I haven’t really changed this room at all since I moved in—it was the kitchen of some pretty serious cooks, so it was already great, though some people would consider it old-fashioned. I love that the counters are almost twice as deep as normal kitchen counters, making them perfect for making pies. One change I made was to spray paint the whole fridge with chalkboard paint so I could write notes on it and kids can draw on it when they come over.
I see Mount Tamalpais out my windows from every angle in the kitchen, which means I don’t mind washing my dishes, because I have such a great view over the sink. I set a mirror up over the stove, not so I can look at myself, but so I can still see the mountain out the window behind me if I’m cooking at the stove.
I have a collection of state dishes, so it’s a very educational experience washing dishes. I’ve got just about one for every state. Last summer I was in a little restaurant in Maine that had one for North Dakota hanging on the wall that I didn’t have. It was hanging on the bathroom wall, and I thought for a minute how easy it would be to just steal it, but then I talked to the manager and told him about my collection and asked if I could send him a different state plate I have duplicates of in exchange for that one and he just gave it to me right there. I often bake for political fundraisers, and then there can be particular significance to serving dessert on different state plates—like during the recent election the person holding the Ohio state plate felt very important!
A lot of dancing has happened in this kitchen. I have a jukebox in the kitchen, and it’s a very good dancing kitchen.
I often teach pie lessons in my kitchen. I can make a good pie in about 6 minutes flat, and I started teaching pie making when I lived in New Hampshire after my mother died—she was the one who taught me to make pies, and I wanted to pass her lessons on. When I moved here 16 years ago and didn’t know anyone, one of the things I started was the pie party tradition, gathering sometimes as as many as 50 people for baking pies. I can fit about 10 bakers in my kitchen at a time, I set up little stations for them and we circulate and set up their pies. We don’t actually bake during those classes; I send everyone home with their own pie to bake in their own kitchen so their kitchen will smell great. Next summer the movie of my book Labor Day is coming out, and a crucial scene involves one of the characters teaching another how to make an apple pie. That pie that he makes is my recipe; I was flown in to teach the actor how to do it.
I love dishes, but I don’t particularly like them to match. In fact I can’t find two dishes that actually match in my kitchen. I have all kinds of dishes— dishes that look like vegetables and dishes that look like fruit. I find them all in yard sales—I come from New Hampshire and I’m very much a yard sale girl. I have a big collection of cups and saucers, some were my grandmother’s, and I remember loving them when I was little. When a child comes over now it’s great fun because I let them pick out what cup and saucer they want to use to have their tea or juice. I used to have a lot more dishes, but when I left New Hampshire sixteen years ago I knew that I couldn’t even begin to to bring everything that I had with me. We had a yard sale that was so big the police had to cordon off the block.
Interview conducted and condensed by Anna Stockwell
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