The Significance of Your Kitchen

Reader Contribution by Michael Johnathon
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When people ask me where I live, my answer is simple: I live in an airplane and a car seat. When I’m not on the road, however, my precious time is spent in a most romantic setting. I am a tree-hugging, banjo-picking, log cabin dweller.

The first room you enter when coming into my farmhouse is, as it should be, the kitchen. The kitchen is the architectural welcome chamber in abodes worldwide.  It has been this way since mankind first figured out that food and a sense of community are interchangeable and inseparable.  In the earliest of times, when people lived in caves, the kitchen was always at the the mouth of the cave.

Obviously, the first room you entered by necessity – it was the only place to set the fire so the smoke could get out. Even so, it is fitting that the kitchen should forever be the first place to set foot in when entering someone’s living space. 

I’m glad you’re here — and this is the place that says so.

My kitchen in our log cabin is the most wonderful, pleasing and lonesome room in this house. It is welcoming in a great many ways. It welcomes you with the smell of breakfast in the morning. It welcomes you with the lilting fragrance of homemade pine-nut and sunflower-seed pasta sauce simmering into its fourteenth hour on the stove. It welcomes you with sights of a large bowl of garden salad set in the center of my long wooden table.  It welcomes you with growing plants in the windowsill, bright green, living and breathing as they reflect the afternoon sun.

I love my kitchen. And I love my table.

My kitchen table is six feet long and completely made of wood. I can seat six wooden chairs comfortably around it and it takes up the most prominent place in the room.  It is of an early Americana design that I found in a second-hand store for $75. It has small, hand-shaped metal edges that decorate the corners of the table top. The surface of the pine table is finished with a clear rubbing oil and has a decidedly woodshop fragrance to it. A good, solid table is important.  It is the center point of life in your home, the communal gathering point of your kitchen.  Great dreams, brilliant poems, homework and wars have all been planned and decided upon at kitchen tables throughout history.

My kitchen, when the house is empty but for me (rare because we have two 4-year-old twins), is also the room that begs the question, Where is everyone? Your kitchen seeks out your friends and family. It longs for laughter and noise and conversation. It is the one room that speaks loudest when your home is silent. This makes the kitchen the loneliest room in the house.

To understand my appreciation for this gastronomic temple, I must first tell you why I love my place.

I live in a log cabin on a hill surrounded by seven acres of woods and meadows. We live in the country, a 15-minute drive to downtown Lexington but I’m surrounded by large farms, meadows, woods and a creek. I enjoy Lexington. It is a wonderful hometown full of creative and passionate people. It is the gateway to Appalachia and sits at the crossroads of America’s folk and bluegrass music.  It is a songwriter’s heaven and a folksinger’s paradise.  It has a wonderful “I wish I was Cincinnati” aggressiveness but with a quaint, small-town atmosphere.  My children are growing up here and I like that.

My home  is indeed a wonderful setting. I get up in the morning, pour a hot cup of tea, gaze through my kitchen window into the earthy expanse of trees, meadows and fields and thank God someone else is financing my view.

Ahhhh, life is good. I savor this moment each morning I am home. It is a “Michael ritual” that runs a complete cycle each day. Like Thoreau, I believe in waking up slow, drinking in the morning and letting gentle appreciation of the day ahead set upon you softly.

Then I attack into it like a roaring Viking at siege. ‘Gentle appreciation’ has its limits when you are trying to get things done.

My home is the place where all the songs and books were written. It has seasoned wooden floors and windows laced with plants. And yes, they are all healthy.

Other than the kitchen, my second favorite room is the living room. I designed the placement of the furniture in that room so everything faces my passionate and adoring lover, the one whom I turn to for warmth and conversation on lonely, snowy nights, the one who occupies my mind and body and senses. My mistress who reflects what I wish my life could really be like someday … my fireplace.

Other than my wife, of course.

I have a very passionate, ongoing relationship with my fireplace. If your couch faces the TV in your home then you are doing it wrong. A fireplace is nature’s TV set. No remote control or cable needed. It has one stunning channel that has entertained people with the same untiring script and song for generations and for thousands of years.

The kitchen’s equivalent to the living room fireplace is, of course, the table. That is why I expound so much about it. The kitchen table is the altar of your home. You should take the shape and length and design of your table very, very seriously.  Your kitchen table reflects the inner desire of what you wish the quality of your life should be. It really does. For example: Does your life feel cramped and artificial? Do you have a small, round formica table?

You do, don’t you! Coincidence? I think not.  ’nuff said.

My living room compliments my kitchen because it is the place to retreat with friends after your kitchen has exhausted all of its treasures.  Your living room is the place to go when you are ready to bask in the afterglow of the kitchen’s glory.

Of course, it also has my DVD surround-sound system which is especially useful during summer months when the only practical use of a fireplace is to serve as one more plant stand. Plus, Lord knows, I have to watch WoodSongs every now and then.

So much for “nature boy.” But unlike the living room, a kitchen has limited interchangeable uses. When I first moved into this old home I thought long and hard about my kitchen. I built my pot rack to hang from the ceiling above the stove.  I placed the pictures on the wall in just the right places.  I picked out the plants and the garden pots they will rest in with deference to the window and the sunlight they will soak in.  But something was missing, something was oddly un-present. Something was completely wrong with the ambiance of my kitchen.

And then I discovered an odd and amazing fact of life: The kitchen didn’t turn into a “kitchen” until I finally plugged in the toaster.

Really. It wasn’t until I bought my toaster, plugged it in and stuck my knife into the butter that my farmhouse temple achieved its spiritual nirvana. The kitchen depends on the fragrance of home to become a real kitchen.

And nothing smells of home more than wafts of toast in the morning as your coffee perks. What a great way to start your day!

Among the throngs of artists in the music world, few have elevated “dreaming” to such a high art form as folksinger Michael Johnathon. He has a successful career as a touring songwriter, author of four published book, playwright of the Walden Play performed in 42 countries, composer of the opera, Woody: For the People, organizer of the national association of front porch musicians called SongFarmers, and as the host of the live audience broadcast of the WoodSongs Old Time Radio Hour with a radio audience with over two million listeners each week on 500 public radio stations, public television coast-to-coast, American Forces Radio Network in 173 nations and now on the RFD-TV Network nationwide. His latest album release is DAZED & CONFUZED and his fourth book will be released June 2019. Connect with Michael at MichaelJohnathon.com, WoodSongs.com,WaldenPlay.com.


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