Fuelling The Family Engine

“But the kitchen will not come into its own again until it ceases to be a status symbol and becomes again a workshop. It may be pastel. It may be ginghamed as to curtains and shining with copper like a picture in a woman’s magazine. But you and I will know it chiefly by its fragrances and its clutter. At the back of the stove will sit a soup kettle, gently bubbling, one into which every day are popped leftover bones and vegetables to make stock for sauces or soup for the family. Carrots and leeks will sprawl on counters, greens in a basket. There will be something sweet-smelling twirling in a bowl and something savory baking in the oven. Cabinet doors will gape ajar and colored surfaces are likely to be littered with salt and pepper and flour and herbs and cheesecloth and pot holders and long-handled forks. It won’t be neat. It won’t even look efficient. but when you enter it you will feel the pulse of life throbbing from every corner. The heart of the home will have begun once again to beat.” Phyllis McGinley

I stumbled across this quote recently and I think it paints the picture perfect kitchen for me. Always something in progress. Delicious smells filling the air and homegrown produce littering the counters. When there is an experiment or project going on in the kitchen, the place is like a bombsite but I prefer to think of it as creativity at work and just run with it. After all flour can be swept up and sauce spatters wiped down. A kitchen is like the heart of a home, the engine room. Where everyone congregates to reconnect and refuel before heading off again.

nom nom nom
(photo credit: fairweatherpaddler)

Mr. Fairweather’s homeplace was like this. I remember coming out to visit on a Sunday. The large kitchen table would be piled high with apple tarts, brown bread, pots of jam, slices of ham and always pots and pots of tea. There was always a crowd. All the family would come back to Fairweather central on a Sunday afternoon with chaps in tow. The kids would be let off loose outside and return when hunger drove them back or a near fatal accident sent them in seeking comfort and solace in mammy’s arms before the lure of older cousins’ shouts and squeals drew them back out. The adults would be deep in conversation solving the world’s problems and doling out advice to whomever would listen. There was joking and chatting, discussions and heated arguments. But that was family life with the Fairweathers and this was its hub.

I have lived in a lot of houses of varying sizes and quality. The thing that always got to me were kitchens that were too small or disconnected from the rest of the house. How could the kitchen be the heart of the home if it was apart? If, whenever people came to visit and spend time, you had to seperate yourself in order to fuel and nourish them? Don’t get me wrong, it’s nice to have somewhere separate when the hustle and bustle gets too  much. But I like the flow of family life being allowed to happen.

poached pears all preserved for the winter last year
(photo credit: fairweatherpaddler)

But in all these houses, some with their little, dark, pokey kitchens and some with their swish, modern finishes, the bane of my life was really and truly, not enough storage. I am big on storage and lots of it. Storage that is easily accessible and viewed. Much easier to figure out what you are doing when you can see what’s available. When we were designing our house, I wanted a pantry. I insisted on it. I wanted somewhere to be able to keep all my cooking and preserving experiments. Somewhere to store jars of my own chutneys and jams, strings of garlic and onions , and hang bunches of herbs to dry. I did get my pantry – just off the kitchen. And it is probably my favourite room. That’s probably a little sad to admit to, but I don’t care; I’m a girl of simple wants and needs – thank God says Mr. Fairweather.

little shower drain in centre of floor to allow for fresh, cool air intake
(photo credit: fairweatherpaddler)

It’s a little room in the middle of the house – a big cupboard really – but insulated from the rest of the house to keep it cool. We put in separate ventilation as well. Its as simple as a pipe set into the floor with a shower drain cover which draws fresh air in and a plastic vent in the ceiling which allows warm air out into the vented attic. Eventually Mr. Fairweather will fit a 12V solar panel and an extractor fan to help increase the draw. We’ll need it more when we can afford to put a fridge freezer into the pantry. The fridge freezer will hopefully make jam making and the like much easier instead of running out to the chest freezer in the shed constantly. But it will generate more heat so even though natural convection should work fine, we’d rather be on the safe side with the added mechanical ventilation on warm sunny days.

narrow shelves for jars
(photo credit: fairweatherpaddler)

