Wednesday, June 26, 2019

The One-Butt Kitchen

Before and after!
No tour of my old house in Arlington would be complete without a visit to the kitchen, which was big enough to hold a canister of homemade cookies, and always did.

To get there, you hang a left off the tiny living room and angle through the tiny dining room until it squirts you out into the kitchen. In a house of small rooms with no sensible flow to them, the kitchen stood out for crampedness and weird design. For instance, the back door, basement door, and closet door all opened out into each other. If you found yourself in the closet, you should just stay there. (It's a classic 'Fifties sentiment.)

My folks did a remodel in 1960. I have photos of our kitchen "before" and "after," and although my mom was probably pleased with it, there wasn't much difference. There's a new Formica countertop with boomerang spangles in the "new" kitchen, with, I think, a matching table. The cabinets were replaced with something smoother. There was a regular-size refrigerator with rounded corners and Arthur Godfrey lived in the melamine radio on top of it.

Back then, they didn't even make fridges the size that people can't live without now. If you opened up our fridge you'd have found cheese, eggs, and milk. (Modern children don't even know where milk comes from! It comes from the man in the little hat who lives downstate and leaves it by the back door every Saturday.) You might also have found a few other items such as a lemon-shaped container that says "RealLemon" in order to distinguish it from real lemons, which we didn't have any of. The freezer had ice cube trays and bags of frozen vegetables. Take out one of the frozen green bean bags and a couple cans of Campbell's soup and you've got supper.

New dishwasher
But now, of course, there's a stainless steel stove and granite countertops and a stainless steel refrigerator that could shelter a polar bear. They must have given up on the little breakfast table because there's no way all this stuff fits in that little kitchen. Most disturbing of all, the new refrigerator is to the right when you enter the kitchen. And I cannot for the life of me come up with what used to be there. I only ate breakfast in that room every day for sixteen years and I can't remember for sure what was on that wall.

Old dishwasher
Probably another counter and cabinets. I have the dimmest recollection that I would stand on a counter over there to reach the highest shelf and get a little nip off Dad's Taylor Sherry bottle. He had a glass of sherry once a year and, I assumed, never noticed the theft. Alcohol was another thing, like a rec room, that other kids' houses had but not ours. As a result, the first time I got schnockered, I was at the Cellar Door in D.C., at least three years underage, to see Laura Nyro, and I ordered sherry, because I didn't know the name of anything else. My parents simply refused to prepare me for adult life. I think that's the takeaway here.

But I have one legacy. I still like Formica. I like it better than granite. When my beer glass comes down on the counter, which it does often, I don't want it to go CLANK. That might not be what my parents had in mind, but there you go.

29 comments:

  1. Fortunately, our crooked little house has always had a large kitchen, although oddly enough not much counter space. I made up for this lack by keeping my eyes open for a sideboard, which I found in short order in a dumpster when the college kids evacuated the area at graduation. Has a nice wooden work area and is the perfect height for me. The only thing that I wanted to change on it was that it had two shelves under it and I would have preferred drawers.

    A few weeks later, a neighbor who was moving, impulsively asked me if I wanted his four wooden wine boxes. I did, and as luck would have it they fit perfectly on the shelves as drawers. At the time, we had limited resources for renovating the kitchen, so these items were the perfect price for us, and they are still in our kitchen, as they are useful and we appreciate the way they came to us.

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    1. I appreciate the way they came to you too! They sound perfect. And you're resourceful. A good thing.

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  2. My home was built in 1954, the same year I was.I got a chuckle out of "Two butt kitchen". That is a perfect description of my kitchen. I still have the same old original double sided porcelain sink, and Formica counter. It is in a white marble pattern. Thankfully no boomerangs. I've been wanting a new kitchen counter for 40 years now, but something else always comes up to buy instead. When my husband and I moved in, in 1978, we were stretched for money, so we asked the sweet elderly lady if she could leave the stove for us, and she did. We still have that same Kenmore gas stove. It was made in 1956 and has pilot lights that burn all of the time on the top, but the oven pilot has to be lit every time you use it. I love that old stove. I've been cooking on it for 40 years now. A while back I thought about getting a new stove. New stoves that somewhat compare to my old one are very expensive.

    My Mom and Dad never really drank alcohol except at Thanksgiving and Christmas where Mom, or friends that were over, would have a "highball", or some wine (I think I am remembering Mogan David or some type of Missouri red wine).

