Modern homes designed and built in the in the 1950s integrated the dining area into the living space and the kitchen. Women were still contained in their cooking space by the layout and location of fixed benches but now in their opened up kitchen and living space. The kitchen became a public space and women were invited by advertisements to brighten and colour co-ordinate the room and to decorate it in a way that expressed their taste. Architect Robin Boyd, who wrote the seminal text The Australian Ugliness in the 1960s hated the tasteless “features” that made their way into Australian homes.
In my new kitchen I have made a feature of my stuff. I have a huge pigeon-hole shelf, with thirty twelve inch by twelve inch cubes, securely screwed to the main wall. But scanning its contents, which I tried to display in a colour and shape co-ordinated way, reminds me of where I have been and what I have done. My 1950s Boyd pottery ramekins with their pastel ‘50s colours stacked on top of each other remind me of a family holiday at Barwon Heads. I started the collection then. I found three ramekins in a junk shop and, immediately attracted to their pastel colour and contrasting inside glaze, I snapped them up for a song.
A black and white polka dot bowl purchased at a pottery sale at Warrandyte while I waited for Elena to finish a horseriding lesson sits next to a striped pot I bought in Adelaide a the Jam Factory when I was finally free to buy what I wanted. Both are hand shaped and painted and beautiful in their imperfection. Noodles, tomato paste and vinegars sit next to jars of pickled crab apples from my Aunt’s trees (I couldn’t be bothered making crab apple jelly). There is a Scottish Oat Cake Tin full of two-cent pieces sitting way up high. When Big was a puppy I would shake it vigourously to stop him jumping up or barking. It was from when I worked in London. There is an egg-cup from a shop in Richmond in Tasmania bought on a trip there when Kezia was eight and Elena was one. A nostalgic purchase, I bought it because it reminded me of the egg-cup I won at a dress up competition when I was little. I went dressed as Little Red Riding Hood and my sister was the Big Bad Wolf. I simply wore a red cape but she had a wolf outfit made out of a hessian bag with a magnificent tail stitched on to the back and a head my dad made out of Paper Mache. I still have the head. It sits in my study. Kezia’s Bunnykin egg-cup is there and her Bunnykin cup. A striped vase reminds me of Jo. She admired one I had and so I bought the same one only different colours for her birthday. Mine broke. Not long before Jo died I found the exact same vase as the one I had broken in the Op shop. I couldn’t bear to have lost them both.
I hardly use the cookbooks in three of the holes: I still like having them there. The Julia Child was a gift from Peter. He wrote: “When I was I London I was dreaming of a French Chef XX Pete.” When he was in London he was having an affair, I would find out not long after.
The big fat bellied Buddha sits in the midst of my mementos. I found him in amongst a heap of street dirty statues outside a shop in Hoi An. He was one of those object that you are unsure if it is cheap and nasty or interesting. His gaudy painted features were covered in dust and dirt. One of the cupid-like children climbing over him is missing. Broken off, the shopkeeper had us come back each day telling us he would find it and glue it back on. But he didn’t; so it too is imperfect. I wanted him for an alcove in the family bathroom at the beach house and so I carried him back from Vietnam in my backpack. He sat in the bathroom fat and imperfect supervising family bathtime, but I packed him up and brought him here because he is such an uncomplicated and happy soul.