my new kitchen: the island

Ever since we bought this house fourteen years ago, the plan was to put a large island in the kitchen. Just, we never got around to it. There were other, more pressing things to tend to, and I wasn’t in any rush, really. My kitchen was fully functional. We had a makeshift island (the table that my husband had built for our previous house’s kitchen), plus I had the back hall pantry for all my extra kitchen appliances and groceries, and the hutch for dishes and canned food. If I never got the island, so what.

Then three years ago, my husband started to build the island. It was supposed to be a surprise for my birthday (I learned later), but when I wandered into the barn one day and asked him what he was working on, instead of stalling or lying, he told me the truth, and, once I knew what he was doing, it took all the fun out of the making (or so he claimed) and he stopped working on it. For the next three years, the frame of the island sat in his barn, taking up space.

And then late summer, he started to work on it again. I pretended it wasn’t happening but, out of the corner of my skeptical eye, I watched as he made drawers, painted, and then began to build the island top. I’d decided on a butcher block top, so he painstakingly stripped the wooden planks (cherry boards he’d gotten years ago from a science professor at the university where he’d been working at the time, plus a few boards that he had to buy) and then stood them on their sides and glued them together in sections — a ridiculously time-consuming, laborious process.

A week ago Saturday, my husband finally installed the island and countertop AND WE WERE SO HAPPY.

But then the next morning we discovered — o horrors! — that the sealer didn’t work properly: when the surface got wet, it became rough. My husband suffered an immediate existential crisis so severe that the rest of us promptly split for church, leaving him to wallow in lakes of self pity and misery alone. (He later told me that, in a fit of frustration, he hauled the entire top back out to the barn by himself, never mind his recent hernia surgery, because he couldn’t stand to have it in his kitchen for one more second.)

temp top

He temporarily installed one of the tops of the tables we use for making doughnuts so I’d have a place to work, and all last week was spent re-sanding and re-sealing the top (thank goodness for wood-working friends who know about miracle products).

Then this past Saturday, he re-installed the finished countertop. This time, for real.

It is absolutely stunning, silky smooth, richly colored, and, what with all the different wood grains and colors, interesting to look at.

For now, I’m not chopping on it directly, but maybe, over time, as the shiny newness fades, I will. 

We’ll see.

The island itself is utterly massive, a true workhorse. It’s not completely done yet — the electricity isn’t hooked up and it’s missing two doors and a couple hooks (for towels, my cooling rack, etc), and outlet covers — but it’s getting there!

All week long, I slowly, slowly, slooooowly worked at filling my island drawers. Mostly, this involves lots of thinking. I ask myself, What are the things that I most often leave the kitchen for? and then I rack my brain, trying to dredge up every situation in which I step off the tiled floor for something — the little white dishes in the hutch, the bags of rice and jugs of oil in the back hall, the popcorn maker and food processor, etc — and where, in my new kitchen, they logically belong. 

pie and cake baking
starch drawer: bread, crackers, pasta, beans
water bottles
all thing for chopping, blending, mixing, ricing

Now that I have space, I’m trying to spread out the work stations so we’re not always jammed into the same corner. Mostly, this means moving the cereal, bread, and lunch fixings closer to the fridge area and clearing out the drawers by the stove for all baking and cooking.

A couple other island highlights:

A cabinet for my kitchen aid, with a pull-out shelf!

The soft-close mechanism allows me to just pull two levers and the whole thing glides gently back into the cupboard, suh-wheet!

A bottle opener! It’s totally unnecessary but it does add a delightful touch of whimsy.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (11.12.18), unleashing the curls!, George Washington Carver sweet potato soup with peanut butter and ginger, butternut squash galette with caramelized onions and goat cheese, maple roasted squash, pumpkin cranberry cream cheese muffins, mashed sweet potatoes.


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