Today, I was proud of myself. I managed to pull off something knowns as "just-in-time" sourcing. Often, one has trouble getting a single worker to show up on time. All elements of new kitchen process came together. Room renovations and electrical work were finished the night before. The kitchen installers arrived at nine and started to assemble the pieces. The new refrigerator was delivered at ten and fit perfectly into the allotted space. And, once the kitchen was assembled, the stone mason arrived to measure for the counter top.
Now, we must wait for the the counter to be cut for the stove, the sink, and plugs. That means that we cannot start using the kitchen for another week. Fortunately, we have a good supply of plastic plates and cutlery...
And, the tiles are still being laid in other parts of the house and walls must be painted. We have a few more days of roughing it...
Today, we were invaded by a horde of workers. We are living in a construction site. Half the house is in turmoil, the rest is covered in very fine dust. That’s what happens when women want change. Old tiles must removed; walls must be drilled for new wires; new radiators must replace old; etc. Doors to unchanged rooms are hung with plastic, in a vain attempt to prevent dust from spreading. In fact, this prevents us from having easy access to those rooms. I use the front door and then walk around the house to enter the living room from the garden. And, back again. This will go on for over a week...
The kitchen is dead. Long live the kitchen (for which we have to wait a week and endure renovation messes).
We will live off cold food, food cooked on the grill, and take-away food. Anything needing to be washed will done in the bathroom. Things from the kitchen are now in boxes in the dining room. It is impossible to find anything, so we do not look. Water can be boiled in the electric kettle, so morning tee is easy. We have a refrigerator freezer in the basement, so I get a lot of exercise. One might call this slumming in luxury.
The battle continues...
Today, we had to clear out the kitchen, because the demolition team arrives first thing in the morning. This was not a bad exercise (and I stress exercise); one discovers all sorts of surprises in deep recesses and the bottom of drawers, after years of collecting sediment, not unlike a Paleocene Ocean. Because we discarded so much, future generations will not be able to mine oil or other precious minerals from the debris. Worst case: a jar of olives with an expiration date of 2000. I do not worry about such things, but my wife does, so they were tossed.
I hate to throw anything away, because I am sure that I will need something sometime. And, I think of the money I spent on the purchase. I am penny wise and pound foolish...and I wish I could sell my junk by the pound to recover a bit of cash.
Anyway, we did discard a whole bunch of stuff. And, the entire kitchen, which is still serviceable, will be torn apart. I managed to convince our neighbor to take our oven and microwave, because they are still in good condition. A perfectly good side-by-side refrigerator-freezer will be used to pay off the demo guy.
Tomorrow at this time, a empty room will await the next injustice: knocking out all the tiles. That will create mess, leaving a fine layer of dust on the rest of the house. The work will not start until Thursday, because Wednesday is one of many holidays that bless workers in May. May 1 is Communists’ Day, as Americans would call it, but others call it the Day of Work(ers). No one works, but many demonstrate against something. I play no attention. On Wednesday, I will be clearing out other rooms that will be renovated. They get new tiles and wall coverings.
The kitchen has served us for almost thirty years...and could have held out longer. But, as I have written, women need/demand change. So, change has arrived. Let’s hope this will be worth the effort and expense....
Today’s word is another one of the building-block beauties: Kuhlschrank.
To cool something is zu kuhlen; a cabinet is ein Schrank (capitalized because it’s a noun). Together they end up being a refrigerator. The typical German refrigerator is the size of a hotel minibar. This has a number of historical reasons: cost of electricity, space (ie. tiny kitchens), daily shopping; etc.
Why is this word important? We bought a new refrigerator today. We have always had an American-sized refrigerator, which has caused problems for kitchen design. In earlier days, we were able to buy one from Westinghouse, which brought them over in containers with air-conditioning units for large buildings and sold them to “friends”. Later, the Koreans started selling excellent refrigerators in the proper size, but few Germans bought them, because of size restrictions or because they are cheap. Our current Samsung is good enough, but the Boss wanted new one to go with the new kitchen. Of course, the main reason is the Number One Son bought a new refrigerator for his new kitchen, so...You guessed it.
The word for today is Baustelle, which is German for construction site. Bauen is to build, and Stelle is place. This can be larger or small, private or industrial, civic or commercial.
We will renovate portions of our house. What a pain, because we will have to live in a Baustelle for days, perhaps even weeks.
I have held off years of complaints, criticism about dragging my feet, and general pestering. I am basically happy with the way things are, but women demand change. I am certain to be pleased with the result, but will not like the process.
Selecting the kitchen decor, cabinets, and appliances was rather easy. The selection was great, but both children had paved the way by selecting their own new kitchens.
The next step is to select the tiles for the floors. We will do the kitchen, the entryway, two hallways, one room, and one walk-in closet in the same tiles. This sounds strange, but it will work. We now have carpets, with Persian rugs on top (don’t ask). I think that the rugs are fine and warmer in the winter, but tiles are more “modern”. The decision to change was easy; selecting the type of tile is difficult. The variety is quality, price, shape, color, etc. is vast. We started by considering cheap ones, which is always a mistake. We moved on to expensive, which proved to be depressing. Deciding on a color seemed impossible. Finally, we visited a shop owned by friends (we did not try them first because they are the most expensive, but have the best quality). Both children have recently bought there and we have bought in the past. We were offered top quality Italian ceramic tiles at a discount, which is never a bad choice. Even the color selection was easier, when confronted with top quality.
Next step will be to start tearing things out, which we will not do for two months...
Like with cars, Germans make the best kitchens--from cabinets to appliances to fixtures. They also offer a wide variety of every element to choose from. This makes planning a new kitchen a long, involved process.
My wife was been moaning about a new kitchen for years. I have told her that a new one will be different, but not necessarily better. Of course, that is only partly true, because improvements have been made, even if none are really meaningful to cooking and baking. Some people do rather well on a camping stove, but I am not advocating that. My biggest fear is the work required to change the kitchen, from tearing out the existing tiles to laying new electrical lines to adding ceiling lighting.
Yesterday, we took the plunge and ordered a new kitchen. I’m sure that it will be very nice. Although she wants the new kitchen, my wife was impatient with the ordering process. One must discuss every cabinet and fixture, select from a wide range of appliances, decide on a decor, choose the material for the counter, etc. etc. She can spend hours touching every item of clothing or footwear in a shopping mall or main street shop, but picking a kitchen, in which she will spend hours and which will last for years, seems to bore her.
This kitchen also provides a lesson in economics. Nice things cost money, but we have always bought the best appliances and furnishings. I had expected the kitchen to be more expensive than the one we bought years ago, but the cost is four times as much. That shows the amount of inflation, because we have basically the same items. Thanks to the Koreans, the only item that has remained the same cost is the side-by-side refrigerator/freezer. Earlier, we had to import this from the United States, because German refrigerators were about the size of a washing machine. Germans have escaped the farm and learned the disadvantages of this size, so larger models are now available, thanks to Samsung and LG. Siemens now offers larger sizes, but cannot compete with the Asians on price and design. That said, no one can compete with Germans on electrical appliances or fixtures.
The only good news is that long delivery times gives me a reprieve of the hard part...
* Stealth German Word(s) of the Day: Children, Church, Kitchen is the classic definition of a German woman's life.
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.