“ Home is where the stove is … Home is where I sauté the garlic and chop the onions, where the frying pan makes music. A Russian proverb says ” The oven is the mother.” Food , warmth, acceptance , I can find it all at the stove .
Jo Ann Passariello Deck, the writer of the above, goes on to describe how her Italian relatives always wanted to sit in the kitchen , eating , talking ,playing cards, reading newspapers and drinking coffee . It strikes me that when she sings the praises of the kitchen she means the eat-in kitchen , or a kitchen -cum dining space. This is borne out by the fact that, elsewhere in the passage , she recalls that some of those relatives even built houses without dining rooms. Obviously , the kitchen , the place where food was cooked and eaten , was where people wanted to spend their time.
It is a sentiment that I fully understand because , in our house too, the most popular hang-out place is the eat-in kitchen . We have a family room , a formal living room and a dining room but when we have people over they usually congregate around the dinette in the kitchen. When we have only one or two couples for dinner , it is there that we eat our meals , not the dining room . One reason is that it is more convenient to get food from the range to the table but mainly , it’s because it’s here that everyone feels most at home .
A Jewish friend , an architect who has re-modeled or designed houses for several Jewish families in Brooklyn ,says that his clients do not want living rooms . Instead they ask for a large dining room right in front of the house. That is where visitors are entertained and family members hang out. It may sound a little strange but it makes sense to me .
In most conventionally designed houses in America , the living room is a waste . It is a formal space maintained like a museum but almost never used . When friends and family come over , they gravitate to the family room and the eat-in kitchen. Preparing food and consuming it are not only the essentials for our survival ; they are convivial activities which are more enjoyable when shared. The only other space that compares with the eat-in kitchen is the backyard patio , the scene of barbecues and outdoor eating . It has the advantage too that the children have the freedom to run around in the backyard .
I’m not quite ready to do without a formal living room (I’m a traditionalist at heart ) but for me the eat-in-kitchen is the true center of the home.