20 thoughts on “Community Interaction: A new project

  1. This is really cool, Greg. I like the idea. It’s an intense week for me, so I hope to carve out (knife pun intended, yes) some time to write on this theme of “kitchen.” I have some ideas percolating (yes, another bad pun). – Karrie

    Oh – how long does this week run? Until next Thursday?

  2. Here you go … I have been writing about this particular person/time period lately. Changed names and a few details for privacy. But otherwise, yeah, nonfiction.

    Fenn never ate at his kitchen table. It was the kind of table – hard wood, dark stain, rustic edges – you expect to see photographed for a design magazine, a special feature on tasteful country homes in the South. Fenn grew up in Georgia, and the first time I saw his table, I thought maybe it was an heirloom from his childhood.

    It clashed with his plain white Buffalo China and Cuisineart gadgets, not to mention the alligator made out of antique typewriter hammers displayed on a nearby shelf (an art piece he insisted he wanted to sell, if the offer was right, but the offer was never right). It clashed with his starched cotton napkins, too, the kind you find in a fancy bistro. Most of all, it clashed with the Balthus print – not really a print, just a cutout from an art book or magazine – tacked on the east-facing wall: a little girl leaning on one elbow over a card table and exposing her rear, with one knee resting on a footstool so her inner thighs form a V. Lines as precise and sharp as the needles of a compass.

    I assumed the table offended his aesthetics, and this was why I always found stray dirty plates and wine glasses on his desk – never in the kitchen. Fenn, after all, was very particular about aesthetics. He spent months researching pepper grinders before investing in a model he ordered special from France. “Platonic objects,” he used to say, when he showed me pictures in catalogs. He only purchased the very best – even if his bank account was negative.

    Probably everything he owned came from catalogs. He used to flip through the one for J.Crew, grinding his jaw, looking for pictures to show me. “I don’t know why I keep looking,” he would say, spreading open the pages. “These girls are torture.” As if he wished he could ring up the toll-free order line and have one of the models shipped overnight delivery.

    The last night I ever spent in that apartment, I set my notebooks on the table while Fenn took a phone call – from his friend Tara, I would later learn, checking to see if he had dumped me yet.

    I should have known by the way he pressed his chest into my back while he spoke on the phone, almost whispering into my ear. He was usually so secretive, running off to the bathroom with the phone receiver.

    “No,” he said, annoyed. “Not yet.”

    He pushed me forward onto the table top, so I was leaning on my elbows. Splinters dug through the knit of my cardigan and burned. The wood smelled like henna dye.

    “I promise,” he said into the telephone, sliding the back of my skirt up over my hips and inserting one finger under the elastic on my panties.

    “Promise what?” I asked, trying to sound composed.

    He hung up the phone, removed his finger from under the elastic, and left me there, exposed.

  3. Always On Sunday

    The kitchen – What I would have given to not spend those long, long Sundays when I was younger in the kitchen with my grandmother preparing the Sunday roast for the entire family (cousins and all). My grandmother showing me how to make marmalade from scratch, showing me how the oranges boil down in a double boiler until the juice finally carmelizes (heaven forfend we should actually buy fructose), and it’s not that we needed those endless jars of marmalade because we did not. No. This was all contrived to keep me “out of trouble”, although I fervently (ardently even), disagreed that preparing marmalade and a hunk of beef which I didn’t eat anyway along with roast vegetables all around it was a necessary endeavor. I wanted to spend time with my cousins. I wanted to go outside. I wanted to get lost.

    That was not going to happen. What happened instead was that I learned how to prepare a good roast – great irony for someone who is a strict vegetarian for ethical reasons that remain my own and no, I don’t care to debate or discuss it. It doesn’t matter to me much if anyone else eats meat – and it rather puzzles me that other people are often so fascinated that I do not eat meat – the endless (not funny) jokes that come every Thanksgiving in America (and I am not American) in which someone always offers me a leg of the turkey. Ha ha ha ha ha. The joke that never ceases to amuse everyone at the table and has me bored to tears and has for years. Still, ask me to prepare a roast for you, a sheperd’s pie, a turkey, a roast chicken, you name it, and I can whip it up no problem and it will be perfect because I was well-trained by my grandmother. But this is not the point and not what I really want to talk about because it was not the preparation of the food in the kitchen that made the difference, it was what happened between us in the kitchen that matters.

