Kitchen congregating creates bottleneck

A few Saturday nights ago, I had a large group of people over for dinner. Despite a large selection of rooms from which to choose, everyone instead stood around in my kitchen.

Whether you’re an award-winning cook or someone who slops hoglike family, you need your space to finish making dinner. While these people would never stand, looking over my shoulder as I write, they feel entitled to hover in my kitchen.

An unfortunate reality of the floor plan of my home is the door from the enclosed side porch opens directly into the kitchen. You can’t walk in the side door without entering the kitchen. Once they’re there, guests don’t seem to venture further.

I’ve tried moving the beverages elsewhere and putting hors d’oeuvres, candy, and nuts in another  room. But guests just treat the appetizers like a concession stand, going and getting food and drink, then bringing it back to the kitchen “show.” Even the family room, with its comfortable seating and blazing fire, fails to lure them away.

I just don’t understand the kitchen’s popularity. It’s noisy and dangerous. Putting the final touches on a meal is labor-intensive and requires slinging hot pots and pans. I’ve considered scalding a guest with hot gravy to teach a lesson, but hate to risk a lawsuit just to make a point.

Perhaps I should invent holiday police and fire “keep out” tape for cooks to use to cordon off the kitchen. Maybe I should train my English Shepherd as a kitchen attack dog to keep guests at bay while I finish carving the turkey and unmolding the Jell-O salad.

What really fries my eggs is when guests stand in the kitchen, holding up food production, while asking, “When will dinner be ready?” Approximately 10 minutes after you get the heck out of my workspace! When someone offers to help, I ask them to herd the other guests into other rooms.

At kitchen crunch time, the only people you want in the kitchen are yourself and one or two qualified helpers. By qualified, I mean people who actually cook more often than Thanksgiving or Christmas. Anyone who has ever called the Butterball Turkey Hotline is not qualified. The person who brings olives or chips to the gathering is not qualified. Someone who knows how to de-glaze a roaster is.

If I were into kitsch, I would have in my kitchen one of those brightly painted signs that reads, “No matter where I serve my guests, they always like my kitchen best.” But I hate kitsch as much as I hate kitchen loitering, especially bright-colored kitsch. 

To refresh the reader, kitsch is defined as “shoddy or cheap artistic or literary material.” Think cedar signs crookedly stamped in red and black ink proclaiming, “My grandma went to Florida and all she bought me was this lousy plaque.”

Kitschy people cannot help the fact they are attracted to items with cartoonish qualities, like neon colors, plastic construction, and corny sayings. I’ve come to think of it as an illness: The opposite of OCD, but equally debilitating. Tony Randall’s Felix Unger character on “The Odd Couple” would not collect kitschy troll dolls, while his roommate, Oscar Madison, likely had several thrown somewhere under his bed.

Meanwhile, back in my kitchen, I need to create a more dignified sign on wood other than cedar that reads, “New behinds I’m likely to tear if my guests don’t loiter elsewhere.”

They could take the sign with them into a less-congested room to ponder if their hostess really was threatening to rip them a new one for blocking her access to the oven, sink, and fridge. Let me assure you, she was.

One time I tried yelling, “Everybody out,” and pushed the test button on my smoke alarm to disperse the crowd. What’s needed is a kitchen-specific device that emits a piercing, mom-toned, expletive-laced rant to drive people out. Short of that, asking, “Who wants to mash the potatoes?” seems the most effective way to clear the room.

Problem is, I’m not always serving potatoes. But people are usually two rooms away before it dawns on them. I’ll do whatever works to curb claustrophobic kitchen congregating.

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