I am a practitioner of the can-I-have-its, a collector of things. I am the sort who walks through antique shops touching everything, wondering what place these objects could hold in my life. I flip through the ikea catalog and salivate, just a little. I am, indeed, firmly ensconced in the material culture. As a result, I have a lot of stuff, a LOT of stuff. And as an artist, it's worse, because there is always some potential use somewhere down the road for that quirky rusty, something-or-other. In the last months I have been exploring the place of the gift in our culture, and the relationship between faith and fear and abundance and scarcity. I believe that the structure of artificial scarcity is not only self-perpetuating, but in fact, self-catalyzing. What happens when we believe that there is enough? What happens when we act on that belief? So in the spirit of the gift, I am embarking upon a mission to give away the things that I do not need. It is a practice of faith, and an act of rebellion against dominant capitalist culture. Is it a little crazy? Probably. Is it going to be hard? Absolutely. But here I go.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Trepidatiously Entering the Kitchen

I live for Thanksgiving. Really, more than is reasonable. Nothing makes me happier than making a big ridiculous meal for people who I love, a day full of good food, good company, wine, gratitude. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it.

As a result (or so I tell myself), my kitchen is way overstocked. Anything that's rarely (or never used) is mentally filed into the I'll use it on Thanksgiving folder. There are things that will (at least for now) stay in that file: The big platter for the turkey, the roasting pan, the gravy boat. I'm fine with that. These are things that actually contribute to joy in my life, contribute to something meaningful. But, I opened the 'baking cabinet' the other day. (If you've ever visited me, you know it as the one under the microwave that, when opened, causes a crashing cascade to the floor.) What a sight.
Now I may be able to convince myself that I need to keep that gravy boat, but 9(!) pie pans and cake tins. At even my most highly-attended thanksgiving I'm sure I never made more than 4 pies.

Ooh, and look at this lovely souffle dish. (That is what this is, right?)
And how many souffles have I made in my 31 years on this planet? Exactly none. But, for the ten years, plus or minus, that this has lived in my cabinet, it has waited with baited breath on that familiar precipice of but I might. (To be fair, it has been known to house stuffing or sweet potatoes on Thanksgiving. Still.)

And these pretty shiny French something-or-others.
Tiny cheesecake pans? Little flute-edged tart pans? I'm sure there is a fancy name for them. I'm sure in my fantasy life I'd use them all the time. But... I don't.

I'll admit, even, with a little shame that I have never used my flour sifter. I've thought of repurposing it to sift rosin onto a copper plate for making aquatints, but it's never had a use in my kitchen. I hear mothers everywhere (not mine, mind you, but that sort of ubiquitous stereotypical mother that almost no-one I know has) groaning. Maybe they're not mothers; maybe they're pastry chefs. Anyway. No, I don't sift my flour. Never have. A perfect me might, but once you can't use wheat flour anymore, even the hope for an absolutely perfect baked good is as good as gone. That ship has sailed.

I can't help but begin to wonder, am I stockpiling for a life that I don't have? A future life where every detail is attended to, and every thing has its perfect place? Have I been hoarding supplies for a fantasy?

It reminds me of what my boss at my first real grown-up job used to say. We've all heard it. Dress for the job you want, not the job you have. I know she meant sharp and conservative: black pencil skirts and simple black heels, blazers and understated jewelry... and I wore it, but I often thought of how surprised she would have been if I'd shown up dressed for the job I really wanted--jeans covered in ink and messy apron. The classic artist's uniform. My desires have shifted a lot since then, artistic genius and solitary studio life losing much of its romantic appeal, but that image within an image, the memory of my projected fantasy remains strong and clear. I wonder if I've perhaps been dressing my kitchen in much the same way.


  1. Once again, I'm touched by your eloquent description of the plight of the "collector". However, the line "hoarding supplies for a fantasy" gave me pause. I've always considered my personal state of "over-preparedness" as being ready for when inspiration strikes. I can't imagine that I'm the only creative person who would be on to the next great thing if she had to go buy a souffle pan before she could make the souffle she's suddenly so pumped about. There's something to be said for being equipped to deal with inspiration.
    Naturally, I realize that this is nothing more that rationalization, but thought you might like to see it a different way too.

  2. I very much appreciate hearing your thoughts, Holly. I've been really struggling with this particular notion, and I like how you've put it, "being ready for when inspiration strikes". My inspiration, lately, hasn't come in the form of souffle. It has in the past (loosely), but it's been a long time. And that's where the question arises for me. (You notice we haven't even begun to enter the studio--that's going to be a whole other can of worms.) The question becomes how many things do I need to have 'just in case'? I'm hoping to believe that if that particular inspiration strikes me in 5 years that a souffle dish will land in my lap, and that someone else can use it in the meantime. But yeah, I see the value in being ready for when inspiration strikes. I still haven't fully adjusted to living in an apartment and not having constant access to things like sticks and moss and scraps of lumber.

  3. ...you can probably make a souffle in a saucepan anyway.

  4. I've been looking for a souffle dish like this but couldn't find one.