Requiem For A Kitchen

The cocina is the heart of the house

By Al Carlos Hernandez
Published on LatinoLA: June 9, 2003

Requiem For A Kitchen

It?s been about four weeks since the work began in completely remodeling our kitchen and I am starting to lose my identity. The kitchen for us is the center of the house, command central, crisis central, la mesa?

Over the last few weeks it has been gutted down to the bare rafters. Even the floor was taken up!

Out with the old and in with the new.

We find ourselves in a house makeover purgatory, hoping soon the end will be in sight, and the discomfort was worth it. If the kitchen plastic cosmetic surgery renovation continues to run behind schedule, we may need a tummy tuck and an intervention.

The construction is now over halfway completed. Only now see the creative vision. Until then, all I saw were the Home Depot receipts.

In my mind's eye I still know where everything was, what was in the fridge, magnets of our travels on the light mustard colored double door. The 1960s oven which we could only use the top because the bottom part broke during the Olympics. They couldn?t fix it because no one still stocked the groovy parts. The gas stove that you had to light by hand, and the time my son stood too close and caught the back of his tank top on fire and circled the house 17 time before the flame when out.

We had an honored place for Mamatita?s huge church pot luck, pots, the comals, my favorite fork, the spice cabinet, the place where the pan dulce lived and the cookie jar.

Our contractor is a great guy, a skilled artist perfectionist from the old country. Once he put a roof on the house and was convinced that you can land a helicopter on it. He over builds things tough so that they will last. This kitchen will have the girth of a Sherman tank, but thanks to the decorating acumen of my wife it will look like a Bentley Azure.

Adapting to our comedia disarray has been disastrous; we are forced to buy pre-prepared food every night. If and since you are what you eat, then for the last few weeks I am a Ham-burglar eating Chinese, Italian, Soulful guy with a propensity to frequent Jewish delis.

It?s been our practice over the last ten years not to eat fast foods. There is always a fresh pot of beans, fresh green salads, rice and poultry, and nothing fried, dyed or boiled into elasticity. In the beginning we tried to improvise some hot meals on paper plates not realizing that we had to wash the dishes in the hall bathroom. We now have several take out joints on speed dial.

I was forced by peer pressure to turn my home office into a kitchenette of sorts, housing the microwave, a crock pot, toaster, the coffee maker, the silverware and drinking glasses. The set up reminds me of my college days living in a studio type arrangement, typing on a manual typewriter hoping that someday my writing would get me somewhere.

There are two guys in the crew, three if you include the jefe, all of whom are monolingual Spanish. They treat me with extreme deference as a Don Carlos as it were, but have no idea what I do. They suspect it is something very important. They are wrong.

They also have some suspicions; they can?t figure how one manages to work at home, like a woman, spending time playing with a computer driving some outrageous cars, then racing around town like a manic on a custom chopper. Although I am not truly bi-Lingual the words Gangster and Mafioso has been bantered about under their breath.

What these guys don?t realize it that I am very impressed at their ability to do something real that will last. It is incredible to me how they can measure, construct with an eye on the aesthetic and see the final outcome of something functionally wonderful that will stand the test of time. They know how to do electrical, plumbing, carpentry, tile. At the end of the day they take pride in a job well done, they can see the progress towards a definitive goal, the work of the day meant something.

I know how to copy paste and comment.

The kitchen will stand the test of time, but because of what writers do, ten of thousands are going to know about it and be proud of them.

About Al Carlos Hernandez:
Al Carlos is a national columnist, screenwritier and aspiring cook.

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