There's an old German saying that goes along the lines of, "Too many chefs spoil the soup." I don't know how long those old Germans have been spying into my kitchen ("Velly intelesting... but stoopid,") but as soon as I kick everyone else out, they're going to have to take down the observation posts and move along. Because there simply isn't enough room in our kitchen for all of us.
I have heard "experts" say that a well-designed kitchen should eliminate the number of steps you have to take to get from food storage areas to food prep areas to food cooking areas to cleaning areas. This, the experts say, saves you time and frustration.
The kitchen expert industry is apparently populated entirely by yetis, hermits and Howard Hughes. Domestic divas like Martha Stewart may have enough chill to keep people out of their efficiently built kitchens, but I guess I'm too approachable. Or I don't feed my family often enough. Because the minute I step into our tiny and efficiently designed kitchen, I am immediately blocked from every useful appliance by bodies.
"What are you doing?" my mother asks, standing in front of the refrigerator.
"Getting Lillian something to eat." I go to take a step toward the sink and trip on my toddler, who is holding up her sippy cup and saying, "juice!" Or "shoes". Or "horse". It's hard to tell at her age.
I turn to take a step toward the stove and find the dog lying there, his ears at half mast and head hung, because he knows he is going to be either stepped on or yelled at. At this point, the only thing in the kitchen that I can get to is the telephone.
Due to the high volume of phoned in complaints, CalTrans is currently examining a proposal to widen our kitchen and install passing lanes.
"What are you going to make her? There's nothing in the refrigerator but broccoli. And why are you yelling at the dog?"
I finish running the dog off and sending my daughter to play with a spatula only to come around the counter and see the dog and the toddler sneaking back into the kitchen from the other side, followed by the full sized German Shepherd, coming in to see why the smaller dog was getting yelled at. I am effectively boxed in again. "I'm going to make her..." The only thing within reach is a loaf of bread. "...toast."
"Why do you have so much broccoli if you never eat it?"
"Because it's good for you."
Some people just don't get the principals of good nutrition. Broccoli, like cabbage or Brussels sprouts, is a cruciferous vegetable. This means it's high in fiber, contains cancer-fighting oxidants, and can be used as a magical talisman to ward off the evil spirits of Empty Calories and Malnutrition. Virtuous people often keep a bunch or two of broccoli in the refrigerator, so that the Angel of Obesity will pass over the house. It's like hanging braids of garlic to keep vampires away. You don't eat it. Duh.
"Look," I say, gritting my teeth and stepping over one of the dogs. I have to brace myself on the counter tops like a gymnast to avoid falling onto my daughter, who is brushing the dog with the spatula, and because the only place to put my feet is currently underneath the other dog, who is licking the dishes on the counter that I haven't put into the dishwasher yet because even though it is two feet away, I cannot reach it. "Can I help you with anything?"
My mother looks down her nose at me, only mildly offended. "No, I just came in to use the telephone. You're in my way. And your daughter is trying to tell you she's thirsty. Either that or she's invoking ancient Greek gods."
Lillian looks up at me and shakes the sippy cup urgently. "Mommy, Zeus!"
"Hey," my husband greets us, coming into the kitchen from the opposite side and stretching so he can reach around me to dump grocery bags over every square inch of the counter. I now have nowhere to rest my hands to vault over dogs and children. It's like Twister, but with knife drawers and hot surfaces. "I'm back from the store." He stops to give me a significant look and says, "I bought broccoli."
Thank God. With everyone else in here, there's just not enough room for the Angel of Obesity to try to wedge in, too. If only my husband had brought home something to ward off family members, this little efficiently designed kitchen might have a chance to live up to its name.
This article first appeared in the Manteca (Calif.) Bulletin.