A blog experiment by Brad Mills.


Shedding new light in the kitchen

Life is stumbling along here. I focus a lot of my attention at home on the kitchen: meal preparation, morning coffee ready to go the night before (and such small pots of coffee), continuous — almost obsessive — cleanup, and hopefully some decent variety in the meals. Thankfully the eldest has learned the joys of salad, so that's a staple item for the most part, and that way we're getting some vegetables in instead of the typical protein plus carbs plus fat cycle which drives America. I feel like I kind of futz through getting home-cooked meals prepared night after night — more a matter of coordinating the timing than gross incompetence — but it is coming easier with time; either that or I'm getting used to it.

Earlier this week I found myself out amongst the unwashed masses looking for some measuring spoons, of all things. There used to be a nice metal set and a shitty metal set in a drawer in the kitchen and I ended up with the shitty set. They work, but they are a few hundred years old and a little corroded or something in spots. So, I am now the proud owner of a new set of hard plastic measuring spoons from a local dollar store. The cost: you guessed it, one dollar (and six cents tax).

Dividing the kitchen stuff was an odd process. There were numerous things we had duplicates of so that was pretty straightforward. Like funnels. We had exactly two funnels, so there was one for each. Mind you, I have no idea why there were ever two funnels to begin with, but whatever. Then for other things, let's just say there was a very nice collection of cookware in the kitchen once upon a time, and while some of it is still there, enough of it disappeared that there are some notable absences... like the nice can opener with the magic "cut along the edge and not along the top" feature, and the huge 12-inch Pampered Chef pan. The latter has been replaced by a T-Fal counterpart — can't bring myself to replace the can opener yet because there's a working one here already, though it's not quite as nice.

And with that, an interesting discovery, or perhaps rediscovery.

In the world of physical objects, I tend toward the "make do and make it work" side of the coin more often than not. I guess a part of this is from growing up in Southern West Virginia — it's very much ingrained in the culture. And, I'm guessing some of it is how I was raised. My parents were raised in the post-war and post-Depression environment of the 1950s and 1960s where "making do and making it work" and "waste not want not" had quite literally been ways of life for years. They raised me the same way to a certain extent despite the wanton consumerism of the 1980s. They still have and use, in fact, some of the things they had and used when I was a kid. There's an old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook with a red and white checkered tablecloth pattern on it, for example, with pages worn out in the Thanksgiving turkey section and the cookie section. There's a little yellow plastic pencil holder and office organizer thing which screams 1976 and which I suspect was indeed purchased in the bicentennial era. Perhaps at a Ben Franklin for a handful of change.

While cleaning the kitchen floor Monday I accidentally jammed the mop handle into the kitchen light fixture, leaving a big hole in the plastic cover. Installing that fixture was one of the first things I did when we* moved into the house because its predecessor was complete junk, looked like ass, and ate lightbulbs every other week. After the replacement it became kind of a point of pride: I did this. Over the years the new one became old, developed cracks, and yellowed. It never became part of the kitchen overhaul for some reason, I'm not sure why... I guess because it still worked and I saw no real need. Technically the fixture still worked with a hole in the cover too, but this sounded a lot like Fate whispering in my ear that a lesson was unfolding for me if I'd open up just a little.

So, a quick trip to Lowe's for a replacement. The new fixture is a good bit sturdier and matches the kitchen of today. It also has sockets for three regular lightbulbs instead of the funky T4 sockets in the old one. The kitchen is a lot brighter as a result, and the pong-p-p-p-pong sound of the ballast kicking those old oddly-shaped lights on has disappeared. Turn the switch, the light is on. It is quiet, clean, and bright.

The old fixture is out at the curb this evening to be hauled away with the trash tomorrow. And I've wondered over the last few days if we ever discussed that fixture and whether or not it should be replaced. I honestly can't remember. But I'm sure that ancient part of me who grew up in a "waste not want not" household would have balked at the suggestion, and perhaps even did. I am not in that household any longer, haven't been for many years. This sounds like a pattern in myself I need to break.

As the saying goes, you can't take it with you.

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