Always Orange, you know how much I love to cook and eat good food. Coming off of a summer where I cooked a fair bit, my “kitchen cup” is full. (For new readers, I live and work at a boarding school so during the school year many of my evening meals are eaten in the dining hall.)

Rather than a share a recipe or tell you about a favorite dish I prepared this summer, I want to explore why the kitchen is a significant place in the home.

Have you ever noticed how at a party the place everyone gathers and stays is the kitchen? I can’t tell you how many times I have encouraged guests to have a seat in the living room only to find that they much prefer to hang out in the kitchen while the final preparations are made to the meal. Why is this?

I think it is because there is something real and comforting about hanging out in a person’s kitchen. It is not as intimate as hanging out in someone’s bedroom, but it comes fairly close. A kitchen is a messy place when cooking happens. Sometimes it is even out of control. A pots boil over, a timer buzzes, dishes fill the sink, with food prep competing for any available space. And in the midst of this craziness guests feel at home.

I know for myself that when I am invited to hang out in a person’s kitchen before a meal is served, I feel as if I move from guest status to family member status. So why am I surprised when guests want to do the same at my house? I should feel honored that others want to be with me in the kitchen while I put the finishing touches on a meal or want to lend a hand preparing a salad. Hospitality and extending grace to others  isn’t exclusive to the dining room or the living room. It can happen in the messy kitchen too.

This past May on the night of Stony Brook’s Prom, Brad and I hosted a SBS student’s parents and brother for dinner since our kids were attending Prom together. The pre-prom festivities meant I didn’t have the usual time in the kitchen before the guests arrived to prepare. So we hung out in the kitchen together. We opened a bottle of wine, passed some nuts and pretzels, and talked and laughed for the next hour while fixing the meal. No one seemed to mind that they didn’t have a chair or that the space was a little tight. To be honest, it wasn’t one of my best meals either. The meat was a little tough and the mashed potatoes were crumbly rather than creamy. But in the end, that didn’t seem to bother anyone besides me.

While I love looking at magazine spreads featuring kitchen islands that are a mile long with people standing around nibbling appetizers and laughing, that isn’t my kitchen. My kitchen is relatively small. I don’t have much counter space. But next time, instead of apologizing for the mess, or the lack room, I am going to smile and say, “Welcome to my kitchen. I’m glad you are here.”

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