21 Dec 2009

My favourite room

Perhaps I am a careless blogger. Perhaps I should be more vigilant in digging out facts, timelines and stories in order to recreate the lives of the old buildings that I visit.

But there are times when I just can’t. When no matter how hard I try, no facts will stick in my head long enough to be constructed into any kind of explanation. The truth is, sometimes I just don’t care.

It’s like that with this building:

Located in the middle of Callendar Park in Falkirk, Callendar House is a gorgeous Georgian home with roots going back 600 years. It is full of compelling, remarkable stories of change, politics, upheaval and more change.

I have been to Callendar House twice and hope to return many, many times. But I don’t go to read the multitude of signboards or learn about royalty or the industrial revolution. No, I go so that I can walk through one door and one door only. The door to the most wonderful kitchen I have ever seen.

It may not be everyone’s kind of kitchen, but for me it is like walking into a dream. I love that in order to get to the kitchen you have to round a corner and walk beneath a collection of stuffed rabbits and pheasants that are hanging from the ceiling. The door to the kitchen is always closed, so by opening it you reveal the entire glory of the room in one dramatic swoop.

Everything about the Callendar House kitchen is bold, solid, no-nonsense. There are long wooden counters and a massive centre table, a huge cooker on which are set thick-bottomed pots that are so heavy you need both hands to hoist them up. There is the ornate container that looks like an urn, but which is actually for hot water. There are the bulky, wall-mounted cases that hold thick, hand-made candles. And there is the enormous coal-burning fireplace, which is so wide and deep you could easily roast a whole pig on a spit.

The best photo I have is during my last visit. Meet Jenny:

There is always someone on hand in the kitchen to show people around and demonstrate traditional cooking techniques and recipes. When I was there the house was celebrating a Victorian Christmas and Jenny was offering samples of various desserts like mince pies and shortbread.

I think that in a past life I must have been a cook in a kitchen like this. A place where my natural physical strength and my capacity for pleasure would have been well employed.

Callendar House is run by Falkirk Council. They organize educational programs and the costumed staff teach about the past through the use of stories and demonstrations. Both times I have visited it has been free, which astounds me. I am always shocked when something that gives me so much joy turns out to cost me absolutely nothing.

People are often negative about local governments, but for Callendar House I have to give Falkirk Council full marks. Rather than leaving the house to become run down, they have brought it to life for people like me who nearly burst into tears at seeing such a magnificent kitchen.

It is my favourite kitchen in the whole world, even more beloved than the one at Stirling Castle. If anyone knows of other stunning kitchens in Scotland that I should see, please let me know.

One more thing! For those Scotland-loving sensualists who are also quilters, here is a quilted history of beautiful Callendar House.

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