Love Your Kitchen and Happy Birthday, Eat Boutique

by Maggie Battista on July 31, 2014

in Featured, Food Gift Love, Food Gifts, Kitchen, What We’re Loving

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I also started Eat Boutique — but let’s talk about that in a few paragraphs. I’d rather, first, tell you about learning to love my kitchen.

When we moved into this 100-year-old farm house set on an old apple orchard, the kitchen was the heart of the home, quite literally. It was in the very center of the house and so tiny, about 10 feet by 10 feet large and walled in by four thick walls and a big old chimney. Don’t get excited, the chimney wasn’t the pretty kind; it was the sort of chimney that was used 100 years ago just to keep the house warm. When the chimney started falling apart, brick by brick, owner after owner walled it in on every side. My kitchen was dark and old and rundown and we bought the house hoping that one day, in twenty years perhaps, we’d renovate and build a kitchen to love.

But from the very moment we moved in, we didn’t let a dark and old and rundown kitchen get in our way of dinner and certainly never in the way of a dinner party. Because, really, what else is there besides work and love to get excited about but – people?! In our first few years in the home, I cooked dinner almost every weekend for whoever accepted an invite and certainly for all of our families, some of whom traveled all the way from Ireland, for both happy and sad occasions. I prepared dishes for four people, six people (the ideal number, really), 12 people, 20 people and groups as large as 50 people, all from that tiny kitchen. The appliances were old, the ventilation sucked, but we just did what we do.

I loved having guests over back then, really… but despite having ample room in other spots in the house, everyone always ended up pushing and shoving their way into the 10 by 10 foot kitchen while I cooked. It was sweet, at first, but grew tight after about… 20 minutes. Right?! I’d smile and let folks mingle around me while I chopped or pan-fried. But what I really wanted to do was shove them out of the way. Please tell me you understand.

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Eventually, I’d throw a cutting board in front of them and they’d try to chop some fresh herbs or clean a bunch of salad leaves, but maneuvering around them was just too complicated. We’d do a little dance: they’d move left, I’d move left, and what might take an hour of cooking drifted into three hours of very bad ballroom-like dancing and overcooked cuisine.

When I finally got the nerve to ask someone, quite candidly, why folks stayed in the kitchen when it was obviously too tight to fit twenty people and turned a quick meal into an extravagant multi-hour production, she explained it beautifully. While I saw everything wrong with my kitchen — the suffocating size, the dilapidated cabinets, the rickety stove, the unavailable counter space — they only focused on everything that was right about my kitchen. For them, the fact that I was in there was enough for them.

In that tight space, I tried to make magic from what felt like madness and that act made her love my unfashionably vintage nook more than her bigger, brighter kitchen. It makes me blush a bit just to think about so wanting to shove people out of the way. I mean, what’s wrong with me?! But I also thought, gosh, if I could make a meal in an otherwise impossible space, it was about time to love the good parts of my kitchen and to make the little changes I needed to really love it.

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Thus, the summer of 2007 began the great purge — I gave away loads of extra dishes or small appliances and sold the old table and chairs that really had no place in that tiny space. All the extra shelf space provided some relief and a little love started to blossom. The great purge led to a trip to that big Swedish design store to scope out replacing the cabinet fronts. But you know what happens when you go to that big Swedish design store, right?

Instead of pricing out cabinet fronts, we played around on their kitchen design software and whipped up the kitchen that we wanted to spend hours and hours in. Hell, we whipped up a kitchen to live in. Within two weeks, we decided to scrape whatever money (err, credit cards!) we had to break down the walls and slip in the bits we could afford, like bigger cabinets. The fancy island and shiny fridge would have to wait, but we invested in a good stove and enough lower cabinets to fit the space well — the upper cabinets would have to wait.

Not much has changed since then. I still have no upper cabinets, just open shelves, and that’s okay. I still have no island, just two tables shoved together with cheap stools. But I loved the new space we made from scratch. I spent hours in my kitchen, cooking and scheming up recipes and creative food projects. And just about the same time, charged with that superhero feeling that I could make a kitchen to love, I decided to make a food business to love.

