Op/Ed

Jessie Raymond: A ‘great kitchen reckoning’ awaits

“So, did Mark get your kitchen done?”

People say this to me all the time. They love to goad me into a rant about how it took him four years to finish the pantry (as if I wouldn’t bring it up unprompted within five minutes anyway).

Mark started the kitchen months ago. And no, it’s not done yet. But this time, as he likes to point out, it’s not his fault.

In fact, he and his crew got most of the demolition done in a few days. Then, with my help in the form of moral support, he spent every weekend all spring toiling away. But we still don’t have countertops.

“Ah. COVID supply-chain issues,” everyone says.

No.

The countertops are late because the cabinets were delayed. “Ah. COVID supply-chain issues,” everyone says again.

No.

The cabinets were delayed because they got lost in transit. They left the warehouse one day, and that was it. No one knew where they were. I suspected the freight truck driver had been robbed at gunpoint by desperadoes who planned to sell our soft-close drawer slides on the dark web. But the truth was less exciting.

One day, a worker came upon the cabinets in a truck that had been parked in the warehouse, unnoticed, for almost five weeks. Note: That’s an extra five weeks that my kitchen appliances and supplies were spread out over four rooms. I’m still bitter.

Eventually, the cabinets did arrive. And in spare moments, Mark installed them one by one, until now, if you squint at the plywood currently serving as countertops and ignore the temporary sink setup and the lack of backsplash tile, it kind of looks like I have a finished kitchen.

What really matters is that the space functions the way a well-designed kitchen should. Most people don’t appreciate the little luxuries, like having their pots and pans in the same room as their stove. But I do. Cooking a meal no longer feels like Hannibal’s campaign over the Alps.

Now, however, I’ve reached a point I call “Kitchen Reno: The Reckoning.” When this project started, I moved our less frequently used kitchen stuff upstairs. Now it’s time to sort through it and determine what to put back in the kitchen and what to get rid of. As a believer in the saying “Clutter is just unmade decisions,” I am paralyzed.

It was fun moving the dishes and silverware into their new homes. The fun ended with the six-inch springform pan I bought two years ago for a baby’s first birthday cake. Would I use it again? Doubtful. Should I keep it, just in case? Probably. Did I want to devote precious cabinet space to it? Hm.

“I’ll just hang onto it for now,” I told myself, “and decide later.”

This has been my conclusion every time I assess the kitchen goods that occupy the liminal space between possibly useful and unneeded.

One giant tote is overflowing with something we rarely use: paper products. Where did these come from? My environmental guilt about waste has grown so overpowering that even during the most inconvenient points of the renovation, I refused to eat off disposable plates. I don’t even use paper towels anymore (except, of course, to clean up dog barf).

Yet I own enough paper plates and napkins, representing a full range of holidays and birthday themes, to host a Super Bowl — not a party, mind you, but an actual Super Bowl.

I found three nearly full sleeves of disposable coffee cups with lids, some of which I recall purchasing for a huge cookout 11 years ago. I know we’ll never use them, but I’d sooner smack talk Greta Thunberg than toss them in the landfill.

I have a jelly strainer I used once in the early 2000s. I have mismatched cake pans of all shapes and sizes. I have orphaned chopsticks and novelty cookie cutters. And they will remain stacked in the Giant Pyramid of Uncertainty on the guest bed until I figure out whether and when and how to let them go.

Barring a countertop mishap, the kitchen space itself will be completed by early August. And for once I can’t blame Mark for the delay.

But the kitchen reckoning in the spare room is going to drag on indefinitely. And that, as Mark keeps saying, is on me.

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