In our house, and probably in yours, tea is prepared almost always in the kitchen. So, naturally, as I awaited those bubbles to form and the tea kettle to put forth its shrill whistle, my surroundings led my brain down a merry path and ended up with the idea that kitchens have layers. Not quite the same kind of layers that cakes have. More like the kind of layers in some of today’s fashions. Let me explain.
Start with those setups you see at the home improvement mega-stores — they aren’t really kitchens. And it isn’t just that the plumbing is not connected to a water line or the gas stove is not connected to a gas line. Or that they’re in the middle of a big ole home improvement store. It’s because these cabinets and countertops are just of one of a kitchen’s layers. Without the rest they’re just cabinets and countertops. Sort of like a mannikin in a clothing store window in his skivvies. So let’s take a look at the layers:
Layer 1 — the space
This could be a room with four walls (or more), but in many of the more modern style homes with their open floorplans, there may not be any walls or only one or two. All kitchens will, due to insurmountable practical considerations, need a floor and a ceiling. And lighting, either from a window or two or from some fixture, usually mounted to the ceiling. This is the mannikin itself on which the other layers are laid.
Layer 2 — the cabinets and countertops
These are your storage areas and work surfaces. I include the sink here, since it is often an integral part of a countertop. Too many people stop here when they think about a kitchen, but these are only the beginnings of a complete food and tea prep area. They are the “skivvies” previously mentioned.
Layer 3 — the plumbing and electrical/gas
Just as we humans have our digestive system and nervous system, kitchens (at least the modern era kind) need hot and cold running water, drains for that water, and electricity/gas for lighting and to run the next layer. As a purely functional consideration, these are equivalent to a pair of pants.
Layer 4 — the appliances
The most essential is the stove — yes, the one you set your kettle on to bring that water to a boil. Next is the refrigerator that holds the milk you might put in that breakfast blend tea or the lemon that you might cut open to squeeze a bit of juice into your tea. Many folks also have a dishwasher. Fancier kitchens may even have hot water dispensers. Garbage disposals are another common item. And then there are the small appliances: microwave ovens, toasters, blenders, food processors, crock pots, can openers, and even electric tea kettles and coffee/tea makers. Think of these like a shirt, a sweater over the shirt, and possibly a jacket over the sweater.
Layer 5 — the implements
This is a pretty broad category that ranges from pots and pans, cooking utensils, and oven mitts, to dishes and glasses and cups and saucers and flatware. It can also include “kitchen linens” (dish towels, hand towels, oven mitts, potholders, aprons, napkins, and tablecloths). And don’t forget the cleaning supplies (dishwashing liquid, sponges, dish brushes, scrubbing pads, etc.). Quite frankly, these can turn walls, floors, cabinets, and all the rest magically into a real kitchen. These are the accessories, from neckties to scarves to jewellry and so on.
Layer 6 — you
Yes, you! The best laid out and equipped kitchen is just a bunch of stuff without you. You buy the food. You bring it home and store it. You plan the meals and prepare them. And most importantly you steep the tea! If you’re like hubby and me, you have house fairies who clean everything up afterwards. (Well, we don’t really, but we pretend.)
Time to get into that well-layered kitchen, select the perfect tea from its storage place, fill that kettle with water and heat it, prep the teapot, and get steeping. Don’t forget those freshly baked treats (scones, cookies, pies) or the more low-cal kind (maybe carrot and celery sticks or some fruit). My kettle is boiling, so steeping time is here. Enjoy!
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