Writer Sarah Manyika was working on a novel about a woman pining for Nigerian comfort food, so we made jollof, a West African rice dish loaded with tomatoes and peppers. That's the kind of connection we relish as cooks at Hedgebrook, a women's writing retreat on Whidbey Island in Washington's Puget Sound. We love our jobs. And we love our kitchen, a jam-packed but highly efficient space. It's got oodles of drawers, shelves, and nooks: Its revolving corner cabinets hold Dutch ovens and mixing bowls; blenders and measuring cups go in deep drawers beneath the island where we do prep work; and pots hang right next to the range, their lids propped on a pegboard. Along one wall, there's a baking area with a granite countertop, wall oven, and pull-out shelves for storing bins of flour. It's opposite the farmhouse sink and a wide picture window; while cooking, we watch eagles diving in the marsh. Afterward we sit down to a family-style dinner with the writers, who by nature, happily, are verbose in their gratitude.
The Dynasty range is quirky — it's hotter on one side—but it's great for fast cooking: The oven is wide and has a convection setting, the gas burners are really powerful, and there are warming lights set into the hood.
The kitchen is open to the dining room, where dinner is served at a 19th-century French farmhouse table, and a snack nook holds jars of house-dried fruits and vegetables for residents to nosh on.
The island in the center of the room is incredibly functional. A large cutting board is set on top of it, and all sorts of storage spaces are tucked beneath. An additional leaf adds more working space when we need it.
The refrigerator in this kitchen contains just lunch and snacks for writers. We keep anything of volume outside in the longhouse by the garden. The freezer here, for the most part, holds ice cream and breads.