A Kitchen of Culture, Life, And Conversation


May 10, 2015

The kitchen is a favorite room of mine. Hard to imagine it isn’t everyone’s. Good food, good company, and good talk roll over the counter top and fill the house. Not a big room, but open with movement between kitchen and dining is hardly noticeable.

Our home is a back door home. That is, it is one of those homes that a knock on the front door means someone has arrived who has not visited before. After the first visit folk come to the back door. The back door leads straight into the kitchen, so it naturally the homes main room. Which suits us just fine. Folk soon learn that when we are expecting them to give a quick knock, walk in and walk in and grab a cup of coffee or tea—if we’re out in the pasture we’ll show up before too long. The kitchen/dining space is space where friends and neighbors sit laugh, argue, converse, and eat good food.

Spring break groups often have a stint or two in the kitchen. Spring means March, which means wind that blows so hard an outside conversation is next to impossible. During the summer, groups hang out in the barn and converse, but the barn is full of hay and equipment in the spring. So the kitchen fills up with thirty folk and we talk about justice in the landscape.

Every once in a while a group leader contacts me and together we will work to develop a unique spring break. A few years ago a pastor in Watsonville, California called and we developed a spring break where the kitchen stimulated the weeks conversation.

Each day the community baked or fried a cultural bread. Each bread: Wheat bread, fry bread, tortillas, etcetera promoted conversations on culture and we folk carry have different worldviews. The type of bread, its ingredients, and its making helped folk to think about how bread is reflective of a people’s poverty and prosperity. Bread also allowed for conversations of life and death, wants and needs, hopes and fears. One in particular, the panaderia of Dia de los Muertos opened conversation about death and how we think and react to it from our different worldviews—a conversation that is often avoided by youth and adults alike.

Conversations of heritage rise in a cloud of flour dust that settles on the counter, floor, and hair. Bread making allow youth and elders laugh together in the telling of stories often left forgotten or untold. Folding and kneading allow youth to hear elder stories with surprise as to how close they are to their own. Before long youth and elders put behind them the social falsehood that their youth experiences are fundamentally different and find what matters to a fifteen-year-old in 1960 is the same as in 2015. For all the modern technology—phones, videos, games—what matters for youth—what hurts and what gives great rejoicing—is the same stuff as what mattered to their teenage parents and grandparents.

Each room of our home has its own story. The kitchen though is often one of good food, good thought, good conversation, and good community.

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