My relationship with my kitchen has been a complicated one. It’s a space I love to hate. True, there are certain moments when it feels really good being in it – like trolling around in wool socks and silk karate pants on weekends with an espresso and the newspaper, or on a mid-week night when I decide to make brownies or cookies or granola at 10pm so the apartment can smell of hot sugar by bedtime. And on certain levels, I feel that we understand eachother. It’s gotten used to my klutzy moves and my swearing and my need to have something blabbing away loudly while I cook – This American Life, Twin Peaks and…sweet mercy save me…Coronation Street. And I’ve gotten used to its puny cupboards and schizophrenic oven and its little surprises - like the time I came back from the cottage to find a brood of pantry moths and carpenter ants hosting a food party in my cupboard, forcing me to chuck nearly everything, scrub every nook and cranny with a vinegar-soaked toothbrush and seal all cracks with caulking. It wasn’t a very romantic moment for my kitchen and I. 

My kitchenette is not what you might call a cook’s dream – it’s the kind real-estate agents have been trained to describe as “quaint” or “cozy”, the space they show you quickly before whisking you away to a larger, more impressive room, in the hopes of whitewashing your memory of it. But something happened this weekend to give me a new-found appreciation for my kitchen space. I spent the better part of Saturday at a workshop organized by the Canadian Centre for Architecture, a sort of conversation/presentation/tasting event that addressed the theme of food in the built environment. Led by one of the founding members of Concordia University’s Food Studies Research Group, the workshop de-constructed the idea of “domestic foodscapes”, encouraging us to consider the relationship between how we feed ourselves and the space(s) in which we choose to do it.

Now, the notion of choice in our domestic environment can sometimes be a tricky one – many of us feel bound by limitations when it comes to spatial arrangements at home. I think that this even more palpable for those of us who are renters, as we generally can’t make substantial changes to our environment (I even signed a contract separate to the lease requiring me, amongst other things, to have my paint colors approved by my landlord). In arrangements like these, choices feel stifled, limited, controlled. But as leasers, we also understand that there’s not a whole lot we can do about it. Some of us accept it; some of us rail against it. When it comes to my kitchen – the place I spend most of my non-work waking hours – I fall into the railing-against-my-reality category. I bitch about its knob-less cupboards, its minuscule prep space, its tiny eating area, its bizarre placement right off the bathroom. But then I realise that I’m doing the thing we all do – complaining about what we don’t have by falling into the “if only” trap. I would make better _____ if only my kitchen had ____. The workshop at the CCA resonated with me; it helped shine a light on the things I do like about my domestic foodscape – my army of mason jars, my vintage scales and colanders, my Bialetti stovetop espresso maker, my teak table and mid-century lamp…

I’ve come to realize that if I really hated this space so much, I wouldn’t store and exhibit such precious items in it.

I’m learning to focus on the things I love about my crazy-ass kitchen. Because, despite its imperfections and idiosyncrasies, it still enables me to do what I need to…

…like, making pretty sexy boxed lunches…

duck box lunch