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The lonely kitchen

November 21, 2009

Kitchens are marvellously transparent in terms of telling you about the person who uses it. An array of  unwashed cocktail glasses, cookbooks and weird gadgets can give away a lot.

Cooking is an excellent means of communication and it can bring about deliciously subtle personality traits, such as a flirtatious side, one that likes to show off or unspoken nurturing. This can potentially be thrown off-balance in times of stress, turmoil and unhappiness. If I’m physically unwell, I go off food. If I’m emotionally tense, I go off the kitchen. I know that many people find cooking therapeutic in times of stress, but I completely lose interest.

I couldn’t see myself living in my old flat until I saw the kitchen and dining area. As with many things, I fell in love hard and fast. In the first year of living there, cooking was an absolute delight. I was blissfully content in the small kitchen tucked at the back of the flat with no natural light. Many happy nights spent with my favourite hard house compilation in the background, waiting for the granola to finish cooking or working out the best protein powder/flour ratio for muscle-friendly muffins.

Things took a turn as my former relationship went through the autumn period of its life. Through no criticism, ~ never liked to cook and I spent most days preparing dinners alone. I never minded this, until things began to deteriorate both at home and on the academic side of things. My mind was consumed with medicine during the day and the evenings gave me no respite after a long commute and sheer exhaustion. The emptiness I felt became exasperated by the kitchen’s isolated persona. While it’s perfectly fine for people not meet all their partner’s needs, I came to realise that I needed company in such a pivotal part of the day. I do so much communication through food and the preparation side of things is a bit like foreplay. It’s a chance to share the day and work to put together something great. I would often ask ~ to join me in the kitchen just to talk to me while I prepared things. Both of us were under a lot of pressure through respective difficulties and for whatever reason, I would be left alone again after a few minutes feeling pretty deflated.

In the grand scheme of things, it’s not really such a big deal. But if we’re counting the little things that chip away and add up, perhaps it was. During a brief stint abroad, after the air conditioning failed yet again, I was reading Life is Meals by James and Kay Salter wearing nothing but a bright orange sarong. The following struck me:

We cooked side by side or back to back if necessary, following recipes […]  It’s more fun to cook with someone, even given differing opinions on exactly how it should be done. […] For us over the years, cooking had evolved, and though it was still done together, it was more on the lines of, you do the salad, I’ll do the tart.  

After reading, I wanted to weep. In fact I think I did.

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