Some culinary endeavors should be out of view – and in the disposal

I would like to doff my apron to all the women who live in houses with open kitchens. You know, houses where the kitchen and the living room are one huge room and the only thing separating the hostess from her guests is a kitchen counter. I think those women deserve medals for courage. There they are, creating their vinaigrette and apportioning their herbes de Provence in front of a room full of watchful eyes, all the while smiling and carrying on witty conversation.

My own kitchen is behind closed doors. Of course, if I had followed my parents' sage advice and majored in home economics rather than philosophy, I'd be able to cope with an open kitchen.

I have a friend who, while I was reading Plato's "Republic," was across campus learning haute cuisine. So now, with a flip of her whisk and a twist of her paring knife, she can turn three eggs into a gourmet French omelet with a radish rose for a garnish while all eyes are glued to her. It's like a gala predinner performance.

The truth is, I have faced problems in my kitchen that no guest should be allowed to witness. There was the time my polyester potholder caught on fire, and it took half an hour to clear away the smoke and locate the stove.

Another time, my copy of "Joy of Cooking" fell into the shrimp bisque. It was definitely best that the guests did not observe the problems I encountered as I fished it out of the soup pot. Yet another time, as I was lifting the tenderloin onto a platter, it slid from the spatula and plopped to the floor. Those are the sorts of problems that make guests head for the coat closet rather than the dining table.

So that's why, when we signed up for a new condo, I had only one request of the builder. (Actually it was a demand.) "I want the kitchen enclosed," I said over and over.

And it is.

So there I am, a culinary loner, an invisible and isolated recluse, emerging from the kitchen only after every possibility of a problem has passed. When my tea biscuits burn, my white sauce curdles, and the meringue on my lemon pie deflates, my guests in the living room are blissfully unaware. I share these secrets only with my beloved garbage disposal.

Because, to paraphrase Harry Truman, my culinary motto is: "If you want to savor your supper, stay out of my kitchen."

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