I’m writing this column while sitting in our front room, which looks like the love child of Chaos and Literacy. It is a complete mess of books, boxes, various packing materials, ladder, some no-longer-hanging artwork, disheveled furniture and other stuff. In other words, we have a sidewalk sale coming this Saturday as we continue clearing out the house ahead of the move.
This isn’t your normal, rent-a-trailer move. This is a begin-again, let it all go, roll with what you can fit in one minivan, complete disengagement. We arrived in New Orleans the same way nine years ago, and I’m amazed at how much we’ve collected. Anyone is, if they’re stayed in one spot more than a year or so. We have two cats, so we have to reserve space for them. There are a few electronic items and some valued personal possessions and we’ve done some severe reduction of our wardrobes. Only one small piece of furniture will make the trip. Add in a bin of paperwork and we’re pretty much full.
I thought the hardest part would be deciding which books to take, since we have many and I have a thing for real books over a Nook or similar device. But now, looking at the kitchen, it appears to toughest decisions are still to come.
I’ve already unloaded nearly all our commercial culinary stuff, largely to a fellow chef up in Slidell. The two big smokers went to Chef Mars at Louisiana Bistro on Dauphine (where I worked during JazzFest – I think it’s the best and most creative white-linen in the city), while the BBQ trailer has gone to a guy from Hammond. This leaves pretty much just our personal kitchen/barware stuff and, I gotta say, some hardcore decisions remain.
The kitchen is usually the favorite gathering spot in the house because it’s personal. Guests are always welcome at the dining room table, but friends are in the kitchen. Look at your own, then tell me the items you’d take in one box that used to hold a case of wine. That’s our goal.
We’ve become attached to waaay too much glassware, mostly because it has been given to us by friends or family or it’s from treasured places. I’ve got some antique barware from the old Roosevelt Hotel, back when it was Huey Long’s hangout. There’s a painting of Kim and I, done by an artistic friend. We also inherited the wedding china from a former neighbor who divorced, deciding she no longer needed the man or the dishes. The set is not complete, since her Greek heritage led her to smash some plates in celebration once the deal was final.
The painting goes with us, as does the Kitchenaid and an old, ceramic rolling pin from my German grandmother. We’ll make room for the set of Cutco knives, but the other cheap knife set that was a years-ago corporate gift will be spun off. Flatware is easy to replace, as are everyday plates, bowls and cups. The little Krups espresso machine is sidewalk-bound, along with pretty much every other gadget. A few small culinary antiques might make the trip, but most are findable at flea markets anywhere.
Boil your kitchen cabinets, drawers and pantry down to one box, roughly 16 inches square. Which items of practicality or sentiment would you take? Most people throw everything in a box when they move, then sort it all out when they get where they’re going. We’re having to take the opposite approach, and it seems there are more memories than we thought in even some of the simplest things.
Too many of us re-learned with Katrina that things are only things and most things are replaceable. But some of them aren’t, and those are the decisions we’re making these days. We cook, so our heart is in the kitchen. Not only with our kitchen, but with New Orleans itself, pieces of that heart will simply have to remain behind.
Craig Giesecke has been a broadcaster and journalist for over 30 years, including nearly two decades at the AP and UPI covering news, sports, politics, food and travel. He has been the owner of J’anita’s for five years, serving well-reviewed upscale bar food and other dishes. Comments are encouraged and welcomed.