Tuesday, December 08, 2009

When it Comes to Kitchens, Size Does Not Matter

So I am watching one of those home remolding programs, and the couple who live in this house claim that they want to "entertain" but their kitchen just does not have the room for prep and cooking.  We get to see the current kitchen, it's OK, seems big enough, and most of the appliances might be older, but they all work.

Anyway, couple plunks down a gazillion dollars, they knock down a wall, put in all these state of the art appliances, granite kitchen tops and what-have-you.

In the end, the dream is realized and happy couple are basking in the glow of their new super deluxe food preparation center, self satisfied smirks on their faces and all is well with their world.

And that got me to thinking about Grandma Romano.

My grandmother was constantly whipping up meals that could feed an army.  She made all of her own pasta, slow cooked pots of gravy (that's what you non Italians call "sauce") for hours-if not days, baked bread, made salads...there was always something cooking at her house.  Breakfast, lunch and dinner were all prepared; not to mention huge Sunday dinners that would often feed over twenty people.  And all of this was achieved in a small "summer kitchen" in the back of a cramped row house.  One stove, a sink and a ton of pots and pans.  Prep space was the front of the kitchen proper - and that would be on  the kitchen table.  If the table was cluttered, then the backs of chairs would be fitted with sheets of wax paper so that the home made spaghetti could be draped over it .  Often a large covered bowl would be on top of the refrigerator - this is where the bread dough would be left to rise.

There was not a lot of space, and yet, monumental meals always appeared.

How was that?


missmagnoliathunderpussy said...

Darling anyone who car really cook and cook good does not all the fancy hoo haw of a new kitchen with all the gadgets while it looks nice and does get the job gone I think it's all for show.

Jewish has a great deal in common with Italian especially where food is concerned, my mother was the same as your Granny Romano, I swear dear you could give those women two saltines and a Kraft single and they'd find a way to make it feed 50, with seconds helpings and turn it into something that would make Miss Martha wet herself.

Cerpts said...

Sensational! We have become a nation of whiners who find microwaving a Lean Cuisine a terrible imposition. Grandma Romano had the goods, thats fer sure! We'd rather talk about something than do it (hence the proliferation of perpetual mouth-breathers who have telephones constantly hanging from their ears and then act surprised when the brain tumors show up). I must say it does the empty space where my heart should be good to see you back once again blogging. That facebook hoyden is a fickle mistress and she will lead you to know good. The devil is at your elbow, my child. Keep to good, clean, honest blogging so that your soul will remain as sparkling as a North Jersey front porch covered in plutonium.

And at the risk of alienating you on my first comment back to your blog: sadly we non-Italians are correct in this instance. It's tomato sauce not gravy. The simple reason being that gravy is made from a meat base while sauce ain't. My dear late friend Peg (a full-on Calabrese grandmother from South Philly) made the same argument to me but, as I told her, if she was using the Italian word for gravy (or sauce) it wouldn't be a problem, but since she was usin' English the term outta be "sauce". Of course, then she made me a bowl of rigatoons with braziole and sazeech and I said Ah shpet we'll drop the argument. So always remember, I am solely concerned with correctness, truth and wisdom -- until you feed me. Then it's gravy gravy gravy!

jennypower said...

Pax, a few months back at the NYT Mark Bitten (author of the Food Minimalist columns and the "How to Cook Everything" cookbooks) did a video tutorial on how to cook something or the other - but the real news is that everyone was shocked at the size of his kitchen. He had a NYC apartment kitchen, small, galley-style. So, yes, I completely agree that you bring the soul to your kitchen, not the contractors. That being said, I still drool over the big kitchens when I see them. But that doesn't keep me from having food ever at the ready in my tiny apartment kitchen.

@ Rick, I'm sure it varies from family to family, but my Italian grandmother always had pork neck simmering away in the pot. So gravy it is!

wavingpalms said...

I'm always amused by these people that seem to require gigantic remodeled kitchens for that same reason.

You can tell by looking at them that they haven't the barest CLUE where you keep the milk.


Merci said...

My mom used the kitchen table too. Nowadays, kitchen tables are too "nice" to use for food prep. It IS nice to have lots of counter space, but give me good old fashioned formica, please. The builder put in granite tile (not solid granite) here. I HATE it! And a big kitchen can mean too much space between appliances.

Pax Romano said...

Mags, Our grandmother's might have taken over the world, if it were not for Julia Child!

Cerpts, thanks for kind words. And it is gravy.

JP, No doubt a large, well equiped kitchen makes us drool, but as you said, it's the soul one brings to that room.

WP, YES! They probably don't have a clue as to where the milk is!

Merci, I've heard several people mourn the passing of Formica.

Analog Boy said...

The funny thing is that most people who get these huge extravagant kitchens CAN'T COOK! That's the real tragedy! Oh, my mom always made sauce...gravy is the brown stuff you put on roast beef and turkey. Just my opinion...

Pax Romano said...


You sound like one smart cookie.