When we were getting the carpentry done in the house, I asked them to put some shelves in to the pantry for me as well. I have a deep shelf at about counter height that runs most of the way around three walls of the pantry. Then two walls are lined with slightly deeper shelves up above. The third wall has shallow shelves just deep enough for a row of jars (empty or full) and a spice rack so I can see everything at a glance. Currently the floor is covered with boxes of empty jars, old paint containers and big feed bins for the dog, duck and hen feed. But eventually the plan is to have large storage bins for recycling as well as the feed stores, and tubs for spare jars, etc.

spice rack was measured up exactly
(photo credit: fairweatherpaddler)
home grown garlic
(photo credit: fairweatherpaddler)

Currently in my pantry, I am down to my last jar of chutney so will have to get making some more at the end of season. And it’s been a while since I have made jam after the last disaster, but I’m not defeated yet. We even got some garlic in to dry and in a few weeks, the onions can be lifted, dried and plaited for storage. Mr. Fairweather even uses it now to hang the rabbits before a day of processing and stew making. And soon I will be using it to dry more herbs for storage over the winter. The kitchen may be where all the family action happens, but the pantry is like the coal furnace of my family’s engine room – it keeps the engine room supplied and ticking over. After all, we have to keep this show on the road somehow.


11 thoughts on “Fuelling The Family Engine

  1. Oh this is such a wonderful observation…I too love a kitchen.
    My family was small and mother was not the cook nor much of a cleaner.
    She’d do it but it was not with the same sense of vigor or joie de vivre that was percolating deep within me which would one day spring forth later when I’d have my “own” kitchen.
    My husband came from a large southern (albeit dysfunctional) family that kept time busy in the kitchen as eating and eating big family meals for every occasion was key.
    That was how I first met them when he brought me home it was in the Spring and there was a fish fry of sorts taking place…there I was dressed in a fine white linen skirt and lilac colored sweater trying to be dressed to impress…. at all things, a fish fry…..
    My own kitchen—the two we’ve had since having been married, have been my havens—havens of creativity, escape and busy activity.
    There are times I often think all the other rooms are a bit of a waste as most time, most of my time at least, centers in the kitchen….
    As our family has grown, changed and shrunk…the celebrations are not what they were as most meals are now simply for the two of us…but….there are meals each evening.
    When our son was little, I decided then that it would be key for us to sit down each day together as a family…having a meal together…sharing that time together as a family unit.
    And despite our son now being grown and gone…we still sit down together each evening at the table saying grace over a meal that is thoughtful in either presentation or content and if I’m lucky…both…. 🙂
    Keep up the good work!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love the vision of you meeting the family for the first time. Bit like my first Christmas visit to the family and meeting them all in one place. Mr. Fairweather practically shoved me through the door into a kitchen packed with about fifty people. He knew I would turn and run. 😂
      And absolutely, sitting down together is so, so important. Otherwise, it always feels like you are little more than house mates I think. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved having big pantry in my last house.. it was the hub of my kitchen and I loved having it… I know have a much smaller space and still acclimating to it..

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Our kitchen can be quite the disaster, but that is because it is the work zone. Cooking, science projects, writing. Everything happens in here. And I love that! I wish I had more storage. That pantry of yours looks awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love, love, love my pantry. And yes, totally agree. A good, well-loved kitchen usually looks like a disaster zone in my experience. Bit like a happy child. I always reckon a dirty, mucky child is a happy child who had a good day!


  4. I love a big kitchen. I actually just moved to a new apartment with an open layout so I’m kinda always involved in what’s happening in the house now. I don’t like this only because this new has the entry doorway in the kitchen and then the house smells up when I cook but it’s still beautiful laid out in the middle of the house between both rooms and the living and dining room so I think it should work better 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh. I hope it does. It is hard in apartments I think where often there’s not enough ventilation or extraction to stop smells building up. Not too bad if you are baking and it goes well. Not so great if you fell asleep and the water boiled off and the pot is burnt to a crisp. 🙈🙈 Can you tell that’s the voice of experience. 😂😂
      Thanks for stopping by the blog.


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