    Garrison Keillor once said there are some things that can only be said in the kitchen, a statement with which I quite agree. It was always when she was up to her elbows in greasy dishwater and I was drying that my grandmother would hand out her wisdom, sometimes elliptical, sometimes not – my own Scottish Delphic Oracle, warning me of this. I remember when I was fifteen and quietly drying the dishes, listening to my cousins in the other room, watching David and Wendy outside when my grandmother announced, “You’re body is a temple – you let no man enter who is not worthy. This is a holy place. You remember this,” she said (insert heavy brogue here). I never did forget that. I thought “temple” was an interesting word for her to use because my grandmother (unlike me) is Catholic – (I never was, so am not a “lapsed Catholic”, I never was one at all), but she did not say “church” or “cathedral”.

    It was “temple” and this seemed somehow more holy to me. Why that is I don’t know, it just did and it still does. Totally irrational likely since all are considered holy places – hallowed ground and so forth – but a temple, yes, I knew what she meant and I never forgot that and through my life, I’ve lived by these simple words. Respect yourself, she was saying in brief. Recognize yourself as Good and Pure and True and Light and value this – and I did and do. But this could only be said when she was up to her elbows in dishwater. Spoken in any other room of the house and it would have seemed corny or like a lecture and I would have dismissed it, but in the kitchen it took on a seriousness because the kitchen is the heart of the house.

    As I moved away and got my own apartments and later house, the kitchen likewise became the bubbling center of activity. It is where the real conversations are held. They are not held in the library or the dining room or the bedroom where they could turn into something else – an argument, a hurt, some other thing. No. In the kitchen, while cooking, you can say anything – you can sit at the kitchen table while snapping peas and have what is a seemingly casual conversation about a very serious matter and it’s okay because as I said, the kitchen is the heart of the house – it is where we nourish, where we feed, and we do this out of love and as such, all that comes from the kitchen is born of love.

    I never understood people who argue in the kitchen – breaking plates, histrionics in the kitchen and all that stuff: arms folded across the chest, couples shouting at each other. That was never my kitchen and it is not now. It never will be. It flys in the face of all that I know as Good. The kitchen nourishes and any good relationship should help you thrive. This is the question you should always ask yourself about any relationship – friendship or otherwise – does it make me thrive? If the answer is “No”, then you are in the wrong relationship. To thrive is to grow, to bloom, to evanesce and without that, you have settled and setting for a life in which you are unfulfilled (belly empty and hungering for more) strikes me as rather foolish when there is likely someone’s kitchen where surely you will be nourished and loved. Somewhere with someone where you both know that you share the same temple and enter as supplicants and give thanks for such bounty you never knew the likes: such fruit. How rich and how blessed we have been.

    These are just a few words from the kitchen on this early Saturday morning as I sip my morning tea and think back to the smells of Sunday roast.

    Thanks for listening,

    Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti


  4. Oh, I would love to see a plate-breaking story now, like it Tortilla Soup. Thanks so much for the submission, Sadi. The story was well-written (who could expect anything else?), and you contribution means a lot to me. 🙂

  5. It wasn’t just an apron. It was the apron my mother used when she married my father. The apron that her mother gave her. My grandmother used for breakfast, lunch a dinner… the apron she used when she cooked for her five children, husband and sometimes those special treats for their beagle, Humphery. She always said he loved peanut butter. And that same apron. That was the apron my grandmother watch her mother stitch and used for many many years. It was passed down through the generations on the eldest daughters wedding day.

    It’s been stitched and patched, burnt and used to wipe up spills over and over again. It’s seen more messes that anyone wants to remember. And some how it’s still here. And as ratty and torn it may look. Everytime I wear it in the Kitchen I feel lovely and beautiful. All the love and hard work that was done while it was worn by the lovely and beautiful women that raised me. It makes me feel I can conquer any task and make the most delicious Thanksgiving dinner and could only compare to dinners it’s seen through the years.

  6. Um okay here goes……

    The autumn breeze blew the door wide open as I struggled to pull my key from the lock. Sighing, I stepped into my parent’s old summer cottage and retrieved the dangling keychain. I hadn’t been to this place since I was a child. It was before the divorce, I thought briefly, and I couldn’t have been more than seven years old. Time flies. Now the place smelled of musty boxes and the distinct odor of uninhabited space. I cursed under my breath at the coterie of relatives who sprang this task on me at the funeral. They knew exactly how presumptuous it was to leave me in charge of cleaning this place up. Damn vultures could barely wait to eke everything they could out of my father’s will.

    I shook the water and fallen leaves off my jacket, threw my umbrella into a corner, and tried to focus. Throw it all away, the voice in my head commanded, it’s nothing but junk. I started piling tattered boxes into the pickup truck I borrowed for the trek. I was lucky the cardboard held together after all these years. As I worked myself through the foyer, I smiled in bitter gratitude that my mother had boxed everything up years ago. I had forgotten my parents planned to sell the cottage when they divorced. It struck me momentarily interesting that they never did. I finally made enough headway to see the dreary rainstorm outside through the kitchen windows. The dilapidated shutters banged on their worn hinges, tapping the glass in a distant rhythm.

