I looked at this prompts for days and felt a blank. I do not have a good relationship with kitchens. I'm not much of a cook, baking is a horror show, and even the in-progress conversion of stained cabinets to faux is stalled with great regularity.
It surprises me sometimes, my lack of interest in kitchen arts. My sister loves to cook. My brother makes PIES, for heaven's sake. Me? I missed that particular gene when it was being handed out. I've often wondered why that was. I have a legacy of cooking and baking in my background. Mom was brilliant. She baked, create magic out of nothing and always set a good table. She even had the whole shopping thing figured out. Shop? My trips to the store are daily to decide what will be for dinner this night. Oh, and don't even get me started on my freezer. You know that old Las Vegas saying about what happens, stays? Well, when my freezer happens to a piece of meat, it stays. Thank God for the defrost option on microwaves. In fact, thank God for microwaves.
My dad's parents were both bakers and my mom's dad owned a restaurant so I really don't get it. I never knew my mom's parents but I have enduring kitchen memories from my dad's folks. The big bungalow house on Thayer St. in Rhinelander, WI actually holds a lot of memories for me but today the focus is the kitchen.
Gram and Gramp's kitchen was a huge space. It was completely open in the middle with cabinets, counters, appliances and windows circling the space. In the far corner a door opened to stairs equipped with over-the-head pantry storage space. The stairs lead down to the cellar complete with a coal schute, a classic monster-in-the-furnace furnace, and endless shelves filled with gramma's canned goods. But it was the upper space that held the sweetest memories.
I close my eyes and I can picture their huge metal flour bin rolling open, his metal flour scoop dipping in and filling the mixing bowl. Grampa would pull and push and kneed the dough to perfection, let it rise, do it again, let it rise again and ultimately make the most exquisite bread. After the bread was out, I would wait patiently while it cooled enough to slice and then he would present me with the heel of the warm bread all drenched and dripping with butter.
As a baking and kitchen story memory, it could all stop here and it would be perfection, but my gramps was also a wizard at making donuts and not just any donuts. You haven't had donuts until you enjoy them deep fried - golden crisp on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside. I trace my love for plain donuts to this memory. Present me with a plate of amazing fancy donuts and I will always reach for the unglazed old fashions and the buttermilk bars AND the donut holes. The last thing grandpa would always do it finish up by dropping the center of the cut dough into the vat of superheated cooking oil. To this day I will always think of hot donuts and holes left to set and release the excess oil into the brown paper bags he would lay out on the counter. And as a final flourish, he would sprinkle a few with confectionery sugar. But to this day, it is the plain ones with their luscious aroma and crisp texture that live in my memory.