(Names and details confused to befuddle anyone trying to figure out who's in this story)

Anna is a  little woman with an amazing mind who possesses two master’s degrees and speaks three languages. She talks rapidly, like her thoughts leave her tongue behind. She and her teacher husband have a daughter, the precocious Rowena, whom, as one might expect of the only child of a pair of intellectual teachers, uses big words like “exhume” and “rebuttal” at age eight.

Anna is an extreme cook. She actually buys whole spices and grinds them in a mortar and pestle (something I had only seen in pictures until she put me to work with one.) She has us over occasionally and when she does,  she prepares days in advance, working on reduction sauces and base ingredients like homemade beans and chicken broth made from boiling chickens. (!!!) She considers canned and frozen food a modern nightmare.

Anna has had terrible poky little kitchen, little more than a walk-in closet. For years I kept saying, “Anna, your artistry deserves a real kitchen. You would actually use one of those crazy big Wolff ovens with six gas burners.”

She always shook her head and said, “One of these days.”

When she is done with one of her epic meals (it was Ethiopian food last time, something I had never had in my life before. Each meal is like that, every gooey, spicy, tangy dish more delicious than the last) I face that tiny kitchen and tackle the cleaning: the least a recipient of such genius can do.

The layout was so bad the dishwasher door blocked access to the sink or cupboards, and she made those amazing recipes on a small electric stovetop.  As true cooks are wont to do, she doesn't bother cleaning along the way, just focusing on the process and trusting, (rightfully so) that her devotees will take care of it.

Personally? I never start something I'm going to have to spend a long time cleaning up. My favorite cooking involves little mess and relies on simplicity and preprepared ingredients. Most of the time I put on rubber gloves (I hate the feeling of meat, and the smell reminds me of decomp- see Reluctant Crime Writer entry) take out some frozen pork/lamb/beef/ chops, put them on a foil lined pan, sprinkle garlic salt on top, and bake at 350 for 45 minutes- works for most everything.

I also do my “international” chicken variety dishes:

French= chicken backed on a foil lined pan with sliced onions (always wear rubber gloves when slicing onions or the smell stays on your hands forever) a splash of white wine, garlic salt and a can of chopped tomatoes, bake an hour at 350 degrees and serve over brown rice.

Spanish= chicken with salsa poured over and baked, (see above) served over brown rice.

Italian= chicken with spaghetti sauce poured over it and baked with brown rice (or whole wheat noodles, if I am feeling fancy.)

Japanese= chicken with soy sauce poured over it and baked, served with brown rice.

Don’t forget  a plain, steamed veggie on the side. Gotta have a veggie.

So when I heard our friends' re-fi money came through I whooped aloud, thinking of how they could knock out the entry and expand, put in a great swath of granite countertop, the big iron pot rack she could hang for all her copper-bottomed pots, the giant steel stove with six burners and a warmer that she would actually use.

The Hubby does remodels and went over for planning meetings with them. I jumped up and down when he got back: “are they getting granite? Are they knocking out the wall and putting the front door at the other end of the house? Is she getting one of those hanging pot racks and a Wolff stove??” In the end, they did all those things.

Am I living vicariously through her kitchen? Did I secretly want it myself? A resounding NO. If I'd had it I would just have to clean it, and feel guilty I didn't use that shiny gorgeous stove and gigantic air vent they put in the way they deserved… Kind of like a mortar and pestle in my house, they'd have been purely decorative.

What I continue to admire is Anna’s artistry, her passion, and I really really want to get invited over to more dinners where my self-appointed cleanup will be easier. *grins*

A little part of me does wish I loved cooking and everyone wanted to come to my house for dinner. But it’s okay- they all want to come to my tea parties instead and eat scones, lilikoi meringue pie and cookies. I'm a baker, not a cook. More on that another time…

picture of Anna's kitchen

what a transformation! The proper setting for cooking genius.

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