It was the kitchen I fell in love with first. I looked around at its pale maple floors, soft blue cabinets and comforting, bum-warming Aga and thought ‘one day, this kitchen will be mine’. It helped, of course, that I really fancied its owner.
I’d met him some months earlier at a birthday party held by one of my oldest friends at her father’s house in Suffolk. I thought I’d met all her family at one time or another but her eldest brother somehow slipped through the net. Our eyes met over a length of piping (to Sarah’s silent rage her dad had inveigled half her helpers into laying a new drainage ditch in the garden) and I was a goner.
He invited me to his kitchen-warming party. He’d always said he’d have a house-warming when he finished the kitchen and as the house was a wreck when he bought it and he was doing most of the work himself in his free time, it took 15 years. I was about to head off to India for a month and unknown to me he moved the date so I could come, but as he ignored me for most of the night to carry out his hostly duties I assumed he wasn’t interested, snogged one of his friends and slunk home alone.
That kitchen, though. Hmmm.
I’d gone with a friend to see a psychic and she’d asked me if the name Robert meant anything to me. As my brother is called Robert, I’d dated a Robert when I lived in Ireland, had briefly lived with another in a disastrous early relationship and had just met this one, naturally I said ‘no’. She also said she saw me living in a house with a blue kitchen and wooden floors, near water. The only water at my new Robert’s house came from the tap but I dug a big hole for my scepticism and buried it. We were obviously fated to be together.
I moved into a flat round the corner, which I promise was a genuine coincidence. I wasn’t stalking him. Much.
We got together as a couple and he helped me turn an eccentric apartment into a home. He built my loft bed, my sofa, my bookshelves and more shelves in the kitchen to hide the fact that the shower was in there (I know). We cooked our first meals together there. In the kitchen, I mean, not the shower. That would be foolish. He still talks about the time I got called into work unexpectedly one night and left him stirring a chutney for hours. Let’s face it, though, his kitchen was better than my kitchen so when the landlord upped the rent I moved in with him.
To cut to the chase (I did all the chasing) we ended up married and cooking together for many years in that beautiful blue kitchen. We held some memorable parties. Granted, not everyone could actually remember much afterwards, thanks to the potency and frequency of the cocktails. One shindig was such a crush two friends, strangers to one another, were forced into close proximity for most of the night. We got a thank you at their wedding.
We hosted many entertaining meals, including the one where a friend sent a thank you note afterwards saying she’d had a smashing time. I’d broken a lot of glasses that day. Not my fault, honest, they just kept jumping off the shelf. Wine may have been taken. Then there was the time I took a dessert out of the oven using a bendy spatula, the pud performed a perfect somersault, landed face down and spattered all over the kitchen. I was scraping bits of dried frangipane off the cupboards for weeks. Mostly, though, the meals were memorable for all the right reasons. Good times.
It was a wrench to leave that kitchen so when we moved to Suffolk we built a new one. It’s blue and a stream runs past it. Maybe the psychic was the real deal after all.
Further reading on love, life, cooking and kitchens:
In The Kitchen: Essays On Food and Life, multiple authors including Rachel Roddy, Ruby Tandoh, Yemisi Aribisala, Mayukh Sen (Daunt Books)
Small Fires: An Epic In The Kitchen Rebecca May Johnson (Pushkin Press)
The Gastronomical Me MFK Fisher (Daunt Books)