Style and Sustenance

At the kitchen sink, while rinsing raspberries for breakfast, I find two leaves in the bottom of the plastic container and fleetingly imagine they were placed there to convince buyers of the fruit’s authenticity — that it indeed came from bushes and not some conglomerate food lab.

Thoughts wander as we take in the window scene with the white-noise backdrop of the faucet’s spray.

In a world rife with frauds and virtual imagery, one might be forgiven for suspecting their breakfast berries grew in a test tube rather than under the sun amid the branches of a rural bramble.

Kitchens are places where we don’t expect to be fooled. They exist so we can make our own food and drink. Kitchens are where we experience our sustenance from raw material to plate.

Most of us know people who have enviable kitchens they rarely use, except for hosting catered affairs and warming coffee in the microwave. (Does zapping really destroy the flavor in our morning cup?)

For the majority of us, though, the rooms with plumbing are the most important. Like planets in the universe, only those with liquid water support life, as we know it. At home, that life includes birthday cakes and favorite casseroles from the oven. No wonder kitchens are where we hang out at parties.

Given that kitchens are nearly as essential as breathing, it’s remarkable that their design is so reflective of prevailing trends.

As I read once, the more men like something, the more nicknames they have for it. Think about it.

We love kitchens. They’re our adult sand boxes, where we have permission to make a mess. Why not honor that affection with some attention (and updating) — so long as the outcome reflects their true role in our lives?

The dream kitchen for one local chef includes a Japanese-style grill because his young children loved eating at a nearby Benihana restaurant. Another homeowner says she likes her space because it’s not “too perfect.” And the mistress of a new contemporary kitchen made sure her designer included space for an heirloom farmhouse-style sideboard that takes her back to childhood, when the buffet occupied her grandparents’ home — just as stowaway raspberry leaves are reminiscent of the garden patch.

What’s real can get lost in the effort to polish a space.

Evidence of humanity makes the difference. As an avid collector told me recently, purchasing a handcrafted object with a steep price can be worth eating peanut butter and jelly for a year. For him, art is sustenance, an essential for living.

Astronomers may search long and far to find a “habitable zone” for distant living. The planet Kepler-22b reportedly has liquid water on its surface of the sort that might support humans. But why not just stay home — in the kitchen?