Connections: Kitchen Confidential

I’ve been living without kitchen appliances — really, without a kitchen at all — while our walls and shelves undergo their first thorough sanding and painting in, well, decades. Once again, I’m thanking my lucky stars that it is only a hop, skip, and jump down Main Street to Starbucks and Citarella. (Mind you, I do much prefer Breadzilla and L and W Market to Starbucks and Citarella, but when I need to nip out for a quick bite, proximity is everything.)

It has been amusing to be out and about in the village while the world sleeps. Yesterday morning I woke up very early and headed to Starbucks for a first cup of coffee. To my surprise, it was booming at 7 a.m. I somehow hadn’t realized that the old-fashioned gathering of convivial early birds — who used to gather, once upon a time, at the G and T Dairy (a.k.a. the Chicken House) and still do, I’m told, at the Candy Kitchen — had survived in this modernized, Starbucks form. The crew on Main Street seemed to mostly know one another, and they seemd quite cozy as the traffic slowly picked up on the street outside.

Living without a kitchen reminds me of Uncle Morris, my mother’s brother, who came to live here in East Hampton when he was old and white-haired. He made it into David Rattray’s “The Mast-Head,” under the heading “Einstein Was Wrong,” two weeks ago; I don’t want to overdo mentions of him, but I feel like mentioning here that I think he never lived in a house with a kitchen in his entire adult life.

Uncle Morris was certifiably brilliant, talented, and schizophrenic. Longtime East Hamptoners and readers of The Star will remember him. He was hard to miss. A tiny man, he wore a Scandinavian hand-knit sweater, three-quarters unraveled, and could be seen almost every day walking to and from the old A & P on Newtown Lane. He seemed to survive on a diet of canned spinach. 

Because Morris had traveled to the far corners of the world, mainly getting around on foot and making his way selling drawings on sidewalks and in public squares, I had assumed he was a totally fearless person. But when he first washed up on the tide here, we offered him an upstairs bedroom in my house, on his first night in East Hampton, and — as we discovered from the noises coming from the ceiling — he pushed a heavy dresser against the door to guard it while he slept. Eventually, he decided to accept an apartment living space that was then on The Star’s third floor and, eschewing the kitchen, would heat his can of spinach on a radiator. He had been a vegan since the 1920s. 

Although my diet has been slightly unconventional during these home renovations — I had takeout Chinese food the other night, and had to eat it on the “good china” that remained accessible in our dining room, with a plastic fork, and I actually found myself eating a Starbucks “protein pack” prepackaged meal for dinner in front of the television another night  — I don’t think I am about to start heating canned spinach on the radiator. 

I have had my eye on the old G and T Dairy space on Gingerbread Lane, which appears to have been vacated by its most recent inhabitant, a market and deli. Work appears to be underway, and many of us have been speculating on what is to go into that space. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could wave a wand, and the Chicken House would reappear as it was in the 1970s or 1980s? They did make wonderful fried chicken, and we do miss the friendly people who gathered there at first light.