Are we still cooking or are husbands coming home with a pizza box?
It always surprised me that during the last few years we were living in the smoky city of Sydney, houses in our street often sold at the drop of a hat (with, more than likely, a bucketing rise in their value).
Home and kids were commodities to be shifted around like so much else of temporary society. It was a way to the top and to the promised land of the financially ‘arrived.’
This was not always so. During our first stay in the inner city, many years ago, houses were cheap and affordable even to ‘normal’ people. They would then stay put and bring up their kids. Seeing the same faces at the same address was part of a daily routine for many years.
We had steady neighbours with just the one car and lots of billy-carting kids and cubby houses. The area was safe during day and night. But this idyllic life did not last.
It was when the Merchants of The Inner City Estate Brigade marched in and ratcheted up with ambitions so foul, with dollars and fortunes to be made, that the temptation for many was to sell up, satisfy mortgage lenders, move on elsewhere and far away, possibly without debt and have money to spare.
We stayed put and watched with amazement the conversion from humble terraces to belching mansions. In came remote garage doors and out went the kitchens, sinks and all, replaced at great cost with the latest Italian number: granite bench tops and one-handled hot and cold taps looking plucked from an expensive private doctor’s surgery.
After ten months and yet another owner, out went the Italian and in came the Swedish model. The Smeg appliances, food processors, micro ovens so large they could be sub-let to small families; mosaic timber butcher’s blocks on gleaming caster-driven trolleys and matching knives that could slice a buffalo.
Sadly though, amongst all this frenetic moving of kitchens and people, there was a noticeable drop in those familiar afternoon cooking smells. You always knew when dinner time was on its way, didn’t you? Fried onions and lamb chops and kids hanging around the doorways. Dads strolling down hills from bus stops, tired but peckish, and hopeful dogs waiting for scraps.
All that went when making a buck started to reign over cooking and kids and familiar neighbours. The smells disappeared for ever. Despite (or because) of that gleaming kitchenware, the cooking became too dangerous to the kitchens. A scratch could ruin thousands of dollars worth of stainless steel. The extractor fan could foul up. The knives could blunt. With the loss of cooking smells, so went the kids and billy-carts. But sellers of burglar alarms did well.
But hang on, what about all those cookery books and watching TV with Nigella and Jamie and all those delicious recipes? Ah, that is just to look good. A bit of make up for the kitchen.
Next morning the Domino or Pizza Hut boxes were piled up in the garbage and, in the meantime, the value of the investment house (not a home) had gone up an amazing, oh, $276, and that in a single day! Anxious mothers would not let their kids take the safe walk to school anymore. Instead, they started driving them in those Darth Vader vehicles and fear became the Joker in the pack.
Are most kitchens now just mock ups or stage sets, just for future open house inspections? No onions or anchovies will cross those Pine-o-Clean spaces again, thank you. We are too busy, preferring to feast off increased values. Hopefully, the downward trend in real estate is temporary and prices will rocket once again soon.
Or is there hope in values going down? Will the kitchen take its rightful place and food smells return? Just imagine a crisis so severe cars and petrol become unaffordable, house prices plummet and the art of cooking is resuscitated. Billy-carts and kids will return; dads will stroll down hills from the bus.
Or is that just pie in the sky?