We live in the country and have a kitchen. It’s a cosy, colourful and practical corner of the house but fairly small and lacking somewhat in style, substance, pantry and bench space.
But because I write about cooking for a living and spend a good deal of time in country kitchens all over the place, I’ve developed (read enviously collated) a fair idea what makes one perfect (or close to), and guess what – it comes down to the five elements below. So here goes…
1. The table
A lovely old scrubbed wooden table can be the focal point of any kitchen (country or otherwise) and where most family activities seem to play out; from homework to feasts big and small, chopping, peeling and prepping ingredients for dinner, game playing for after dinner, spreading out the Saturday papers with room for the teapot and mugs, hours of puzzles and messy minutes rolling out biscuits, pasta and kneading dough.
2. A walk in pantry
Oh to have a walk in pantry. A space to, as the name suggests, walk in, stand there and see all your best platters, jars of preserves and lovingly labelled dry store containers all lined up in neat rows. The perfect walk in pantry would also have a spare fridge and chest freezer in case of emergencies (end-of-days-scale and otherwise – like you forgot to buy bread again), and a long shelf upon which, things like toasters, blenders, food processors and the like can live – plugged in, ready to go and never having to be shoved into a corner cupboard again.
3. The Kitchen desk
Right in the heart of things will be a neatly appointed desk. Here’s where your laptop will live, with a charging dock and hidey-holes for cords and charges and so on. There’ll be a shelf for your favourite cookbooks, and this little nook is where you’ll Google recipes then print out to cook right away. The drawers will be well-organised homes to hairbrushes, seed packets, ribbons, sticky tape and batteries. And there will be a neat pinboard for bills, garden plans, school notes and all the other important but so easily lost ephemera of household admin.
4. A wood-fired stove
Now this really is the stuff of country living dreams. We grew up with a big old Aga (though, it was coke-burning, a fairly unpopular choice these days I’d say) and it was the beating heart of our home. In winter, Mum would drape our pyjamas over the drying racks to warm them up after baths and before bed, while poddy lambs, old dogs and puppies would sleep at its feet. Porridge would be cooked just perfectly on its ever warm hob, the kettle would always be on the verge of boiling and the roast dinners it produced would just taste better. Agas, Rayburns and the like are not cheap (I’ve been saving for mine for a decade and not quite there yet) but if you can possibly swing it… DO.
5. The ‘wet’ area
Now this is the best bit. Anyone who has spent even one winter in the country will know about the piles of gumboots that appear at or just inside the back door throughout the day. And all about the mud that gets walked into the house constantly by family and visitors – no matter how many times you ask/plead people to remove boots before coming inside. So the dream country kitchen must surely be entered only through a well-designed little mud-room where boots can be removed and replaced with slippers. There would be a high pressure hose and gently sloped floor to wash out any mud, plus plenty of pegs to hang all those wet coats so they’re dry when needed next and a wide bench to sit on while all that gear is removed.
This article first appeared in Domain Living.