During the last two years I’ve been searching for a new home, meanwhile traveling and living in other people’s homes. This is tiresome. I have learned that kitchens are places of intense, flammable emotions. When someone misses the recycling system, it’s a crime against the climate. Stockpiles of food in unusably crowded refrigerators and cupboards, excess collections of abandoned dishes, and a jumble of unused equipment are bulwarks against the trauma of scarcity from past crises. Plates are emptied as penitance for others’ poverty.
To my surprise I learned that most people understand kitchens as places of overwhelming, barely-manageable labor, places to escape, not destinations of sensual pleasure where every object is chosen for sensuality and everything is organized to maximize pleasure.
I have found myself engaged in an incredible diversity of conflicts. One of us has yelped displeasure at a violation and now we freeze, wild-eyed. Moments ago you were a friend, now you have done something utterly incomprehensible. We stare hotly across a salvage yard of unspoken imperatives and injunctions. (Most of which actually belong to our mothers and could do with some investigation.)
I have all but concluded that sharing a kitchen with another human being is impossible. I don’t think there’s any resolution other than deference to the owner’s preferences, but I do think it can be intellectually interesting to understand the clash, if not to prevent or resolve it. This depends on both parties reflecting and explaining why they did what they did or wanted what they wanted. “It was my great-grandmother’s salt shaker.” “I bought that with the first money I could afford to spend after I moved.” Through this process we re-humanize one another, we see the rationality in one another’s reactions, and we gain intimate knowledge that just might soften the next round.
Even if it doesn’t, this practice helps us get to know ourselves better. So that we are able to articulate ourselves, perhaps even before triggering a vicious, gutting explosion. Or so that we know what we need and want and why and can protect ourselves and others.