    When I was a young teen, there was one summer where I had gotten inspired by the Galloping Gourmet on TV and decided I wanted to drink some of the wine that was stored in the very old refrigerator in the basement. I remember I had cooked myself some Chef Boy r Dee ravioli and brought the bottle of wine upstairs and poured some into my glass of 7Up. My Mom was right there in the kitchen standing at the sink doing something, while I had my version of a Galloping Gourmet meal with wine. Mom was ok with it. I guess she knew it was not a big deal if she didn't make it into one. That was something I did that summer, other than that I never did any underage drinking.

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    1. I'm pretty sure Mogen David would kill you in a fat hurry, actually! I had to do everything underage because I was nearly two years younger than my peers in school. Not that Mom and Dad saw it that way.

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  3. I have brand new Wilsonart laminate in my kitchen in mint green with little boomerangs all over it! It's a 1966 house, so it has 1966-style counters.

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  4. My sister was able to visit the house we grew up in when she was in town last year for a 50th high school graduation weekend. None of us had been there in decades. Some walls were down, there was a deck, and more modern furniture, but the surprising thing was that the kitchen cupboards, which my grandfather built in about 1950, were still there. He would be pleased to know that I think. (Along with the yellow formica countertops)

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  5. My father's business was as a cabinetmaker, specializing in Formica countertops. I grew up with Formica samples as toys. The boomerang is a classic.

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    1. So are we! We're Mid-Centuries.

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    2. The time someone referred to a chrome and Formica table I was selling as a 'mid-century antique', I admit, I blanched ;)

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    3. "Blanched" is an appropriate shade for a woman of a certain age. That is ours.

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  6. I don't like stainless steel appliances. They show every mark and also show what a woeful housekeeper I am. Or they would show it if I had them.
    You had frozen vegetables as a child? They were exotica in our house. Our teensy freezer had ice cubes and occasionally ice cream.

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    1. We sure as heck didn't have fresh. Remember the ice cube trays with the handle you cranked back to pop the cubes?

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    2. I remember getting blood blisters from thost things pinching me.

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    3. Now that EC mentions it, I don't recall seeing frozen vegetables until I was almost twenty and even then it was mostly peas or mint peas. I remember canned peaches, and tomato soup in cans, but not much else.

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  7. Where did you get these before-and-after pictures of your childhood kitchen? Oy vey -- did you Dad take pictures of everything? How wonderful.

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    1. No doubt Mom, with her Brownie! She also took pictures of motel rooms we stayed in. I don't know why.

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    2. Now, if there had been a nice spider in that kitchen, Dad would've taken a picture of that.

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  8. Formica is still good, probably even better than it was and can now be had in "granite" look in different colours. If I had enough money to build my own dream house, I'd prefer granite, but then I don't have a beer glass to be clanking down. The kitchen I have now is so tiny not even a breakfast table fits in there.

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    1. It is true that this kitchen was big enough for a table. So yes, they can be smaller. That situation with the three doors opening into each other, though--that was weird. If you were in the closet going for the cookie jar when someone came up from the basement, you might both get stuck.

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  9. Our ancient kitchen had a combination washer-dryer in it -- one machine that did both. It had a round door on the front like a porthole, and was supposed to fill up with water, churn like a washer, drain and spin, then crank itself into a dryer, all in one big cylinder. It never worked. We kept pots and pans in it. I often wondered if the machine would just work long enough to tumble all those pots and pans around, that would be fun to watch, and make an exciting noise. I used to twiddle the controls and hope. Nope. Nuthin'.

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    1. How bizarre! I've never heard of such a thing.

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    2. Bosch makes a combination front load washer dryer, very expensive but good quality. My daughter's MIL had one because there wasn't enough room in the laundry for two machines.

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  10. Those fancy real estate shots distort things, don't they? That stove looks as long as a skating rink! I'm not sure why they do that, because who's going to buy a house based on photos alone? The first thing people will think when they visit is "hey! we've been misled!" But maybe people on a mission to buy a house don't think like that. I love your before and after shots, on the other hand. They're REAL.

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    1. They kept the pegboard above the stove, too! It is amazing to me how little I can remember about that place. But that's my own extreme memory deficit working. I'd hate it, but it works in my favor for things like not being able to carry a grudge, or steep in regret.

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  11. I drink my wine sitting down...maybe that is why I like my pseudo marble countertops.

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