Kitchen: Heart Of The Country Home

My kitchen was revamped after my husband died. A Vermont Casting wood stove had graced the old kitchen. When I was on my own I decided that I no longer could burn wood. My children would have to cut wood for me, and they were all very busy. It was not just the cutting either, the chimney would need to be cleaned.

I struggled with a new plan for my kitchen. There was also a hearth that had to be removed before I could add more cupboards in that area. If I left things the way they were configured I would have to use upper cupboards and get a custom countertop. I would not really gain much as far as cupboard or counter space.

I decided to do away with the chimney. I did not have to remove it; I just encased it and closed the opening. Once that was done I was ready to reconfigure the kitchen. My carpenter installed recessed lighting – something that was sorely needed for years. He also installed cupboards to create an ell in the kitchen. My stove found a new location.

Now, years later I am very pleased with my renovation. It is convenient and more spacious than the old layout. I have twice as many cupboards and double the counter space. My small kitchen is still a far cry from the monstrosities that I see created on television. I have a small, but very functional kitchen that is just right for me. It is more than adequate for all of the cooking and baking I do.

Part of that kitchen is devoted to my kitchen table. It is an antique table with five leaves. Actually, if I put in all five leaves it would be too large for the kitchen. The table was a gift from my grandfather. It came from his homestead. That table was part of their household as long as I remember and obviously much longer than that.

Grandpa told stories of his mother and father along with a brother and sister sitting around that table. Each of them had a special place to sit. Mostly the table had only one drop-leaf open so it was flat on one side. I remember the table at my great-grandfather’s house. It was painted with light green enamel paint.

I loved that old kitchen. There was a large wood burning/gas stove with a warming oven. There was also a large farm style sink with its own backsplash. Near the sink was an endless towel that was sewn together for efficiency. You pulled out the rod and inserted a new one when it needed to be washed.

The table was a prize to me. Grandpa told me that his parents had purchased it second-hand. My grandpa would have been over 100 by now so it is certainly old. When some cousins were visiting we found a date deep inside the table when we expanded it to accommodate the whole family. It was made in the 1800s.

Grandpa refinished it for us and added a polyurethane coat to make it water resistant. He was so happy that I wanted his family table. It had been left behind after all of the children had chosen what they wanted from great-grandpa’s house. It has been in my kitchen for the past 40 years. It has seen many family gatherings at Hickory Heights including two wedding celebration picnics. It has also served as a table for the grandchildren and me to play games.

When my husband was farming the table was very handy for those after haying meals. I just pulled up the drop-leaves and it seated eight to 10 comfortably. We always fed our haying crew before we sent them home. Frequently our meals were late. The hay field had to be cleaned off before we could eat.

My husband was full of fun. He loved the old table because it was on casters. I appreciated the casters because they allowed me to pull the table out easily whenever I needed it. He liked it because he could spin the table around moving everyone’s dinner. One of our employees did not like rice pudding so when I made that I always made something else for him. Dick thought it was great fun to spin the table so that he had a plate with rice pudding in front of him.

I miss those days. Everyone ate well and did not complain. It was good for our children to have the experience of older children in the hay field and at the table. The conversation was lively even though they had all worked hard that day.

Sometimes the twins down the road brought their musical instruments up to play after supper. They had guitars and a banjo. We listened to them play before the men took off to do the barn chores.

The table has also seen countless dozens of cookies. That is where we frosted and decorated our holiday cookies. It was convenient for the children because it was lower than the countertops. The grandchildren have many pictures taken around that table in their scrapbooks. Some of the pictures are of holiday celebrations while others are just days at grandma’s house.

Even though the children no longer need a babysitter, they enjoy a day with grandma. If they are all here we usually play games. There is a basketball hoop out back so we shoot baskets and play a game of pig. If they are here one at a time we do different things. The older two are interested in cooking so I have done some cooking and baking with them. It is fun for me to have someone to share cooking chores with as I pass on some of my recipes.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.