For our first dinner ‘party’ in our new place, to which I’d invited a couple of good friends met in the blogosphere, I spent a blissfully happy morning preparing food in my small but extremely practical ‘control centre’ kitchen. The Boy was perched on his stool by the bar, reading a BD and sipping coffee. The pages didn’t turn very often though. I suspect this might have had something to do with the fact that I was wearing only an apron.
I made a spinach and salmon quiche, a broad bean, mint and feta salad and a potato salad, and spent ages finely chopping the ingredients for a dip I’d stumbled across on facebook, of all places. I had plans that afternoon, so the emphasis was on simple dishes I could prepare in advance.
Once I’d dirtied almost every utensil in the kitchen, including the dreaded presse-agrumes, I took a childish pleasure in filling my dishwasher (a parting gift from the former occupants). ‘It’s magic!’ I exclaimed to the Boy, who was still having some trouble looking me in the eye. ‘We can go visit your grandma and when we get back again… Ta da! Everything will be clean. Ah là là, je suis en sur-kiffe, là…’
It struck me suddenly that, only now, with my thirty-sixth birthday rapidly approaching, have I managed to attain the level of domestic comfort that I took for granted back home throughout my childhood.
Space is at such a premium in Paris that having a dishwasher in your kitchen is a luxury. The Boy, born and raised in Paris, has never lived in an apartment that boasted one. The kitchens in my last two apartments could best be described as glorified corridors. Once I’d crammed in the obligatory fridge, washing machine and cooker, I was left with little in the way of work surfaces. Adding another appliance would have been unthinkable. The reason behind this is simple: many Parisian buildings were built around the turn of the last century, when apartments were not built to contain bathrooms. When bathrooms were added, later, as an afterthought, kitchens often had to be sliced in two to accommodate them.
Our new place is in such a building, but suffers from none of the usual period drawbacks. The previous occupants bought two poky, run-down apartments and re-thought the space entirely, knocking down walls, tearing up the floors and re-doing everything from scratch. Which is why it now has so many of the features I love: invisible electrical wiring (electricity being another add-on in many apartments, the wiring often concealed by ‘baguettes‘ which run along the surface of the walls), speaker wire which emerges at four strategic points in the main room, and tons and tons of built-in storage (our whole bedroom floor is raised and currently contains about six cubic metres of BD, records, Tadpole’s baby clothes and other random items.) The original wood floors were re-laid once the work was finished, albeit in a different configuration, meaning that the much prized charme de l’ancien was kept intact.
‘The only thing is,’ sid the Boy, gesturing at the dishwasher, ‘that now you have all this, I’m in danger of becoming superfluous…’ Washing the dishes used to be his job, you see. I think he’s getting withdrawal symptoms.
‘Don’t worry, my dear, I can think of all kinds of ways to put you to work,’ I replied, putting my hands to my apron strings. ‘Everything will be alright, you’ll see…’