    Open boxes still littered the kitchen counter tops. Years of dust had gathered atop crumpled newspapers strewn about, some sheets blown to the floor long ago. Intended to be packing material, very little of the paper ever saw that destiny. Stacks of dishes became evident as I fished through the debris. Drinking glasses sat untouched in an open cupboard. My mother had never finished packing. Her presence grew heavily in the air as this dawned on me; the nature of walking into a task she abandoned years ago was quite unnerving. I paused and glanced around, genuinely unable to determine my next move. A slow sinking feeling crept into my chest as I noticed an old photo album lying open on the table of the breakfast nook. I could almost see my mother sitting in the chair pulled out beside it.

    Archived in time forever, I stared at the pictures of myself as a grinning little girl from the pages of the album. Memories flooded back of the warm golden summers we spent here, dancing through the fields of wildflowers in the brisk morning air. Sunshine weaved through my pigtails as I would pull my summer dress over my head and in a flash run barefoot toward the lake. Year after glorious year I would tug my wooden stool next to my mother’s feet in that kitchen and climb up to watch her bake. Dough danced through her hands and goodies leapt from the oven like magic. Giggles punctuated our routine as I fumbled to lattice weave the top of an apple pie or learned to use a rolling pin. Flour clouds puffed merrily around us. My childhood was defined in an instant on the pages of those pictures.

    As I shut the album I realized the rain outside was letting up. I sat in the kitchen with my head in my hands and closed my eyes. Tears slid down my cheeks as I mourned the loss of my mother years ago for the first time in my life. I felt liberated. With a renewed sense of clarity, I stood and firmly proclaimed that life would fill these walls once again. I couldn’t help but feel my mother watching me, and in that moment I knew exactly why she never finished packing the kitchen.

  7. Dinner Time
    By James Gregory

    She smells like perfume. It’s impressive. She’s been cooking away at spaghetti all day and she should smell like tomato sauce and noodles. If you think those things don’t have a smell, you haven’t smelt hard enough yet.

    She’s got this bob haircut that’s pretty cute on her. It’s a good hair color too. It looks natural even if it isn’t.

    She’s running up and down the triangular kitchenette in her apartment. She lives there with two other girls I know. One is a sweet heart. The other is kinda crazy but sweet too. All three like to give me a hard time. I’m ok with that. I actually kinda love it. It flatters me and they know it.

    The kitchenette consists of all the usual kitchen bits. She has a dish washer, which the crazy one broke but luckily a handy man eventually fixed after he finally remove all the spaghetti. Yes, spaghetti night has happened before. It has a white stove and oven set which are built into each other to save space.

    She wears these tight jeans. Very, very, very tight jeans. They distract me from the fact I’m supposed to eat spaghetti.

    One time, it was like the third or fourth time I met her, she explained to me why she didn’t like her jeans. I couldn’t possibly fathom why. She looked wonderful in them. So wonderful, I couldn’t be nice or she’d know I had an intolerable crush on her and her big eyes and tiny, cute mouth that she was so self conscious about. She kept saying she didn’t like them and my friend took the bait and asked why. It’s cause they breathed. When she put them on in the morning, the jeans were even tighter. My mind snapped at the thought. It was a total sweet Christmas moment. Her friend, I also had a crush on her, started saying the same thing.

    The next thing I know she’s demonstrating. She’s over by the combination hallway kitchenette that my friend’s dorm apartment had. It was a disgusting blend of fake wood paneling and black stove appliances. Yes, his kitchen was a fashion faux paux. It didn’t matter. She was doing the most amazing goose step I’d ever seen while saying, “Look. It’s breathing. See. The way the fabric stretches out and all that. It sags around my butt as the day goes on and makes me look droopy back there”

    I was most definitely seeing. Her butt didn’t look droopy even if her pants seemed a little less tight. I was focused anyway. Focused on the way the fabric hugged up along her long sculpted thigh, stretched tight across the curves of her hips, and the wonderful place where she sat. Her legs were so very long. She looked even prettier in relief of that horrifically designed kitchenette.

    She was clean too. My friend’s kitchen had grease stains, coffee stains, and other stains I couldn’t identify. She was so clean. You could eat off her. She had this milk white skin with a splattering of super cute freckles that I wanted to touch. I wanted to touch each and every single one of them and give them names. Play favorites with them and the like.

