I’m having a hard time writing this column. There’s this hammering in my head, and it’s not from too much New Year’s celebrating. Johnny is remodeling the kitchen.
It all started with a pot of Low Country Boil. A few months ago, I was making that regional classic and had my largest stainless steel stew pot bubbling on the stove. The water hadn’t been boiling for long – at the most 15 minutes, when Johnny came home from work and sniffed the air cautiously. “I smell smoke.”
One thing I hate about cooking on an electric stove is there’s always some mysterious burning smell coming from the stove eyes, so I wasn’t real concerned. I stepped outside for a minute and then returned to the kitchen. There was, in fact, smoke rolling in the air. But instead of the usual “grease on the eye because I fried hamburger meat the night before” smoke, it was wood smoke. Like from a campfire. And it seemed to be coming from beneath the pot.
I grabbed the Low Country Boil off the stove and had a look. There was smoke coming from underneath the stove. Johnny ran and grabbed a flashlight. I grabbed the fire extinguisher. He looked underneath the cabinets and saw, much to his dismay, a cherry-red bank of coals burning on the two by four brace. We sprayed water on it and the coals sizzled and winked out, leaving that “wet burned wood” smell. No harm no foul. To avoid future house fire hazards, we took the knob off that eye and didn’t use it anymore, but ever since, I’ve been afraid to use the stove. Not that I needed an excuse to not cook.
Since then, we’ve been in the market for a new stove. But since we were replacing our old one, I decided I wanted gas. We shopped sales papers. I looked online at the Sears scratch and dent outlet. But even with careful searching I couldn’t find one in our price range. Finally, a couple weeks ago, I saw on Facebook that a friend of mine was selling a gas range/oven. It was a good price, but we were broke as a joke and couldn’t get up the cash. Well, she didn’t have any takers for the stove so after a couple weeks she wrote me and said, “You can have it.” I said, “Hooray!” and we drove to Mt. Zion and picked it up.
On the way home, Johnny said, “I have a great idea. Let’s remodel the kitchen.”
I thought about it carefully. Most serious kitchen remodels cost thousands of dollars. Lately we’ve been living on a shoestring and have no wiggle room in our budget. “OK!” I said, “Let’s DO IT!” (Johnny and I are a match made in heaven).
We both picked our tools carefully. Johnny got out his crowbar. I got on Facebook.
He tore out the bank of cabinets that divided the kitchen from the dining room. Now there was a wealth of light flooding into the kitchen. He tore out old cheap cabinets, uncovering mold colonies on the walls behind them. It was suddenly lighter and cleaner than it had been in years.
Meanwhile, on Facebook, I started posting pictures of the demo, thanking my friend for the free oven. That prompted another good friend from church to write me and tell me that they had a porcelain farm sink that they’d donate to the cause. Johnny’s sister read the proceedings all the way from Peachtree City and told us that she had two boxes of hickory hardwood flooring that she’ll donate for counter tops. Brother Bill gave us an antique pine wood counter that came from a dried goods store in Downtown Carrollton. And pop gave us six schoolhouse light fixtures (classics) that will complete the look of the new kitchen beautifully. Backsplash? We’re considering using old barn tin that has a lovely rusted patina, which can be accessed easily out of our scrap metal pile.
Cabinets? In the old barn on the farm, we found a couple of cupboards with glass fronts that will serve for upper cabinets, and Johnny will use salvaged heart pine (from an old barn he tore down) for the lower cabinets. I still have a ½ gallon of paint left over from the last time I painted the kitchen, so I don’t have to buy paint. So far, we’ve not spent a penny on our Kitchen Remodel. I’m feeling great about that.
Really the only missing piece is the flooring. 100 square feet. But I’m thinking that’s going to show up, too. With the way my luck is running, there’s a pile of Italian ceramic tile in a shed somewhere collecting dust. I just need to find where it is.
Mimi Gentry is a Carroll County resident and writes a weekly column for the Times-Georgian.