I walked in the door from town, arms loaded with goods. There in the kitchen was the youngest, almost teen-aged boy, with the Kitchenaid mixer on the counter, measuring cups scattered, cream dripped and puddled, and a whisk in hand, white-capped with whipped cream, holding it low toward Nellie and her flapping pink tongue.
This wasn't her first taste that day, he said. He told me about about how, earlier, she'd sat politely, tail dusting the floor, while he'd scooped a big spoonful of the freshly-whipped, unsweetened cream, and held it out to her. She'd lapped it so wild-fast, he said, that by the time the spoon was clean, she was whipped-cream-covered from snout to throat. He had to tell her to stay while he fetched a napkin and wiped her face clean. She was in heaven. So was he. Wild, messy, whipped cream, heaven.
This is what happens in our kitchen.
It's not just the first kettle of water over a flame for tea in the dark of morning. It's not the massive pie production for Thanksgiving dessert (or the messy whipped cream making). It's not the new bread recipe that you've finally gotten everything aligned to try. It's not the breakfast, lunch, and dinner rhythm that chatters along, day after day, month by month, year by year. Rather, it's the exchange, the caring of souls, the give and take of things that thoroughly nourish both the maker and the hungry.
Take friends Taavo Somer and Will Tigertt, who started the iconic Freeman's restaurant in New York. With an alleyway entrance, a hot plate, one oven, one convection oven, and an idea, they made a place to nourish souls. For months, they served from where they were, with what they had (and replaced the burned out ovens every three months). Twelve years later, Freeman's is still in the same alleyway, still going strong, and has become as familiar to locals as a favorite leather chair.
I'll take a page from their book. I'll stock the small larder that I have, I'll line the handful of pantry shelves, I'll pack milk, eggs, and cheese into the smaller-than-normal fridge. And when a random fourth boy shows up at the little house late on a Sunday afternoon, and starts making himself ramen in our little kitchen, I'll remember. Here you go, I'll say. Here's a flame, here's a pot, here's some food. And here's some conversation to carry along as you cook.
Here's a place for you.