It never fails. Storms come in the middle of the night. Only this time it was a hurricane – the remnants of one anyway. No thunder or lightning, just lots of rain and wind.
However, the rain was enough to frighten Wrangler, our big Shepherd-mix dog. Even worse, our electricity went out after flashing several times. I was lying in bed in the quiet, waiting. Then I heard the whimpers and felt his cold, wet nose against my arm.
He has a way of coming up to the bed, which is eye-level for him, and giving me a little shove with his nose to say, “Wake up! I need you.” Sometimes it’s for an important reason, sometimes not. This night, he needed comfort.
“Okay, buddy,” I told him as I got out of bed. “Let’s go.”
We headed to the kitchen, his favorite place to ride out a storm of most any kind. Mine, too, if I’m being honest.
Here in the South, it’s said the kitchen is the heart of the home. I never really gave this much thought before, but maybe Wrangler is on to something.
My most vivid memories involve time spent in a kitchen. Not all of them involve eating.
Sure, there is usually food around. Like the smell of a grilled cheese sandwich toasting in a cast iron skillet while my best friend tried to talk me out of marrying my first husband. And the crackling sound of chicken frying in that same pan when said husband told me he thought we should get a divorce.
One sleepless night as a teenager – when there was no storm – my mother, sister and I enjoyed a long chat while we baked cookies at four in the morning. Girl time well spent!
I will always remember my grandmother’s kitchen where there was an endless supply of hugs, wisdom-sharing, fresh biscuits, and love.
And a night gathered with roommates in the kitchen of our century-old home discussing the fate of an old, sick dog who was lying next to the stove. The other dog came over to rub noses with her and, as she walked away, we noticed she’d dropped some kibble next to our soon-to-be-departed friend. A sweet gesture that brought us all to tears. And proof that dogs know a thing or two about kitchen comfort.
Maybe it’s the strength of a kitchen that draws us in. More than just walls, ceiling, and floor, it feels like the sturdiest of rooms with its appliances, cupboards, and the things that fill them. You can walk in and feel its bulk envelope you.
There is always something to do when spending time there. Aside from cooking, you can wash a glass, wipe a counter, unload the dishwasher, or stare into the refrigerator seeking inspiration for a throw-together meal.
When you close the cold refrigerator, you can head to the stove for warmth. Kitchens are known for their warmth. Even though they are no longer depended upon as the source of heat in a home, their warmth still draws people in like a big hug.
It’s no wonder that the strength of this special room, the warmth created in it, the hypnotic smells wafting from the stove and oven, and the memories living there, provide the ultimate of comfort to anyone seeking it.
On this dark and stormy night, once the electricity is back on, I start a batch of bone broth in the slow cooker, bake some chocolate chip cookies, and brew a nice cup of tea for my own comfort. That is, in between the moments of snuggling the big, frightened bear of a dog lying in the corner.
I can see why the kitchen is Wrangler’s go-to hideout from storms. He must feel the same way I did sitting in my grandmother’s kitchen while she baked biscuits and cooked up chicken and dumplings: whatever kind of storm is brewing outside, as long as we have each other to hold onto, we are safe in our haven of kitchen comfort.