    The tile flooring of the kitchenette had stains on it and she was walking on it in her bare feet. Stepping on who knows what. Her tiny feet made these pitter patter noises and she had painted her toe nails a baby blue color.

    Now, she was wearing a pair of heels. It must’ve been murdering her. She kept a good face through the whole thing. Didn’t once seem like her feet going to burst from pain.

    Her friend and roommate was by the sink. She’d recently made the decision to go blonde again but hadn’t done it yet. She was still a brunette and it ran down to the bottom of her shoulder blades. She wore super tight jeans too and now was washing her hands off in the ivory colored sink that had a sponge in the bottom of it. The sink slowly began to fill up with bubbles from the fluorescent green dish washing soap she put on her hands.

    I asked multiple times if I could help. They wouldn’t let me. It was their area and they had a very strict no boys allowed policy. My friend had a similar one even though he was a boy himself.

    It was so aggravating to me. I’m really quite the excellent housewife. I’m a very good cleaner when I put my mind to it, which is admittedly not often, and I know how to cook pretty well when necessary. The only problem is finding the chances too.

    Now if she had let me into her kitchen, I could’ve shown her a thing or two. Like how she should’ve salted the water before putting in the spaghetti or how it pays to cook up bacon in your pan before cooking the spaghetti sauce in it. Trust me bacon cooked in the pan before anything is always and I mean always a good idea. Plus, you have some bacon your can eat after you’re done.

    Try this sometime. Get yourself some bacon. Cook the bacon. A lot of bacon. Eat the bacon or wait to eat the bacon at this point. There’s actually only one right answer on that one. Eat the bacon. Get some butter and put it in the pan with the bacon grease. Get some eggs. Cook the eggs up in the bacon grease and butter.

    You’ll never ever have a better tasting egg. Also, it’s a fine introduction to wonderful art of French sauté. That’s right you can blame the French and it’s ok this time. God bless them.

    Right now, She was too busy showing off how awesome she was. Her freckles went all over her. They were amazing. They covered her shoulders and she had theses bare arms that had freckles up and down them too. Soft, fine down was on her forearms that still managed to feel incredibly smooth the few times I touched them on the planned accident.

    She’s married now. Her other friend that I had a crush on too is married now. I lost track of the other friend. Sometimes, I miss all of them terribly. Every single one of them. I miss crappy apartment kitchenettes and tight jeans on cute lower halves that are attached to equally cute upper halves. I miss all the laughing, the flirting, and the planned accidents where we all bump into each other.

    They both probably live in much nicer places now. Places with real kitchens. Real husbands. Real sex. Real problems, which are better than my imaginary ones because they can be fixed. They probably both still put on parties and spend all their time in their kitchens during them wearing cute clothes and heels. I’m sure it’s a hell of a time.

  8. My mother is the kitchen, her smooth edges and pillowy white skin, soft and yielding and warm. The kitchen is sensuality in form of mother-love, my youth and my upbringing, my salty tears boiling over, my dishpan hands longing to be held.

    When I miss my mother, I go to my kitchen. I make tea, the whistling kettle becoming her voice, the steam her fingers on my own. I fix it the way she likes it, orange pekoe, condensed milk, only I slip in two teaspoons of white sugar, the colour of her inner arms. She’d cringe at the sacrilege, but I need the sweetness of her words to cut the harshness of her reality when she impresses upon me to sit up, to buck up, to not feel so sorry for myself, to not sit alone and cry, to be proctive! to smile! to make friends!

    But I feel sorry for myself in the kitchen. I cower with mug in hand and stare into the murky liquid that is only the colour of tea and let it wash over me, warmth, comfort, soft, yielding. My mother. My kitchen. me.

  9. Beth looked out the kitchen window at the snow storm one more time before turning back to the stove. She was making Empty The Fridge Soup. Comfort food. It was her Grandmama’s recipe. Well, recipe might be slightly exagerating it. Grandmama’s idea. You look in the refrigerator and use anything that can go into a soup.

    A bunch of old wilted carrots, some celery, onion, parsley, a knot of barely edible ginger, and some garlic made up the stock. Beth couldn’t decide between cubing Sunday’s pot roast, or opening a ham steak. In the spirit of the soup, she had to go with the pot roast.

    The kitchen was warm from the soup and the oven preheating. She had found a recent purchased can of popover rolls and decided that would be the perfect addition to the meal. Everyone liked fresh from the oven rolls. Beth tried not to think too much about the word everyone, and promised herself not to look out the window again. She knew they were on their way home. He told her not to call because the battery was dying on his cell phone and he had forgotten the charger in her car.

    Maybe if she did laundry, her mind would not be on the weather. She started to leave the kitchen as the phone began to ring.

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