sunday scribblings: in the kitchen

Prompt #52: In the Kitchen

My childhood home had a front door, but only strangers ever used it.

To get into our house, it was common knowledge that you should come up the alley to the backyard, lift up the latch on the gate (which rubbed in such a way so as to announce your presence), walk up the mostly unbroken cement path (avoiding jumps of a hyper dog of which there was always at least one), clank up the seven metal steps onto the wooden porch (color changed from brick red to deep green to spring green to medium grey to light grey, repeat), and let yourself in the back door.

And there, in the kitchen, you’d find my grandmother. At the stove, at the sink, or at the table doing crosswords, plastic canvas, or some other craft, watching the Phillies, or, depending on the time of day, napping, her head propped up by her hand as if she was simply bored with your arrival.

You’d be greeted with dark wood everywhere, and, for quite some time, avocado green appliances; they were all the rage in the early 70’s you know. But it certainly wasn’t the decor that would keep your attention.

You’d be assaulted by the smells of coffee and cigarettes, and, if you were lucky, delicious wafts of something fresh off the stove or out of the oven. You’d do your best to speak over the television blaring in the background with either Harry Kalas or Emeril imparting baseball or cooking wisdom (respectively); her dedication to them was unfailing.

You’d be ordered to sit down and drink and eat (and eat and eat), and you would do so with pleasure. You’d probably sit in that very spot for hours talking about something or another, and why don’t you have another piece of cake? You look too thin!

In the kitchen was *the* place to be in our house, and, in fact, my grandmother spent all day, every day there in her sturdy wooden chair, resisting all invitations to the more comfortable spots in the living room. It was, quite simply, her place. Many a guest, family and friends, passed through that back door to find my grandmother in the kitchen waiting to entertain; Christmas or just an ordinary day, it was business as usual in the kitchen.

Only the volume of food changed.

I miss that kitchen terribly. So many memories, so much laughter, so much love, many ear-splitting arguments as well, but always life. Anyone who has ever been in it would tell you that.

I’ll never forget the first time I walked through the back door and into the kitchen after my grandmother’s death. It was dark and silent and disappointing, and so literally, unbearably empty.

And I remember thinking that next time, I really should go around and use the front door.


[tags]sunday scribblings, kitchens, grandmothers’ kitchens, grandmothers[/tags]

27 Beans of Wisdom to “sunday scribblings: in the kitchen”
  1. Ggriv77

    We too always entered through the back, and the front door was meant for strangers. The kitchen is the heart of every Italian family. I know we spent a lot of time in ours back home, and we continue to do so here, too.
    Your Grandmother used to watch Emeril Lagasse back in the 70’s? I didn’t know he went that far back with his cooking shows? WOW
    I loved watching him too. BAM! πŸ˜‰

    Did you ever start using the front door?

  2. Annika

    I want to be in that kitchen too…

  3. 1lifelonglearner

    One of my best friends had an Italian mother and Irish father. We always entered through the front door as was more acceptable in Irish families like mine but went straight to the kitchen as opposed to the ‘parlor’ (our Irish tradition too).

    Anyway, we would sit there for hours into the night drinking coffee, eating (of course!) and discussing anything and everything with all the older Italian widows in the neighborhood.

    Even after going away to college, our first visit on break was to Babe’s kitchen. And nearly 40 years later, it is still a Christmas tradition. Thank you so much for the sweet memory.

  4. gautami tripathy

    Beautiful memories of your grandma’s kitchen. Those time simply do not back but are there safe in our memories.

    Cook up a tale

  5. sognatrice

    Giulia (ggriv), no, Emeril wasn’t until the 90s, I believe–the kitchen was done in the 70s, but it stayed avocado green for a *very* long time. About the front door, actually, I did use it more, but honestly, the need didn’t arise as much because I lived in Philly and then moved here after my grandmother died.

    Annika, my grandmother would’ve just loved your company πŸ™‚

    Lifelong, hey, my Aunt Babe had a parlor too…but she was married to a Polish guy. Funny that when I thought about writing this, I thought I was going to mention my Aunt Babe, but decided to save her for another post. Weird!

    Thanks for your comment, Gautami; I’m off to read your Scribble now.

  6. Bongga Mom

    Amazing how you remembered every little detail, from the sights to the sounds to the tastes and smells! What a lovely tribute to your grandmother.

  7. Regina Clare Jane

    We entered our house into the kitchen as well… no one even knew that we had a front door for years!
    It’s funny that you should mention your grandmother listening to Harry Kalas and the Phillies- the kitchen was where I would cheer the Phillies on, too!
    This was a wonderful treat, to be invited inside your grandmother’s kitchen. I know how you feel, though, about it not feeling the same after she left… I feel the same way.

  8. anna

    That was beautiful and so familiar. I remember walking into the house after my nonna died too. Her chair was empty and it just felt wrong.

