A Final Thought: Remodeling the kitchen


By Mitch Allen

After 25 years in the same house, my wife and I are finally remodeling our kitchen. We knew it was time when our grandsons began peeling the plastic coverings off of our 1958-era cabinets which were re-faced years ago; that, and our ice maker had stopped working, the EPA was asking about the chemical spills under our kitchen sink, and for years we’ve been using the foyer closet as a pantry.

“Honey, have you seen my new scarf?”

“Did you look behind the Cheerios?”

Plus, our gas oven has always been too small to accommodate the average Thanksgiving turkey and—worse—the oven door blows open every time it ignites. This is a consistent occurrence that has developed within me a Pavlovian response: I salivate whenever I hear kaboom! because there may be Toll House cookies in my future.

Yeah, it’s time for a new kitchen.

For most of the past month, our kitchen has been an empty shell, gutted back to the four walls as workers removed soffits, sanded smooth the stippled ceiling, re-did the electrical wiring, and patched the drywall. As a result, my wife and I have been camping out in our own home. We have no oven, no cooktop, no microwave, and we wash dishes in the bathroom sink. Being unable to cook, our dirty dishes reflect only life’s absolute necessities: coffee cups and wine glasses.

As much as we love the outdoors, my wife and I are not campers. She believes “roughing it” is a three-year-old Holiday Inn, while I maintain that life is too short to eat off of paper plates. Even my daughters know this. When we have a picnic, one of them is certain to roll her eyes and ask, “Do we have a real china plate for Dad?”

It’s not that I’m a snob. I just don’t like how gravy, marinara, ketchup and other sauces soak into a paper plate, causing it to break down like toilet paper. Eating toilet paper is the cat’s job, not mine.

Yeah, I know, one doesn’t have this problem with Styrofoam plates, but I refuse to allow that particular evil into my life. Over the years I’ve developed my own rules governing evil, including who is going to heaven and who to hell. The damned include the inventors of Styrofoam packing peanuts and Ikea furniture, as well as the developer of the sport of fly fishing. Why fly fishing? Because it’s irredeemably masochistic. Participants are asked to tie a fishing line the width of a human hair onto a fly the size of, well, a fly, and do it without a magnifying glass while standing in the middle of a rushing river. It’s madness.

Conversely, those bound for heaven include the inventor of the Phillips-head screw, who, if there is any fairness in the world, is indeed some guy named Phillips.

Back to our kitchen: Although the workers have tried diligently to keep the dust down—including covering our kitchen doorways with plastic sheeting—it’s been a hopeless endeavor. Everything in our home is covered in a thick layer of drywall dust, including the animals.

“When did we get the new cat?” I asked my wife.

“What new cat?”

“The white one.”

“Oh, that’s Bacall. She’s still orange underneath.”

(I confess: we named our dog Bogart and our cat Bacall.)

With no kitchen, my wife and I are eating out—a lot. In fact, what we’re spending on the new kitchen pales in comparison to the cost of dining out two to three meals a day for what will likely be a full six weeks. And leftovers aren’t an option because we have no microwave, although I did try to heat up some leftover chicken wings on the warming plate of our Mr. Coffee coffee maker. It worked, but now our morning joe features notes of Frank’s Red Hot buffalo sauce.

Everything that was once stored in our kitchen cabinets is now spread around our dining room and study, such that our home resembles a flea market, complete with kitchen gadgets we haven’t used in years. Who knew we had a meat grinder and three aluminum bun warmers?

The good news is that the cabinets are now installed (sans the countertops and appliances) so my wife and I are beginning to get organized. I’m in charge of the spice cabinet. So far, I’ve found a jar of bouillon cubes that expired in 2004 and some saffron threads left over from the Reagan administration. I’m reluctant to throw away saffron because, by weight, it’s worth more than gold, frankincense and myrrh.

Speaking of which, have a happy holiday season—and enjoy your kitchen.


Editor’s note: Learn how Mitch’s remodeling project concludes in Mimi’s January 2020 issue.
Categories: Smart Living