Monday, February 25, 2008

The Spatula

I have a large stoneware crock sitting on my kitchen counter that houses all of my kitchen utensils. I bought it almost ten years ago at an outdoor antique fair – so happy to find it after seeing the great idea in Monica’s, from Friends, apartment. I hate fishing through drawers looking for what I want, and loved the idea of having everything right there, where I could see it, next to the stove. I’ve heard a few sarcastic remarks over time, like “You got enough utensils?” I don’t care, I love my crock and the fast ability to easily grab and use anything in it.

The other night I was browning ground turkey for tacos and I mindlessly reached over and pulled out a spatula. The funny thing was that I pulled out one I haven’t seen in years, literally. I always loved the way that this extra small, well-used version had fit so comfortably in my hand, making using it a breeze. (For whatever reason, I have always hated browning ground meat – and this spatula made that more pleasant, too.) Anyway, after seeing this old kitchen pal, I was immediately taken back to a different place and time – really it was strange – but all of a sudden I was back to 1996 in our tiny, rented, turn-of-the-century Florida bungalow’s kitchen.

It’s amazing that, coming from those humble beginnings, that I can cook anything at all. Our kitchen was really a retrofitted old porch, with no insulation and six huge windows that pulled into the room and latched to the ceiling to provide some ventilation. We had two cabinets besides those under the sink, so our washer and dryer acted as both counters and shelves since they sat smack in the middle of the kitchen. We were engaged and then married while living in that house, and the smallness of it prevented us from unpacking our wedding gifts for the two remaining years that we stayed. With these interesting living arrangements, and it really was wonderful – we knew even then that we would look back on that house and that time with nothing but fondness – we were young and free and having fun with big dreams for our future. If you ask me, it was a pretty good place to be!

When we lived there, this was the only spatula we had or needed, and we used it to make all the things we ate on a regular basis. Even then, without an ounce of space or modern amenity, we were adventurous with our love for cooking, making grilled turkey for Thanksgiving, leg of lamb for Easter or a standing rib roast with Yorkshire pudding for the holidays. We made up things like grilled vegetable slaw with feta and found ways to bake our favorite childhood cookies; it just worked one way or another. In our mid-twenties, we cherished our wonderful friends that were there to enjoy every get together and BBQ and came with their own creations in tow. We had so many friends around so much of the time that people used to tell us that other people thought “Mike & Molly’s” was a cool new pub or something, not someone’s house. We loved it.

It’s amazing that an item so small and insignificant as a spatula held the power to take me back to all those wonderful memories, leave me longing for a different time in life and feeling so grateful for all that’s happened since then. It’s mind boggling to ponder all that has happened; I feel so blessed by everything and everyone now and I feel the same for our life back then. I browned that turkey with a smile on my face, remembering all our good Florida times.

After Mike had arrived home, dinner had been eaten and the kids needed us for ten other things, we began to clean the kitchen. All of a sudden I heard Mike say, “Oh my gosh – I haven’t seen this spatula in years!! Man does this thing remind me of Florida!”

“I know!” I said, loving the fact that we both share the same feelings and connection over those meager beginnings and treasured memories that seem like a lifetime ago.

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