Joan and Jim live in the hills of Santa Barbara, California, in a Spanish-style home with lots of natural light and a luscious garden. From the vantage point of the kitchen sink, one can take in the Old growth oak trees and a myriad of succulent plants. It's a gorgeous room within an equally lovely setting. Joan is a remarkable cook, often serving fruit pies with the recipient's name emblazoned across the top surface, cut carefully from the dough as well as meat balls the size of your head. Her Midwestern upbringing provides the backbone to most of her meals, an unusual and delightful change of pace form the Southern California focus on salad, salad and more salad.
The kitchen we see here today has as much style as it does functionality. A collection of fire orange Le Creuset pots are put to use on a daily basis for soups and braises, as well as whimsical vintage wine glasses for swishing lemonade and wine. The humor of the owners is visible in quirky items such as a an old first aid kit (nothing in it, just a fabulous tin box!), a plastic frog resting by the kitchen sink, goofy spoons and original, comical artwork hanging around. This is a fabulous place for cookery, a kitchen where if you come around often, you may be lucky enough to feast on a perfectly roasted chicken followed by a peach pie with your name on it.
10 Questions for Joan and Jim (and Their Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
Inviting 6 – 8 close friends and colleagues who likewise engage the delights of preparing and consuming and exclaiming over home–based cooking efforts.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
A small slotted spatula with rippled bend between the spat and handle; a gift from my childhood friend, a terrific cook plus discussant of excellent cuisine.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
For what occasion I remember naught, I presented a magnificent whole salmon, prepared in a proper 'made–in–France' fish poaching casserole — an elongated, metal diamond vessel with fitted lid that is lovely in of itself.
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
My stove has only one oven, but thanks be to the gods it has a separate broiler.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
Wish I'd thought to insert a food warming tray in the middle of the oval, wood topped counter that stands in the middle of our kitchen. Where I frequently serve dinner, country–style, as guests gather round to load their plates.
6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen:
A beautiful wood paneled ceiling.
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
An astounding new–age, eco efficient, built in second oven.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
As from scratch as possible, but with a busy family lifestyle we try and keep it in perspective if we can't get the tomatoes put up some years.
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
From a fabulous cook, a French friend and neighbor: don't over use seasonings to dress up food; avoid conflicting seasonings in dishes prepared for same meal; recognize spices from smell as well as how they combine with ingredients.
10. What are you cooking this week?
I want to make a buttermilk pie variously called Chess Pie or Transparent Pudding; plus an aromatic, deeply satisfying, winter–beef–stew.
• Visit Joan's site: Joan Tanner
• Fridge: Amana
• Oven: vintage Wedgewood (from when we moved into the house, 1961)
• Calendar plastered onto cabinets: vintage, from France
We're always looking for real kitchens from real cooks.
Submit your kitchen here.
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)