Back porch summer kitchen makes mealtime an old-fashioned breeze.
By Freia Koenig
Grindrod, British Columbia
When I was growing up, our house had a summer kitchen—like many of the old farmhouses in rural Ontario. My mom’s woodstove would have made the house unbearable in warm weather. Though I knew about summer kitchens, I never had my own until 7 years ago when my husband, Bob Dyck, and I bought a home on the Shuswap River in the North Okanagan area. Built in 1992, the home featured a wonderful screened, back porch summer kitchen, a real treasure.
Overlooking a grassy area rimmed with stone walls, perennial gardens and guesthouse, this summer kitchen is more up-to-date than the ones I remember, and probably more comfortable. The conveniences of my “real” kitchen—fridge, microwave and dishwasher—are just steps away.
I don’t need a second set of dishes or spices.
It really suits our more relaxed way of living since we’ve retired from high-pressure jobs. Maintaining our 18 well-developed acres is almost a full-time job itself for both of us, but it’s much less stressful. Our summer kitchen reflects that laid-back feeling, with custom pine cabinets stained to match the cedar walls and the pine board vaulted ceiling. The 10-foot-long, cedar-plank table seats 10 comfortably, and offers lots of workspace when I’m preparing to blanche or freeze vegetables.
Cheery sunflowers adorn curtains, placemats, floor mats, walls and even the cabinet knobs. The textured, slip-resistant flooring is a durable outdoor vinyl. It is very easy to clean and the neutral beige, tan and brown pattern is great for a high-traffic area. The low end of the counter, where the previous owner once planned to install a grill, is just the right height for our granddaughters, Lucy and Claire. They love to help in the kitchen. (For safety reasons, our grill is right outside the screen door.)
Our summers are hot and dry, with temperatures generally between 77° and 95°. Baking or roasting out here helps keep the inside of our home cooler, just as I’d remembered. This kitchen is also very practical for canning and making juice and jam. I tend a very large vegetable garden, since I like to share the bounty. We grow grapes and berries, including blueberries and jostaberries (pronounced yostaberries, they’re like a cross between a gooseberry and a black currant). And I dry quite a few herbs, flowers and fruit.
Even when winter temperatures of 17° to 36° make it too cold to eat meals out here, our summer kitchen gets no vacation! It provides extra cold storage and a second stove, very handy at holidays or whenever we’re feeding a crowd. And I always prefer to fry food, boil bones for stock or prepare fish here. It keeps grease and odors out of the house.
This kitchen really shines at carefree summer entertaining. When our four children visited for 2 weeks last August, we ate just about every meal out here. Sudden showers don’t dampen our spirits—or our sandwiches! The protective screens keep out uninvited flying objects like flies, wasps and mosquitoes. Shaded from the sun, we savor gentle breezes and bright garden views.
Later, we may bring out a cool drink to enjoy as we chuckle at hummingbirds’ antics or take in the soothing songs of birds and crickets. My summer kitchen helps me more fully appreciate the joys of this all-too-short season. It’s a tradition I think is well worth preserving!