My chef father may have cooked in the kitchen, but he maintained a small office area in the pantry. Here he could sit with his morning coffee and peruse cookbooks for new ideas. He kept a pad and pencil for jotting down ideas and even articles he wished could someday write. (He yearned to be a writer, not a chef. I write for a living, but hope to become an accomplished cook.)
After reading Lydia's Oct. 12 post at The Perfect Pantry — in which she poses the question, "When you think of a pantry, what comes to mind?" — I started thinking about that kitchen office. Our pantry was large and had built-in, floor-to-ceiling shelves on one side of a long narrow room. At the end was a high window and a counter. The window overlooked a gravel driveway and our backyard. There my father pulled up his high stool.
Unwittingly, I created the same sort of perch for myself when I bought a high stool that can be pulled up to the kitchen counter. My own window overlooks a copse of cedar trees and a 110-year-old horse-and-buggy barn (pictured above).
In spring and summer I can watch birds of all kinds at the feeders or in the copper birdbath. In fall, I watch the garden turn to russet and gold and often see migrating birds flying above. One cold day I spotted a group of trumpeter swans undulating across the sky.
In winter, I watch cardinals, chickadees and juncos eat the sunflower seeds I put out for them. There are plenty of squirrels and rabbits but also the occasional wild turkey or fox.
It is a relaxing place to sit and dream, to conjure up new recipes or even pay bills. I expect it was for my father too.
15 October 2006
21 June 2006
Although I have a few herbs in the perennial garden south of the horse barn, I also grow herbs in pots on my deck. It is a sunny but private spot. It draws sun from the south and west but is shielded by a line a maple trees and a thicket of juniper. Virgina creeper clinging to the lattice work adds to the sense of privacy.
It is the perfect place to enjoy a summer evening. I head out there around 7 p.m., with a stack of garden or cookbooks. I light punk sticks, which keep bugs at bay and fill the air with woodsmoke. I might read, but I mostly dream and give thanks that the world is so beautiful.
If the day is warm, I'll bring an iced green tea with lemon and perhaps a sprig of lemon basil or mint.
I love to hear the nightjars and robins as dusk falls. Often a bird will find a perch at the crest of the old horse barn. The sight of one of these lovely creatures silhouetted against the robin's egg blue of the sky enchants me. Sometimes a heron will fly overhead or an egret or a skein of Canada geese.
Because of the herbs, the deck looks and smells wonderful. The green foliage in terra cotta pots against the deeper redwood stain on the deck is lovely to look at. I also keep herbs on my side porch where they can catch the morning sun and complement the red geraniums, but the deck is my real herb garden. I can step outside in the morning and snip fresh chives for my eggs and find fresh basil for my tomatoes in the evening.
Crushing a sprig of lavendar or rosemary in my fingers, I am reminded of the descriptions of herbs in "The Country of the Pointed Firs," by Sarah Orne Jewett. It is not French, but it is perfect reading for a summer night.