Wrapping up our Penang reno, I'm recalling the greatest kitchen I've ever seen (or eaten in). It's not what you think
Sitting at the kitchen table in February, I watched her prepare - with the help of a daughter and a daughter-in-law - some fifteen dishes over four hours (she had, of course, started long before we arrived at the house at 9am). She moved leisurely - circling, circling, circling the stove - lifitng lids to monitor contents, stirring here, adding a little something there, moving pans from high heat to low heat to no heat at all. Never rushing, rarely speaking, Lucia seemed in a trance, completely at one with her work, which seemed not work at all but merely an extension of her being, an action as unthinking as breathing. Knowing which dishes needed what kind of attention when, she cooked entirely by instinct, with the heart instead of the head - a state of kitchen ease that I've experienced perhaps thrice in all my years at the stove (those moments are so rare that I remembe...