The Kitchen: The Soul of the Home

I’ve often heard it said that the kitchen is the heart of the home. I disagree. I think that the kitchen is the soul of a family.  It’s a place where mundane routines and daily chores are stirred together with the funny little irritants and sweet nothings that all families possess.

The kitchen can hold a moment in time where the walls of the day come down, and a carefully held dream or fear can be safely revealed. Or it can become a combat zone second only to a TV reality show when personalities collide.  If you have a picky eater hovering around as you cook, it can be a place of great tension as the child lurks anxiously, waiting to find out what horrific offering you’ll set on the table. (My oldest was always watching to see if I was slipping even a trace of onions into whatever I was cooking.)

When I was the mother of young children, I did not work outside the home. My kitchen was warm and clean, and housed the fragrances of a thousand sugar cookies more often than not. Menus were carefully planned; I had the luxury of time to simmer, stew and roast things that a working mother wouldn’t be able to. I really enjoyed those years, and the peacefulness of the kitchen with its order, stability, and great meals, too.

Fast-forward to the present. I find myself in the regrettable position of being a single mother working outside the home. I don’t regret the job; in fact I thrive at work. It’s a place where I have purpose, passion and a built-in support system of friends who offer daily encouragement and praise. But when I get home after a long day at work, tired and stressed out, suddenly the proposition of cooking has lost its luster. It’s become a desperate, frantic, pots-and-pans-banging, trauma-inducing pressure cooker. Or it’s become the time it takes to inhale the fumes of the car in front of me at the drive-through window. And in these moments I miss the soft, sweet, long days of thoughtfully creating a meal with intention, artistry and motivation to fulfill the needs of my family.

My mother instilled the desire to be at home, creating an environment of peace and order. She passed down to me the recipes from generations past, and a few of her own as well. When I do have the time and inspiration to plan and carry out the menus in that old recipe box, I often feel that my grandmother, my great-grandmother and my mother are all there with me as I cook. And when we taste the time-honored offerings of the magnificent cooks they all were, I feel that I am once more a little girl, and even more, that I am introducing my children to the women in my life who are now gone and whose lives and spirits bear remembering often.

Kitchens are so much more than a place for food preparation though. Ours has been known to be a dance floor because our socks slide so well on the wood floors. The sink held the bubble bath for my babies. Singing in the kitchen is something not to be overlooked; breaking out into song at odd moments is the spice of life. The kitchen has been an emergency room (fortunately mostly the bee-sting and Band-Aid variety). It’s also the counseling office for all of my children as they talk to me of their troubles while I cook.  It’s been a science lab (not because of my food … actual science experiments have been conducted), and it has felt many times like a hotel kitchen, with me as a short-order cook. That’s when I throw my hands in the air and say “This kitchen is closed!”

My mother says that her kitchen is the only place in this world where she feels she can build something that she knows will turn out okay. She likes the order of it, the measurements and unchanging properties of certain ingredients.  Her kitchen is her respite in a world that is uncertain and fickle. She cooks to create, to unwind, to release the stress of the day. Her culinary pursuits are to her what reading a good book or going for a peaceful walk are to me.

In the kitchen there are certain smells and flavors that have the power to transport me to another time and place; I become a kid again in an instant! Old feelings, thoughts and memories exist in the smell of homemade macaroni and cheese, chocolate cake, or bread that’s baking in the oven. How many moments of life can be summed up in one whiff of something you once loved, something someone once made for you with hands of love? When can you ever bite into a homemade cookie or a favorite holiday treat, and not remember days long ago?

Whether a stay-at-home mom or working mom, I want my kitchen to be a welcoming place of respite, of memories, of weaving our past with our future, of embracing my children with the knowledge of my love and care for them, of laughter and bickering, of real moments and emotions that echo across the years. It’s where a family comes together, grows and changes. I want to create a haven for each unique personality, for each and every soul that dwells there – a place where we can each be who we are regardless of where we’ve been or where we are going.

This is what my kitchen means to me: it’s the soul of my home.

Sharyn Fields
About Sharyn Fields

Author Sharyn Fields is a mom and blogger whose passion is uncovering the joy and humor in every heart she meets.

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