  9. cheeky

    Oh the memories are flooding back. We always used the side gate to get to the back door that opened right into the kitchen.
    I was reluctant to read your post before I do mine, which I have not done, yet! I had seen the prompt and what came to mind for me was my grandmother’s kitchen. When I started to read yours, I thought, I don’t want to sound like a copycat but I couldn’t resist, reading it that is! I’m making the disclaimer right here in front of everyone: “I’m not going to copy folks, it’s just the memories were all too similar in many ways, but I won’t be a copycat!” I loved it! Thanks for sharing, and bringing us into that kitchen. Whenever I do a crossword I think of my grandmother.

  10. Nic

    sounds so lovely & like a wonderful place to grow up.

    i love the idea of walking in through the back door – cozy!

  11. The Other Girl

    When I was a kid, my family was one of the only three young families on the block. Everyone else was elderly and retired and “adopted” the neighborhood kids as surrogate grandchildren. We were in and out of all of the houses all the time, always through the back doors and into the kitchens. The front door was formal, as were the living rooms, and only used when someone either died or was celebrating a Golden Anniversary or a 70th birthday (considered ancient back then).

  12. paris parfait

    It sounds like you have so many happy kitchen memories – grandmothers always make kitchens special places!

  13. Kimberly

    Wow…your writing constantly amazes and humbles me.

  14. Tina

    MANY (((((((((((((HUGS)))))))))) to you!

    I miss my grandma still too. She had her chair in the dining room that she always sat in. I never remember her sitting out in the living room at all, ever.

  15. Vanessa

    Hey beautiful, thanks for dropping by my blog. I loved reading your kitchen scribblings. Man if I were to get started on my granny’s kitchen, I’d never post because of the overflowing, nostalgic love and tears… such sweet memories. I loved sharing yours.
    I’ll be back πŸ™‚
    And if you fancy dropping over in person, let me know… I’ll bake you a cake πŸ˜‰

  16. Ally Bean

    This is such a lovely tribute to your grandmother. I can understand how you felt like a stranger in her home after she died. Well-written.

  17. Something...

    It sounds like our family home: my grandmother is not there any longer and my parents have moved but the back door is still their main entrance. They now have their own grand children to spoil and feed and feed and feed…

  18. Frances

    I miss my grandmother so much.
    She also had a chair in thee kitchen – dozed at it a lot too.
    Loved Emeril.
    Thanks for sharing,

  19. meredith

    I felt like I was there in your kitchen and can imagine how sad you must be to no longer find your grandmother there.

  20. spacedlaw

    Hi there.
    Followed you in from sundayscribblings and let myself in through the back door.
    I suppose you found that in Italy as well, the kitchen is the place where things happen.
    Lovely reminiscence.

  21. Rose

    Thank you for sharing those beautiful memories. It’s fascinating how some memories of people are so closely tied to the memories of the places they loved.
    Your grandmother’s kitchen sounds like a perfect haven. I wish you could still enjoy it.

  22. JennDZ

    Wow, that sounds exactly like my Grandmother’s house…Are you sure we aren’t related or something?? Well I guess not because she never had a dog – no pets of any kind, she was a neat freak, so pets were a complication πŸ˜‰

  23. somepinkflowers

    true fine love!!!!steve miller band!!!! yes, yes, yes!!!!

  24. Kimberley McGill

    What a lovely lady to have had in your life -I can only imagine the empty space she left behind.

  25. Ninotchka

    How beautiful.

  26. sognatrice

    Bongga mom, yes, every detail is etched in my memory; I suppose I was always primed to be a great eyewitness πŸ˜‰

    Regina Clare Jane, so funny about the Phillies!

    Anna, Tina, and Frances, seems like most of our nonnas had their chairs. Actually, I’m quite thankful that I’ve moved away and don’t have to face the empty one so often.

    Cheeky, as I’m so late in responding to these comments, I see that yours is now done–so I’m off to read it!

    Nic, cozy is a great word to describe the feeling of walking in through the backdoor; even thinking of it makes me feel cozy.

    TheOG, we didn’t have a lot of kids my age around either, so I had tons of grandparents as well. Actually I think that’s why I’m drawn to this medieval village that is full of older people–many people would find it not lively enough, but for me, it reminds me so much of growing up. So familiar.

    Paris Parfait, thanks for your comment; grandmothers and kitchens do go hand in hand in my book πŸ˜‰

    Kimberly, wow, thanks so much πŸ™‚

    Vanessa, I hope you’ll write about your granny’s kitchen someday; I think it helps all of us to remember those good times.

    Ally, thank you much; I’ve become a regular at your place, you know πŸ˜‰

    Something, there’s just something about that backdoor, isn’t there? The passing of the generations through it is one of the best parts!

    Jenn, I’m not surprised your grandmother didn’t have a dog–those Italian clean freaks! I think because my grandmother was always used to farm animals, it wasn’t so bad…although her sister wouldn’t ever have a dog, so I’m not so sure!

    And Meredith, Nathalie, Rose, Kimberley, Nino, thanks for taking the time to comment; I truly wish everyone could’ve enjoyed my grandmother’s kitchen.

Michelle FabioMichelle Fabio is an American attorney-turned-freelance writer living in her family's ancestral village in Calabria, Italy and savoring simplicity one sip at a time. 

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