The kitchen needs rebranding.
We had done the essential renovations. The 30-year-old gas stove, which was leaking just a little, sometimes, was replaced by a shiny new range. Stores do not sell plain stoves any more, we found—they sell gas convection slide in ranges, the price increasing by the syllable. A dishwasher was installed. Wiring was replaced. Cabinets were re-finished. The ceiling was plastered and painted, a new counter and much more functional drawers (wow, they don’t stick!) replaced an antique bureau that had done its duty holding dishes and silverware. There is even a fan over the stove (I mean range) that vents grease and smoke when I fire up a wok or do serious grilling.
The kitchen looks good. But as enjoyable as it is to cook in and as happy as we are with it, I felt that it wasn’t impressing people. Friends came over and reacted to all the work we had done as they might if I got a trendy pair of glasses. “Hmm, there is something different about you … did you get a haircut?” “No, I just spent hundreds of dollars on a new pair of glasses,” “Oh, yes. They are very nice. Are you sure you didn’t get a haircut?”
When I look at successful branding, I realize that the contents have to change. This is unlike the recent attempt to rebrand Radio-Canada as new and hip, where nothing changed except for plunking the word “ici” before the network name. Or “New Coke—the best just got better,” but it hadn’t. Well, we changed the contents—just about everything but the kitchen sink (we kept the one we had) —but that wasn’t enough.
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What our kitchen required was something unique to set it off. It is our dream kitchen and we did much of the work ourselves. But we needed something around which to build the brand.
On a recent trip to a family wedding in North Carolina, we wandered into a huge craft fair. Celina bought me—as a pre-Father’s Day present—something I always wanted: a hand-crafted bread bowl. It is gorgeous, made by Bob Barrett, who has been turning these out for years. Ours is maple and looks impressive just on a table. The sloping sides and generous proportions have proven perfect for proofing pizza dough and given rise to several loaves of sour dough. We could call our kitchen The Bread Bowl Kitchen, but that doesn’t have quite the flair of what I see in catalogues.
Had we gone to any store specializing in kitchen design, we could have chosen the model we wanted from their gallery. Nobody has showrooms anymore; and at these prices you might as well go to a gallery. We could have had an Inspiration Kitchen or The Laurier with a choice of Thermofil doors and counters from the Artisan Stone Collection. All of these are brand names. “Refinished Oak” and “Bread Bowl” didn’t make the list.
If ours came from IKEA, we might have said, “We got a Blonchky Kitchen.” And people would say, “Oh yes, a Blonchky. Very nice.” We would open a bottle of Chablis to celebrate. People would leave telling their friends, “They got a Blonchky.” Partners would turn to each other late at night and ask, “Why don’t we have a Blonchky?”
There would be no discussion in our household of us keeping up with others. They would have to keep up with the Blonchkys; but first they need a Bob Barrett bread bowl.
Easy peasy pizza
Homemade pizza, properly done, requires a day of setting to get the gluten to work well. Well-developed gluten makes dough easy to stretch. When I don’t have time for this, I go to a local pizza parlour—we have at least a four in our neighbourhood. Several sell raw dough (also available at many supermarkets and Italian stores like Milano). Ask for enough to make an extra large, which should make two regular-size pizzas at home. A few places also sell frozen, pre-shaped, gluten-free dough, ready to slide into the oven.
Once home, set the oven to bake as high as it will go. Open a can of crushed tomatoes, add, if you like, herbs, salt and pepper, garlic and onion powder. Grate fresh mozzarella and mix this with a few tablespoons of grated Romano or other hard Italian cheese. Take out what ever looks good in the fridge: salami, sweet pepper slices, black olives, cooked asparagus, etc.
Stretch the dough or use a rolling pin if you are not used to hand-stretching. Dust a pizza pan with corn meal and put the dough on top. Add sauce, cheese and toppings. If the top gets messy or the dough is sticking, fold it over, seal the edges, brush with olive oil and call it a calzone. Cook until the edges are golden-brown and the cheese is bubbling. This costs a quarter as much as delivered pizza and takes about the same amount of time.