I’ve cooked in four different kitchens the past four years: standard apartment kitchens, the kitchen of an old mansion, the kitchen whose oven became my primary source of heat during the coldest Pennsylvania winter.
In our very first basement apartment in Charlottesville, I noticed that the oven gave off a strange smell whenever it was turned on, and then finally, it stopped working. I called our maintenance man. He solved the problem by discovering piles and piles of dog food, shoved into the bottom of our oven. We don’t have dogs. I have no idea what kind of tenant decided that the back of the oven was the perfect place to store dog food.
Our apartment at Chatham was a fun one to cook in. We lived in a mansion converted to a dorm, and our kitchen was the old prep kitchen. It hadn’t been cleaned out before we moved in, and was a mine of old artifacts: a wheat grinder, old serving trays, and even a 1950s television shoved into the pantry. One of the walls was covered in beautiful wooden cabinets with glass doors, but the wood had warped so much over time that I worried the doors would fall off whenever I opened the cupboards. It was in that apartment that we learned to cook for crowds on a mini stove, shop every few days to accommodate the small space, to not scream at the sight of cockroaches and to ignore the constant drip of the sink.