A Bad Case of Kitchen Envy

Recently I learned something new about myself.

Something I hadn’t realized I was even capable of, and it is rather embarassing.

It’s certainly not anything I’m very proud of.

But it’s true. In the interest of personal improvement and being completely honest with myself, I have to own up to it.

I suffer from a bad case of kitchen envy.

There, I said it.

I have every reason to believe that it is situational. Let me explain.

As I’ve mentioned before, living space is at a premium in many parts of the world in general (Europe, for example), and particularly so in the Netherlands.

Add to that the fact that many of us live in older dwellings. Older is a relative term. In the US you live in an older home if it’s more than 75 years old. Here, that’s considered a rather youthful abode. Many live in homes 175 or 275 or even 375 years old.

We rent what’s referred to as a hundred year old ‘rijtjeshuis’ here in The Hague. In the US we’d refer to the three-story home, one of a row of some 30+ connected to each other, lining up on both sides of our one-block street, as a town house or row house.

Since it’s older, made of brick and relatively stately in a desirable neighborhood, it could even be called a Brownstone, invoking visions of such august dwellings in New York City or some other such place. 

The layout is essentially narrow and deep, with one fairly large room-width on one side and the hallway/stairs on the other. Our kitchen is at the back of the house, essentially the width of the stairs and hallway.

Which means we have a traditional Dutch kitchen. Meaning relatively small and narrow. Not intended as an eat-in kitchen by today’s standards, we’ve tucked in a taller side table and two stools to do the trick.

I’m not complaining. The refrigerator is smaller than I’m used to, but I’ve learned to shop ‘European-style’ – almost daily, walking the two blocks to my neighborhood store, buy fresh food, in and out. Storage space is at a premium, and I’ve coped just fine. I make efficient use of the little counter space I do have.

The one appliance that has been challenging is the small oven. It’s tiny. We’re almost talking a Barbie doll-sized oven. And a combination of microwave, grill, convection and regular oven. Very efficient.  (Well,  you only have the convection feature if used with the grill feature, but okay, it’s workable. Challenging, miniscule but workable.

When I was invited over to my Dutch neighbor A’s for koffie a couple months ago, I walked in expecting a similar layout. But as owners they had torn down the wall between kitchen and dining room and done a full make-over, resulting in a beautiful, modern, open layout.

I was so mezmerized that I could barely maintain eye contact during our conversation. When A got up to fetch more koffie, my eyes drank in the wonder of it all. Oooh, all the pretty woodwork and shiny appliances! Full size!

I’d put it out of my mind when I found myself at my good friend J’s home several weeks ago. They’d bought the large apartment while still in the construction phase, made some adjustments and had arranged for a fully modern, sleek kitchen to be put in.

Okay, this is where I get a bit sheepish. I ran to her double ovens and stared, mouth agape. I must confess that I was in such a swoon marveling at her state-of-the-art full-sized refrigerator that I actually asked if I could caress it.

‘Go ahead, you can kiss it if you’d like.’ J laughed as she was putting out coffee mugs on the counter. ‘Knock yourself out.’

(She knows me and is incredibly tolerant, what can I say.)

I thought I’d gotten over it, but it happened again today at yet another person’s house. It was all I could do to keep from running my hands lovingly over the acreage of marble countertops throughout the kitchen. There was enough room to take a nap on one counter, I swear.

I chatted amiably with the hostess about my kitchen and its smaller appliances, but quite frankly that was just a ruse so that I could touch everything.

It’s not pretty when you have to own up to a bad case of kitchen envy. Sigh…


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