I am a collector of cookbooks, recipes torn from the pages of the Post & Courier, handwritten instructions from Momma on how to cook certain things, years and years of Bon Appetite magazine ~ pages dogeared… just in case I might cook one day. I am a foodie who doesn’t eat duck, foi gras, or anything well, you know “adventurous.” A super fan of Top Chef since season 1 when Dave said to Tiffani, “I’m not your bitch, bitch.” I follow food bloggers (Basil & Bubbly is one of my favorites) and I have multiple food apps on my phone. My favorite seat in a restaurant is the one where you watch the kitchen, the chefs do their magic. My favorite saying is, “Thank You Chef!”
Somewhere along the way though, inspite of my love for all things cooking, I quit cooking, really cooking. And if I did cook, it was usually a meal we grazed on all week. And it was me following a recipe exactly, no deviations, no pinch of this or that, but measuring each ingredient precisely as if I would be breaking a rule to change it. And me being so exhausted after cooking, that I wanted to treat myself by going out dinner.
When we had the chance to completely renovate the kitchen in the 100 year old family home we restored, it was an easy choice to modernize. And as bad as the kitchen looked in the “before” stages of the project, I had very fond memories of this kitchen, this kitchen where it all started. My grandmother’s kitchen, her mother’s kitchen before her.
As I planned the new layout for the kitchen, I knew I wanted subway tile, a farmhouse sink, and to repurpose cedar from a cedar closet. The rest of it came to me as the renovation unfolded. I used the oyster as my inspiration for my color palete (greys and whites), selected Pearl for the cabinet color, Alabaster (2016 color of the year) for the wall color (SW 7008), Fantasy Brown quartzite for the counters, and Restoration Hardware pendants. What I didn’t quite realize was how wonderfully spacious this kitchen would be. It took a friend, upon seeing the finished product, asking, “do you cook that much?” for me to realize this kitchen needed a cook in it (again).
Then something else happened over the holidays, something transformative. I started to cook like my Momma and Ma (my grandmother). First, I got out the cast iron skillet, just like the one my grandmother used (if not the one….), to make her famous french toast and crispy bacon. Then, Thanksgiving ~ making many dishes just as my Momma would. Then, planning a holiday party, I made dishes like our parents had at their holiday parties: cheese straws, crab dip (recipe from the Trawler restaurant), pickled shrimp, and pecan sands to name a few. Then New Year’s Eve Day, hoppin john, collards, corn pudding. And I noticed something. I wasn’t following a recipe. I was adding a pinch of this and a pinch of that (as was Mommas way). I was adding flavor, tweaking the recipe, playing in the kitchen. Wow. This was different for me, and fun.
My earliest memories of yummy, buttery, sugary food was from this house. And as my sister recounted her favorites, I remembered even more dishes and now understand why certain foods are real comfort foods to me: gingerbread with lemon sauce, cinnamon toast, egg on toast, and red rice. So, as we cooked and shared food in this home during our first holiday season, this kitchen was christened. Christened with the memories of food and love and reminding me of something that I forgot I love to do, cook … and still go out to dinner. I mean, we live in Charleston for goodness sake…!
Professional photographs (after photos) by Gillian Ellis Photography.