I’m eating my last bowl of chicken and red lentil soup in the library coffee shop, a well-lit place crowded with vivid and various people. For once, I’m not eating dinner a la sole but with a friend and colleague who, like me, has a dash of cook in her and who, unlike me, has two roommates to boot. We discuss the ever-important philosophical debate of whether or not a stew constitutes as a soup (and it does in my book, so expect to see some stew in the future).

In the middle of her broccoli salad, Caitlin states, “Soup just isn’t that important to me, you know?”

“Not I,” I respond, swallowing another mouthful of my nightly victuals. “To me, soup is… life.”

But it’s strangely not soup I’m thinking about. No… instead, I’m thinking about the kitchen I left behind four hours ago when I went to work, the dark and cramped little nook of my apartment where I let my culinary muse run wild when it isn’t buried under a stack of Victorian novels. I started thinking about my kitchen two days ago, around the same time I started thinking about that last bowl of soup sitting in my refrigerator, positioned among sandwich fixings, tortillas that will one day be tacos, the basics milk and bread, and a criminal line-up of condiments (the usual culprits). Two days ago (and even two hours ago), I was fully prepared to deep-fry my kitchen in derision. Its Lilliputian size, the hideous linoleum tile that reminds me of pithy high school memories, the bleak cinder-block walls, the abused, scarred countertops, the cabinet whose particle board door is starting to resemble Feta crumbles, and that horrible monster living under the sink that I must pacify with scraps of vegetables or fruit peels mixed with water—none of this appeals to me. I was ready to dislike everything from the dim lighting to the dip in the floor.

Earlier today, I read a blog post by Becoming Madame about French kitchens, and I’m whisked away to Paris on a plane built of words and photographs. Copper pots, a quaint, antiquated feel rather than a tacky, antediluvian atmosphere that could suffocate a technoholic, and well-placed lighting that would secure the functionality of my eyes for years to come. Apparently, French kitchens commonly have windows (a novel concept!) with fresh herbs growing out on the sills (naturally free of charge and full of love!—which, might I add, makes soup taste even better), and sometimes, they have these rustic, knotted pine cabinets (made of genuine wood!). For one brief moment before beginning my three-hour shift, I could almost see myself in a French kitchen, spacious and liberated, waltzing among copper pans and chandeliers, throwing down a hardy bowl of Vichyssoise or French onion and having lunch among my many copper assistants.

And now, only moments after having scarfed a peanut butter and chocolate muffin in front of my computer, I realize that the culprit is not the kitchen itself. That miniscule space is not to blame for its design. I now find myself serving my bitter blame to the table, who obdurately and obstinately refuses to be wieldy, who takes up valuable space that could have been more counter and cabinets.

I never eat at the table. I’m always at my desk laboring away (sometimes more languidly than I should be) on this novel or that paper, or else staring hard into the face of my computer and trying to figure out why the words I’ve put on the screen are not as pungent as they were in my head (perhaps it only lacks a dash of salt). Otherwise, I’m at the coffee table, sitting on the couch and sharing whatever I’m eating with Dickens or Emily Brontë. In the rare event that I dine with company, I kneel at the coffee table after the manner of the Japanese, sitting on one of my orange throw pillows, and my friend either joins me or sits on the couch. The only one who has ever sat in any one of its four chairs is George Foreman, and the only reason he’s there is because there isn’t enough counter space to accommodate him. My sun tea jar occupies another. They sit in limbo, waiting for a meal that will never come. The top is littered with all manner of miscellanea: a steamer I received as a Christmas gift, napkins from chain restaurants I’ve turned to when I haven’t had the appetite for cooking, recipes that haven’t been touched in two months because I hardly ever follow them, or else I keep a permanent copy on my hard drive, recyclable grocery bags, old receipts cataloguing the ghost of goulash past.

I hate my table in silence. I don’t think it knows the truth, that my avoidance of spending time with it is actually my way of expressing revulsion. In its stead, I could have enough counter space for my food processor, which lives in the bottom drawer, and my toaster and coffee pot, which perch on top of my microwave like a mismatched pair of oxpeckers on a rhinoceros. That table and its four chairs mock me. They are five altogether, and I am nothing more than the last bowl of soup in a cold, dark fridge cluttered with the bread of a notion, some pungent crumbles of inspiration, and a smattering of sentiments (the usual culprits), waiting to be warmed.

I can hate that table all I want for spoiling the potential, but it’s still here.

And for the moment, so am I, even if I think I may be going rotten from waiting for so long.

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