"That's me in Chicago, circa 1988 or 1989. I was either making brownies or chocolate cake with my mom. In one of the pictures I'm doing more sampling than cooking, but that's half the fun, right?" - Alison Fitch
A few weeks ago I wrote a piece called Coming Home to My Mother's Kitchen. I asked readers to send me photographs of them in their childhood kitchens, the spaces where they first learned to cook and to love food. The emails poured in. Readers sent images and long, flowing memories of cooking at home. They were such intimate offerings to me, a stranger; almost like love letters.
It was Thanksgiving when I first wrote the piece, and so I thought of this experience in terms of gratitude and thankfulness. That stays with me. But now, as the holidays and a new year come barreling down the calendar and I flip through these images, I'm revisiting this notion of the kitchens where we first learned to love food. While the sense of gratitude still thrives within, I'm now also thinking about how simple these rooms are and yet what richness they produce amidst such functionality and simplicity.
Most of us start young; children in kitchens can even embrace the joy of organizing the drawers or doing dishes, and for this I think of Tara Austen Weaver, above.
This week my daughter and I spent time in our little city kitchen — her kitchen, really, — dipping our toes into what is sure to be a few weeks of amped-up cooking for the holiday break. I warmed the house by braising some short ribs and we made a batch of salt dough ornaments for the tree. She perched on her knees on a stool, wrapped in an apron, flour-dusted and nourished.
I think of Melissa Clark and her first dough-rolling experiences, above. I also think of our own dear Emma Christensen, below.
It's not until we actually cook our own food and watch the magic happen that we fully love food. At least that's what I believe, and that is what was confirmed to me when my readers and colleagues wrote to tell me about the kitchens of their youths.
And so, with generational cooking, humble kitchens and the spirit of gathering on my mind, I share with you some of my favorite images from our readers of their childhood kitchens and hope that it kicks off your end-of-year cooking with a memory of the place where you first truly and madly fell in love with food.
(Images: Via our readers and a few esteemed colleagues. Thank you.)