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Eat Boutique came to life seven years ago this month. It started as a way to capture all those dishes I loved to cook for others and grew into a food gift business. And, oh my goodness, it also grew into markets that have hosted nearly 10,000 guests in Boston alone — it’s so strange to type that number! And in October of next year, it will be born as a cookbook — you know, despite seven months of recipe testing, writing and gift wrapping, it’s definitely still strange to type that.

I’ve made so many fun things in this kitchen and I couldn’t imagine celebrating seven years without showing you a gallery of kitchen images. Because if you love your kitchen, I promise, it will love you back. It will love you back with so many lessons and successes and, with some practice, some really nice dishes. And then maybe, someday, it will love you back with your next great business idea or even, maybe, a cookbook.

From sharing this kitchen with friends, family, colleagues, contributors, customers, makers and readers of this blog space, I’ve made a little food life that rewards me every single day. To celebrate seven years — seven years! — we’re going to share some celebratory recipes and stories all month long and giveaway some fun food gifts and kitchen toys. Thank you and — oh yes — please stick around because we’ve got lots more things to make, together.

Maggie

{P.S. I’d love, love, love to hear about what you want to see MORE of on Eat Boutique. Do you want easy recipes? Or perhaps potluck dishes? Would you like to see us host more events, in more cities? I plan to share a survey a little later on this month — but I’d just love to hear your free form comments in the “comments” below. Thank you!}

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Photos taken and styled by Maggie Battista.

Eat Boutique discovers the best small batch foods by boutique food makers and shares our version of #foodgiftlove. We share recipes, maker stories and city guides to eating boutique. We host tasting events and markets for food makers, cookbook authors and food fans. We craft seasonal, regional gift and tasting boxes and sell individual items that you can order in the Eat Boutique Shop. You can also follow us on TwitterFacebookInstagramTumblr and Pinterest.

Maggie Battista

Founder at Eat Boutique
Maggie, is the founder of Eat Boutique. She started Eat Boutique as a blog in 2007, and sold out of her first gift box of small batch independent food in 2009. Maggie continues to offer unique and delicious handmade food in tasting subscriptions and seasonal gift boxes for food fans and home cooks. Maggie also hosts Eat Boutique Markets, where she spotlights cookbook authors and food makers. She’s written for Style Me Pretty, Food52, Time Out New York, Spencer Magazine, and writes a cocktail column for the popular wedding blog, Snippet & Ink. Maggie's also created retail experiences for the largest floral and event design company in New England. She regularly travels far distances to find the next great chef, farmer, food maker or host. You can follow her worldwide – and homemade – gastronomic adventures on Twitter at @mizmaggieb or @eatboutique. Maggie's writing her first-ever cookbook Food Gift Love to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in fall 2015.


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  • Sara L.

    My mother had this 1980’s super-bright piece of embroidery in our kitchen growing up that said, ‘No matter where I serve my guests, it seems they like the kitchen best!’ As tacky as it was, that statement was always so true! Everyone congregated in the kitchen!

    • http://www.eatboutique.com Maggie

      Oh Sara, I love that! I think I want to embroider a kitchen towel with that saying. :) xo

  • shelby h.k.d.

    oh my goodness. your house. it’s amazing. absolutely love!! that kitchen is just beautiful. also, congrats on your recent successes with the blog! i love following all your adventures :)

    • http://www.eatboutique.com Maggie

      You’re the sweetest Shelby. It’s a big old mess but it’s my mess. What’s your kitchen like? (merci! xox)

  • chezus

    Happy 7 years! Having chopped some herbs in that kitchen, sipping champagne, and indulging in your amazing cooking, I can say it is one of my favorite places in the whole wide world! Love that space. Love EB. Love you lady!

  • Joy | Frock Files

    As you know, your home is one of my favorite places ever. It’s warm, inviting, cozy, and very, very YOU. And you know what? When I read about your kitchen still not having an island, I was utterly confused, because I’ve never noticed that the island is actually two tables! Just goes to show that your friend was right–we don’t notice as much of what’s in the kitchen as we do the fact that you and Don are there. Happy birthday, Eat Boutique!

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