Friends, hi hello!
If you keep up with me on Instagram, or if you’re my neighbor across the street in New Orleans, you may have noticed that I’ve moved half of my life and all of my heart from New Orleans to Houston. I’m headed back to big city (Houston is huge, y’all – I know because I get lost ALL THE TIME) for, well… LOVE and all the big feels that comes with it. I’ve done my fair share of moving but, moving halfway is a particular brand of chaos. While I’m ready to plant roots in Houston, I’m not quite ready to leave New Orleans so I’ll keep a foot planted firmly in each city until it makes sense not to. There’s something still so special to me about New Orleans and it’s just a few true crime podcast episodes down the road.
If you’ve been around Joy the Baker for a while, you baked in more than a few kitchens with me. In fact, you know All The Kitchens I’ve Lived In probably as well as I do. Now that I’m halfway home in Houston and I hope you’ll belly up to the little kitchen island as I figure it all out. By “it” I mostly mean kolaches. I really need to figure kolaches out.
Transitions come with lots of feels and lots of questions – the internal sort that are reflective and gosh often so weighty. The question on my mind as I pack and unpack kitchen boxes these past few weeks has been:
What is the foundation of a good kitchen?
What are the cornerstones of a cozy kitchen space that have nothing to do with a gas range and dishwasher (though yes, I appreciate those creature comforts so much).
I have lived my entire life in the kitchen. I gather my people for life’s joys and retreat to the kitchen with life’s heartaches. With all those experiences tucked away, here are the 5 Foundational Elements of a Comfortable Kitchen.
Morning light that inspires coffee and evening light that inspires a glass of wine while cooking dinner (or while ordering take out). I put more weight on a light and bright kitchen than most, but natural light is both fundamental and luxurious. I looked at enough New Orleans houses and Houston apartments to know that natural light is mostly a luxury, to be sure. Even a splash of natural light in the kitchen sets the mood for the day, making that space one I want to pitter and work in for hours on end. I need my food to glow so you know just how delicious it can be when you set off to make recipes in your own kitchen. Light is one big part of the heart of my kitchen.
I will, in fact, be eating over the sink. Listen, we all just have to be who we are, right? I’ve worked in enough restaurants to have ingrained this very particular habit into my life. Even at rest, at home alone with no one else to feed, I take comfort in eating scrambled eggs over the sink like I’m a short order cook on a double shift with five long tickets to fire. I don’t revel in this urgency but I do like that any crumbs fall into the sink. Key to a few meals over the sink each week is this cushy under sink mat which also makes washing dishes a bit more bouncy.
Can I lean on the counter, cook, and chat with friends at the table? Don’t close me off in the kitchen corner, I’d rather order Papa John’s pizza. The kitchen, and what we’re doing in it, is the main event mostly because I don’t want to miss any of the gossip. Pull up a stool, grab a lean at the counter, or sit at the table while I manage splattering oil on the stovetop. If I’m in the kitchen and you’re in my home, we’re in this meal together. It’s a community once you pass the threshold.
The countertop is for pie crust. Unless it’s for sitting in the early afternoon with a cup of tea. Either way I need a few unobstructed feet of smooth counter space. Let there be enough just space to make a mighty delicious mess.
A sink deep enough to hold a dirty dutch oven and dinner plates for four. Now, The Bakehouse New Orleans is a home for baking classes and dinner parties. Big ol’ Friendsgiving gatherings and classes with eight pies in the oven. The sinker cypress table (incidentally my prized possession) was meant for many. Every kitchen has its capacity plus a few. My current kitchen has a capacity of 4, plus another 4 if we’re feeling snuggly. Foundational to this kitchen space is a sink large enough to soak my gumbo pot and and stack at least 4 sets of dishes.
Other important elements include, a stool for my friends’ kids to help me bake, a rug for Tron to stretch out on, and a place on the countertop for my kitchen altar.
Those are the cornerstones (+1) of my current Houston kitchen space. A kitchen isn’t about the fanciest appliances or countertops filled with gear. It’s about how you want to feel in the space, sipping coffee as you stare out the window. It’s about how you want people to feel, dropping by for dinner – like there’s always space for them to just be and then leave dirty dishes in the sink.
To christen the space, I made a batch of Dad’s Best Chocolate Chip Cookies and I’m looking forward to settle into this baking season with you here with me.
More from Houston soon, friends!