‘In the Kitchen’ defines special section

“Kitchen: (n) A room equipped for preparing meals.” (Definition by WordNet; Princeton University)

And I thought those Princeton folks were suppose to be smart. To sum up the word “kitchen” with a utilitarian definition shows a sincere lack of imagination. My own definition of “kitchen” could easily stretch to fill a tome at most and several newspaper pages at least.

I mean, really, have you ever seen a house without a kitchen? They can be big, elaborate rooms with double ovens and industrial-sized pantries or L-shaped countertops and cabinets anchored by a refrigerator, but there is always some kind of kitchen.

Even my first apartment -- a 3-room furnished efficiency in Maplehurst Park in Knoxville, had a kitchen. Granted, it was a hallway kitchen with a sink so small I had to wash dishes in the bathtub, but it was a kitchen, nonetheless.

I didn’t do a lot of things right when my husband and I built our first -- and current -- house, but I knew enough to tear down all the walls separating the kitchen from the breakfast room and the den. It’s one big open room that welcomes conversation, served as the gathering place for completing homework chores and household duties, is the center of every family meeting and the focal point of every party.

That’s the way it is with kitchens. Get a group of true friends together and see what happens. You can shoo folks into elegantly-appointed living rooms, family rooms dominated by big-screen televisions or outside to decks with loungers and hot tubs. Eventually, everyone comes back to the kitchen.

Robin McDaniel, the Blount Today food writer, and I didn’t have to think very long when we looked for a name for the weekly column she was to write for Blount Today. Robin wanted something simple, as she likes to encourage today’s busy folks to visit their kitchens often with recipes that are easy, fun and delicious. Robin and her family know the value of kitchens, so “In the Kitchen” seemed to fit well for her column. Robin and I work on the “words” together each week, but the cooking is all Robin. She prepares or collaborates on each recipe we put in the paper each week, photographing the dish as well as preparing it. She gets to eat them, too, which is a good thing, because her pay for In the Kitchen probably doesn’t cover the ingredients most weeks.

Robin must consider it a labor of love. You can certainly see the love and care she puts into In the Kitchen each week. And she pulls in friends, family and community every chance she gets.

Once a year, Robin goes all out and pulls together a compliment of recipes for a special section. We have had different themes. The first one was Christmas Treats and the second, holiday side dishes. This year, we decided to expand the theme beyond the holidays to include a good recipe for each month of the year. Robin gave us a Baker’s Dozen, starting with December 2008 and ending with December 2009.

And we’re calling it In the Kitchen, same as the weekly column. The 13 recipes that follow are keepers, so hang on to this special section until you’ve committed each dish to memory. Robin has offered a good variety -- from easy breads to sweets to main dishes to sandwiches to holiday treats.

Robin is responsible for each recipe and took all the photographs. The recipes came from a variety of sources, some from family, some from old Southern Living Annual Recipe books, some that are favorites of friends.

That’s the great thing about recipes. They don’t really “belong” to anyone. Each cook brings his or her own flavor to a new or a favorite recipe, just as the next cook will bring a touch of their own likes and dislikes when they prepare the dish.

So please enjoy In the Kitchen -- both in this special section and each week with Robin in Blount Today. And, as for those Princeton folks, I can be concise with definitions, too:

“Kitchen: (n) The heart of the home that is also used for preparing meals.”

© 2008 blounttoday.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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