It started in mid-September, when we innocently walked into our kitchen one day and felt a little bump. In front of the dishwasher. Under the vinyl flooring.
Such a little bump. Cute, really. Until there was a second one the next day. Then the first one got bigger. By the third day, we knew we were in trouble. We called our contractor friend and got the bad news: That's a leak, probably from under the dishwasher, but maybe from under the sink. They wouldn't know until they pulled everything off the wall. And since that would mean destroying the tile-and-grout counter and backsplash, we'd probably have to destroy the matching counter on the other side of the room, and that would lead to the cabinets and . . .
He seemed surprisingly cheerful. Happens all the time, apparently. I wasn't cheerful. Weeping was heard.
It's not that I loved my kitchen. It was a minimal, 1950s-era kitchen. Lots of tall cabinets, two nice windows. A broom closet I turned into a pantry. My collection of 1950s kitchen kitsch looked right at home, with cheery cherry-themed accents. My husband dressed it up with a really nifty red-and-gray paint theme.
But there were only two drawers in the whole dang room, the broom closet was too deep and narrow to be efficient, the floor plan left major "dead corners" in two cabinets, and because the cabinets were so low, I couldn't have a gas stove. The only refrigerator that would fit in the 1950s floor plan was a dreadful side-by-side with a freezer so narrow, you couldn't put a frozen pizza in it. No task lighting. Limited counter space.
Nope, I didn't love it. But replace it? How do you even begin?
Still, after getting the bad news from the contractor, my husband put his arm around me and said one of the nicest thing he's ever said to me: "You've done 20 years of food writing and two cookbooks in minimal kitchens. It's time you had something better. So let's do it. Let's gut the whole thing."
It wasn't the time I would have picked, and I certainly would have liked more time to think about it. But the little spot in front of the dishwasher was growing fast, into a big bump with a frighteningly bouncy feel to it. Bouncy is never a good thing in a floor.
For six weeks -- through a book tour and trips to New Orleans, New York, Nashville, Mississippi, New York and Memphis -- I've been in overdrive, meeting with an architect and cabinet designers, obsessively clicking through www.houzz.com, studying every Consumer Reports appliance review I could find, and looking at dollar amounts that are truly staggering.
Last week, in the middle of packing to take Thanksgiving dinner on the road, we also packed our kitchen and dining room. (I looked on the back of a china cabinet one morning and discovered my husband had sketched a word in chalk: "Heisenberg." I'll leave that there for Breaking Bad fans. He also laid down blue tape, like a crime scene, so I could see where the architect is moving the kitchen island.)
Last night, we set up a field kitchen in an empty bedroom and moved the dog's bowl to a bathroom.
And this morning . . . it began.