I Dream of Kitchen Genie

In this week's installment of What's Cooking, a reader from Allen, Texas, asked what my perfect kitchen would look like, a question that stimulated lots of discussion throughout the program.

At first, it's easy to mindlessly jot down components of one's dream kitchen -- from floor tiles to ceiling pot hooks -- but I got to thinking: a cook's wish list essentially is a reflection of not only how he/she defines the word "kitchen" but how he/she perceives its role and significance relative to the rest of his living space.

For some, the kitchen may be the brain of the house -- the operations center -- where wire, fire and production are at play. For others, it's the nervous system -- where one walks an emotional tightrope (Is my sauce emulsified or broken? Is my dough going to rise?). Or maybe, you regard the kitchen as the feet, providing foundation and a sense of groundedness, as you move through the steps of a recipe.

For me, the kitchen is all of those things, but with one extra component: the heart. The kitchen is more than a place to make coffee, pack a lunch and boil rice. It's where I fall in love, build relationships and create community. It's the core, the nucleus, ground zero. It's where raw becomes cooked and cooked becomes part of our five physical senses. It's a place of learning and love, it's a place of passion and practice.

Of course, it's nice to dream about having a commercial range hood, a six-burner stove and a farmers-style sink, some of the wish-list items mentioned in the chat this week. But at the end of the day, none of that matters. Home is where the heart is, and so is the kitchen, be it a tin shack, a FEMA trailer or an open fire in the bush.

Unlike any other part of one's living space, it is the kitchen where we tell stories and share our collective experiences through smell, taste and sound. It is where we shelter from the storm, gather to mourn and celebrate and thank someone for our daily bread.

What does the word "kitchen" mean to you? Share your thoughts in the comments area below.

By Kim ODonnel |  August 23, 2006; 9:35 PM ET Kitchen Musings
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I have a full-time job, but my love for the kitchen is so strong that I've started a baking business on the side. If someone is ill, if they've accomplished something pretty spectacular in their own universe or a quick birthday/Christmas gift is in order--I have always headed to my kitchen. I'm house-hunting now closer to my job and my real estate agent knows a large kitchen is my priority. When I have company in my very rural home in Oklahoma, we all crowd into my cramped kitchen. Never mind that my living room has twice the space. Community is built around what we create in the kitchen and love is communicated in the most delicious ways.

Posted by: Kathy Wade | August 24, 2006 10:44 AM

Lots of homes have give up formal living & dining rooms in favor of family rooms. The Family/Guest kitchen is also popular. If you entertain indoors/outdoors plan location accordingly. Do locate the kitchen so it can receive supplies conviently. Lighting, Prep areas and workflow need to be thought out. How hany cooks will share the space?

Posted by: Paul Corsa | August 27, 2006 2:27 PM

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