Posted by: zhak39 | April 28, 2008

In the Summer Kitchen

There was a time when better homes boasted a summer kitchen. Here in the South these were detached from the house, tucked behind with a covered walkway connecting. Where I grew up in New York, the farmhouse I called home had one in the back wing, the north side of the house that was always coolest. My parents moved the heavy gas stove down into the cellar. They used the room for years as a catch-all, a washroom with its huge deep ceramic sinks. We had a babysitter though, an older lady who in her youth had been a maid to the family who farmed the land in the early part of the last century. She told us stories of picking berries early mornings in July and August and putting up jam for “Mrs.’ toast. Or standing over steaming pots, pickling and canning (why isn’t it called jarring?). It doesn’t make sense to heat up the house in the hot, hot summer by turning on the stove. Better to keep lights off, sheer curtains pulled to soften the light but let stray breezes through. Better to tuck the cooking away from the living area or to leave it to someone else to suffer through.

I was thinking of the summer kitchen yesterday afternoon as I pushed and pulled the grill out of its winter storage and into the half atrium. I thought about the many, many meals I made on it last year with lowering sunshine glaring off the rough concrete of the patio. I remembered the heron that took twice daily flights over the house, early morning while I had my coffee in the shadow of the east wall and then in the early evening when I fired up the grill for dinner.

There will be chores for the kids to do inside with the lights down low. There is peeling and chopping. Marinades need to be measured and shaken. There is washing and tossing. The kids will do this with an eye to the tv and their heads nodding to whatever music echoes in an adolescent skull. They will not come outside in the heat, they will not have the sky for the ceiling, they will hear rock and roll and not the trilling birds sheltering in the arms of the camellias.


  1. I awoke this morning to news of The Rev. Jeremiah Wright, enjoying his 15 minutes of fame while dissing his most famous congregant because the congregant had previously dissed him.

    I’d already had enough of that gas bag a month ago (the Rev., not the congregant). Can’t believe with the advent of “24 hour” news I only get about 8 minutes’ worth on a daily basis, viewed from every grouping in the prism, over and over, day in and day out.

    But, I’m not going there.

    So I get on line and pull up the story about Annie Liebovitz’ photo shoot with Miley Cyrus, a/k/a Hannah Montana. And I think about that stupidly wealthy woman I know whose stupidly wealthy ex-husband forgot to take their children to the Hannah Montana concert in Texas during his visitation so she quick quick paid $2,000 a piece for tickets to a concert in Michigan or Minnesota a night or so later and booked herself and the girls last minute first class tickets north, so her precious girls could watch the concert.

    And I thought, “I like Annie Liebovitz. She’s got that big barn up in Rhinebeck, NY that she uses for a studio.”

    I also thought about how my sister in law got a crew of folks out to line dance to “Achey Breaky Heart” every time the band took a break at my wedding reception.

    I still don’t get the Hannah Montana thing but then, I never got the Billy Ray Cyrus thing, either. It’s creepy to me that the former mutton top never washes his hair and poses in tight jeans beside a Harley while lying with his torso placed strategically against the small of the back of his 10th grade daughter.

    So I don’t get why a topless photo taken by Annie Liebovitz of all people is such a scandal. If you’re an up and comer, you don’t hire Annie Liebovitz, of Rolling Stones and Demi Moore pregnant fame, and pose for Vanity Fair, if you’re expecting a shot that could run in Better Homes & Gardens. You’re doing it because you want some “edge.”

    In any event, I scrolled around the Vanity Fair site while I was there and I did find Bob Dylan’s recipe for barbecue sauce. You get to choose your own final ingredient. His is southern whiskey.

    That got me thinking about cooking on a grill in the summer.

    It did, that is, until I channel-surfed after Imus in the Morning signed off on RFDTV and I looked for something other than Mika Brezinski blabbering away about what SHE thinks about The Rev. Wright.

    At which point I came across a chick flick called, The Amati Girls. I just got there in time to catch a kitchen scene where these four sisters get together and have the totally predictable at-once bickering/at-once solidifying argument in the kitchen.

    Grace, who’s married to a character played by Paul Sorvino, is making a huge batch of something or other. Cookies, I think. And the sisters are helping. Something comes up and Grace says she’ll get to it later. Then, Grace’s son comes in and explains how he needs help with his Algebra homework and how his teacher says if he fails “it’s over. I’m over.”

    Grace replies that she’ll get to it later. The son reminds her that she said that earlier. She says she’ll get to him later, she promises.

    Then Paul Sorvino, reading the newspaper in the other room, barks out, “Grace, make me a roast beef sandwich, will ye? A little mustard, a little provolone, on a hoagie bun. It’ll be great on a hoagie bun.”

    Grace, in the kitchen, yells, “I’ll get to it in a minute!” She looks up at the ceiling and says she’s got a headache. One of the sisters asks if she wants an aspirin. Grace says, “No, just keep mixing.” Paul Sorvino barks out again: “Grace!” One of the sisters says, “Hey, make it yourself!”

    Sorvino stops reading the paper for a moment, lets out a sigh and goes back to reading. He KNOWS he’ll get his sandwich.

    This is where the sisters go after each other, two about Grace and what kind of a marriage she’s in, Grace about the one who’s not married, then the one not married carping at the one who’s getting a divorce. Meanwhile, the slightly retarded fourth sister runs out of the room screaming, “Stop it!”

    And Paul Sorvino just sits in his chair in the other room and reads his paper contentedly, knowing (as he should) he’ll soon be eating a roast beef sandwich, on a hoagie bun with provolone and mustard.

    All this talk about hot stoves and hauling out heavy grills and rough cement and cooking in the waning summer sun . . . .

    As I head out to work, I ponder all the crap in the news that there is to read.

    I hope Paul Sorvino’s character happened upon the small sidebar story about Bob Dylan’s barbecue recipe in it so he might be spared the article about how Miley Cyrus is “so sorry” she bared her shoulders to the greatest pop culture photographer on the planet.

  2. Bill–



  3. Hi,
    Laurie sent me. I’ll be back. Please post recipes when you get a chance. Tx,
    Anna Banana

  4. Anna,
    Welcome! You may want to zip over to my old blog A Fine Dish (afinedishblogspot) to troll for recipes. I will definitely include some here. In fact, last night I fired up the grill in the summer kitchen for the first time. The guys had chicken. My daughter and I don’t eat meat so we had sauteed spinach with balsamic vinegar and a little vegetable broth then tossed with parmesan cheese and orzo. Great dish for the sideburner.

  5. I’m a reader at Laurie’s blog and came to say hello.

    I’m also semi-local in the Randolph Co. area.

  6. It’s great to hear from someone who acknowledges that there still exists some normality in the middle. Thank you for coming by.

  7. Found you from Laurie’s site, and loved this post of yours…beautiful 🙂

  8. Thank you for your kind comment, Robbyn. I saw a piece on your blog that talked about the future’s memories. So many wonderful people (my grandmother, her neighbor, my parents, a babysitter, a lady down the road) have gifted me with not only memories but experiences that built my memories. How interesting to take that one space/time/dimension further.

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