Archive for Thursday, July 7, 2011

Kitchen is off-limits

July 7, 2011

In my five plus decades of marriage, I’ve learned there are three times when I am absolutely not needed and, in fact, have been banished from the process.

The first was when our three daughters were born. In the 1960s, fathers were persona non grata in the delivery room. My job was to drive to the hospital, bring in the suitcase and retire to the waiting room. Of course, that has changed now. The second time husbands/fathers aren’t wanted is when the weddings are being planned. I still think bright orange would be a good color for bridesmaid’s dresses. No one agreed and I was told to leave the checkbook and pick up my tux. The third time happened during the past month when we remodeled the kitchen. I would have to agree because what I know about appliances, countertops and other such mysterious items could be put in a cup and you would still have room for coffee.

During recent months I have heard a lot about quartz counter tops, wood flooring and appliances that know more than I do. After a few lessons concerning operation, I decided the question should be “are you smarter than your microwave?” In my case, the answer is “no.” I am “cooking challenged.” Fortunately, I married a woman who is a great cook and the kitchen is her domain.

I think I got lost in the era of linoleum floors and frankly, my opinion concerning kitchen plans is worth about as much as an ice cube in January.

However, in our case it was time to do something different. Our kitchen was nearly 20 years old and the appliances were wearing out. My first shock came when I went along on a shopping trip. Most appliances now are stainless steel and they have computers that seem to control everything. My second shock came when I looked at the price tag. I remember printing advertisements for self-defrosting refrigerators for 500 bucks. Yep, I’ve been out of the newspaper business a long time.

It occurred to me that kitchens have changed a lot over the centuries. Of course, all cooking was originally done over open fires. In early cultures, the open fire served a dual role. It provided heat as well as cooking. Probably the first big improvement was the development of the chimney, which allowed a change in the location of the cooking area.

I learned that the first dishwasher was a wooden hand-cranked unit invented in 1850 by John Houghton.

In general, there was very little change in kitchen design until the iron cooking stove was introduced. In the 19th century, most meals were cooked on coal or wood-burning stoves. The next big change took place in the early 20th century when natural gas became abundant. James Sharp invented the gas stove in 1829, however it took almost a century before natural gas lines criss-crossed cities. By the late 1920s, electric ranges made their appearance. Dishwashers, garbage disposals, refrigerators, freezers and microwaves changed the modern kitchen.

Jean spent weeks studying consumer guides, magazines, shopping for the best buy and struggling for the best look and most convenient plan. For almost two weeks everything was crammed into the dining and utility rooms, and with workmen arriving early, for the most part, I was banned from the kitchen area.

It was a difficult week, but everything progressed on schedule. Of course when the new floors, countertops, etc. were in I received a new set of rules while in the kitchen, ranging from setting down glasses gently to avoid breaking on the hard surface countertop and not spilling on the hardwood floor. Yes, we “old dogs” can learn new tricks if we are forced to behave. The refrigerator even harps at me by beeping if I leave the door open.

Actually, I think the new kitchen looks great. In fact, I’m so impressed I think I’ll make use of my culinary talents and maybe make a cup of instant coffee.

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