Is the food better if the kitchen is glamorous?

Some people envy their neighbor's diamonds or cars. I am a closet coveter of other people's kitchens. You know the kitchens I am talking about - with Sub-Zero refrigerators, silicone basting brushes, a breakfast "nook" that seats 20, Lenox dinnerware for 50, double convection ovens, six-burner cooktops with grills, and the ever-so- important touchless trash cans.

Since I spend every free minute in the kitchen, I have always dreamed of having a gourmet cooking paradise - the inspiration for flawlessly executed meals, where every nook and cranny personifies culinary class and every appliance takes your breath away.

The first time I saw one of these magnificent citadels of culinary superiority, I was living in Cleveland. Some new friends had invited us to dinner. To say the house was big would be an understatement. As our hostess guided us through the house, I was hoping for a possible tour of the kitchen. Instead, she led us straight to the living room.

As the food began to arrive, perfectly plated in tableware that would make the king of Brunei jealous, my curiosity began to grow. I had to see the kitchen where this gorgeous feast was being prepared. So I excused myself on the pretext of looking for the powder room, and wandered into the kitchen.

I think I turned every shade of green - from spring pea to avocado - as I entered the kitchen, with its hardwood floors and granite countertops. My own kitchen at the time got crowded if two people entered, and it seemed as if it belonged in a dollhouse. This kitchen could hold an entire Mardi Gras celebration and still have room left over.

Perfectly crafted knives with mother-of-pearl handles sat in the center of the island. I picked them up and caressed them longingly.

"Ah, there you are," said my friend, startling me.

"I was just admiring these knives," I said, each word dripping with wanting.

"I got those when I got married," she replied, "15 years ago."

Fifteen years? These knives looked brand new. I let it pass. I continued on my tour of her kitchen. There would never be any need to exercise if I owned a kitchen like this. I could easily cover a mile just walking around.

"Come on," said my hostess, pulling my arm and removing a tray from the oven. "Let's eat."

We walked back into the dining room and had dinner. The food was perfect, and I knew it was because of the gorgeous kitchen.

As we were leaving, my husband pointed quietly through the open kitchen door to stacks of takeout boxes perched atop the sparkling stainless-steel trash can.

Our hostess noticed and laughed. "I hate to cook," she said. "I just order out."

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