Usually this is my forum to share about foods and products I am excited about. I confess though that I have been rather quiet this past year. This is why…
You may have heard that last year was the Chinese year of the rooster but for me and my family, 2017 was the year of the kitchen. We have lived in our century home for over 25 years. In spite of raising a relatively large brood of children… five, in case you were wondering….our 8 by 10 foot kitchen was adequate during most of those years. For larger baking or canning projects I always appropriated the dining room table.
But children grow up. They bring home friends, spouses and then grandchildren. Suddenly, that adequate kitchen feels too snug for two generations of cooks sharing the space during family gatherings. Kitchen cabinets take a beating over 25 years of use. It was finally time to get to work and realize some dreams.
We are a family of avid do-it-yourself-ers. My neighbours are never surprised to see me up on a roof or creating something with my table saw on the front driveway. Yes, you read correctly. My table saw. My husband, John, prefers his circular saw. So there never was any doubt that this would be a do-it-yourself kitchen…or that the “yourself” would be me with the exception of plumbing and electrical. I gladly deferred those elements of the reconstruction to more able persons.
To be honest, the year of the kitchen actually started August of 2016 but before I get ahead of myself let me give you a tour of the “before.”
The kitchen was a solid fortress of double brick walls that once formed what was most likely a workshop addition on the back of a tradesman’s two story house. The early inhabitants of our street were the families of men who worked at the nearby steel plant that was torn down a decade ago. Back in the 1990’s we added a family room and the exterior brick walls were absorbed into the house. The windows came out but the old sill remained as a shelf in the pass through. The entrance way became a hall; the coat closet, a pantry. The plan was to remove the bricks under that window sill to floor level so we could push the cabinets out and enlarge the kitchen’s square footage. I also planned to remove multiple layers of wall coverings to expose the brick of the original back of the house.
Before I was ready to install new cabinets, over 400 bricks were removed. There are always surprises when you take apart an old house. The original builder, a bricklayer by the name of Roach, constructed the house in 1916 using reclaimed bricks half of which were handmade. On walls that were to be covered, Roach used less than perfect bricks and his mortar was left rough. His fine craftsmanship was evident on the walls that once formed the back of the house, however, the mortar had become crumbly over time. So I learned how to repoint mortar and rebuild a brick wall. Plaster board covered a tongue and groove wood ceiling. Two old stove pipe holes were revealed.
One of those holes went through a joist which had to be reinforced once all the wood boards came off the ceiling. As I removed layers of history, I got a glimpse of the people who had inhabited the house over the years.
This process took months because frequently I only had a few hours each week to invest into the project. During the busy Christmas season here at The European Pantry all work went on hold. Finally a year after I started demolition, it was time for the new kitchen to take shape.
The kitchen isn’t complete yet. There is a dishwasher to come and it still needs some finishing touches. This week I painted the door trim showing in the one pic and next to be painted is the plank floor in a distressed effect. And that old window sill? It is on the front porch waiting to become rustic shelves. But the year of the kitchen is finished. Through it all I managed to keep an operational kitchen so I could feed us. Now that it is mostly done I can shift my focus to cooking for enjoyment again…and sharing tips and new ideas with you!
However, this project has taught me a lot of what makes a good kitchen…ideas I will be happy to pass on to anyone who is starting their own “year of the kitchen.”