…and while for the most part the transition has been smooth (and delicious — the bagels!), I find I’ve been a little hung up on a sort of nebulous issue: How do we turn this new space into a home?
To be clear, I love our new apartment. The recently-installed floors are herringbone-patterned and don’t creak like my old circa-1926 halls used to. And there are thoughtful details, like outlets inside cabinets, so printers and blenders can live elegantly stowed away.
The kitchen drawers are wide enough for me to have an organized spice section for the first time in my life. And maybe the best feature of all: I can see my childhood best friend’s apartment from our kitchen window.
But we had been in our previous house since 2003, aka two decades, or, when put in another, more sentimental unit of time, the entire lives of our two daughters, who are 19 and 21. That house was the only home they’d ever known, the house where, collectively, they blew out the candles on 36 birthday cakes. Every corner of every room was as well-worn and adored as their teddy-bear loveys, now living in a storage unit bin marked “TREASURE CHEST.” As Mary Oliver once wrote in a poem about home, “You know how it is: things collect.” And I feel like she wasn’t just talking about the stuff.
It’s not like I expected to our new apartment to immediately feel as homey — I know it’s going to take time — but I do find myself eager to expedite the process of warming things up a bit. My daughters are away at college until Thanksgiving, so I’ll have to delay that part of Operation Make New Memories, but one thing I have found goes a long way towards the effort? Cooking. (Shocking, I know!)
Whether I’m making a quiche for visiting friends, or baking a challah for my dad, or just putting together a simple dinner for my husband and me. The effect is instant — like I can almost see sparkles wafting out of the pots and pans, then floating down the apartment hallway. Also, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I find myself craving old favorites, like Bean Burritos and Shrimp with Feta. The first dinner I made in my new oven was mustardy baked chicken — a recipe so adored in my family that it once earned the dubious honor of a meal we’ve loved to death. In my new apartment, I found its familiar smells and sizzles to be so grounding, so comforting.
Baked Chicken with Herbs and Dijon Mustard
From A Bird in the Hand, by Diana Henry
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
chopped leaves from 6 springs of tarragon (or dill or chives or basil)
3 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
8 skinless, bone-in chicken thighs (I’ve also used boneless and it’s fine)
salt and pepper
1/4 cup breadcrumbs (or panko)
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Mash the Dijon mustard with the tarragon and butter until combined. Put the chicken into a roasting pan (or a baking dish) and brush or spoon the mustard mixture onto the chicken. Season, then press on the bread crumbs.
Roast in the oven for 35 minutes. The top should be a lovely golden color. Serve immediately with the cooking juices that have gathered around the chicken, maybe with some boiled new potatoes and a green salad.
Also comforting? This photo door inside a kitchen cabinet. I basically cut and pasted my old kitchen bulletin board, right down to a piece of artwork that came home in my daughter’s second-grade backpack. What can I say, some things are hard to let go of.
What else should I be doing? Where do you live? Have you recently moved? I’d love to know: How did you make your house feel like a home?