Notions of what constitutes a “kitchen” vary widely, especially when you’re in college. I never gave it much thought until I visited the Museum of Modern Art’s Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen exhibit this weekend. As I saw how people’s views of the kitchen — as the heart of the home, a prison of domesticity and a status symbol, to name a few — changed across eras (and geographic locations), my thoughts soon turned to how these rooms change just during our lifetimes.
During the years I worked as an editor at my campus newspaper, my kitchen consisted of a microwave, a dented refrigerator that was often overflowing with mysterious, mold-tinged Tupperware, and a metal cupboard that housed my essentials: pretzels, peanut butter and canned soup. It was a place of utility, where I fueled myself before chasing down stories and designing the next day’s newspages, much like the European kitchens of the 1930s, which prided themselves on being spare, efficient, meal-preparing machines.
That collegiate pseudo-kitchen was nothing like the one in my parents’ house — a place filled with laughter, where my friends hung out as we waited for cookies to bake, and where my family would gather to discuss how their day went. That kitchen was the hub of activity in my home, forming many of my fondest, flour-dusted memories.
Even now that I’ve graduated, Manhattan life hardly allows for a spacious place to rest my spoonula. Though I don’t have a gleaming, marble-topped island or even enough room for two people to cook together, I adore that space, because it’s where I make sense of the world. As I cream butter to make a fudgy batch of brownies or roll pizza dough using a water bottle, my mind sorts through whatever’s bothering me, formulating theories, making plans and setting goals while my hands are kept busy. That’s my kitchen today: part think tank, part laboratory — completely cathartic. What’s yours like?