Op/Ed

Jessie Raymond: The confused cook can’t keep up

Our kitchen renovation has barely started, and already the stress is getting to me.
It’s not just because of the money we’re spending or all the decisions that have to be made. It’s because things aren’t where they used to be.
My brain can’t take it.
To be fair, I moved some things sooner than necessary, just in case. Mark is really busy, so he only does work on our house on short notice, when he can carve out a few hours here and there. That means instead of putting our kitchen on his schedule, he’s doing it more by ambush.
It’s always been this way. When he redid our home office, for example, he called to say he was on his way home and I’d better remove anything important, and fast. Fifteen minutes later, he kicked the door open, fire in his eyes and a freshly honed pry bar in his hand, and within an hour the home office was but a former tax deduction.
He’s been hinting about showing up in a similar manner when it comes to the kitchen, so this time, I prepared: I emptied the short run of cupboards attached to the first wall he intended to tear down.
I sorted through all my cake pans and muffin tins and assorted kitchenware and determined what things I could safely put in storage for the time being. Those I packed in boxes and shoved under the bed in the guest room.
I soon found myself pulling boxes out from under the bed in the guest room. I use the flour sifter twice each decade; how could I have known I’d need it the very next day?
Over the course of a week, a similar process played out several times. I learned that if you’re ever considering giving away your rarely used cookie press, food mill or popover pan, if you put it in storage, suddenly it’ll be your most vital kitchen item. And the urgency with which you need it will be directly correlated to how far it is under your guest room bed.
If that was an annoyance, the crisis was when I moved the silverware to a drawer in the current island (which will be staying in place for now).
The silverware is a mere 42 inches from where it lived for the last 15 years. But it might as well be in France.
A dozen or so times a day, I open the former silverware drawer, find nothing and then pause to ponder (a) why the drawer is empty, (b) why I opened it in the first place and (c) where the silverware might have gone.
I expected to be confused the first day or two. But I thought I’d catch on after a week.
I did not.
When I tell my friends, they laugh and say, “Senior moment!” No. I’ve been having senior moments since I was a senior in high school. I’m not forgetful; it’s just that my brain runs far ahead of my body like a puppy, darting off the path at every new sight, sound or scent.
At 6 a.m., when I reach for a spoon, I’m not thinking about stirring my coffee. I’m thinking about whether I should defrost a chicken for supper and what ever happened to that little girl on the Shake ’n Bake commercial who said, “And I helped!”
I’ve got a lot on my mind.
Then, as if the silverware issue didn’t throw me off enough, last weekend Mark ended up tearing out a different wall, which meant we had to take down the wall clock that had been there for 15 years.
You can see where this is going.
Normally, I glance at the clock while I’m cooking dinner to gauge when to preheat the oven or whether it’s acceptable to pour a glass of wine yet.
Now I’m completely lost.
Instead of checking any of the myriad devices in the house that have their own clocks — including the oven — I forget why I even looked at the wall. I resign myself to carrying on without knowing the time.
Maybe, as the weeks go by, I’ll remember where the silverware is and check that blank wall less often. But at the moment, I spend a good portion of my day wandering around my Twilight Zone kitchen, where space and time have no meaning. 
It’s no way to live, even for a month or two, but I can’t seem to let go of my old habits. So instead, I’m developing various coping skills; for instance, avoiding meals that require utensils. Tonight, I’m making pizza.
What time we’ll be eating, however, is anyone’s guess.

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