One common mistake my students make is to talk about getting a ‘New kitchen’. When I was first in Germany I couldn’t understand what they meant, as people seemed to do it rather often and I couldn’t imagine all that building work being undertaken so light-heartedly. I quickly realised what they meant was a new fitted kitchen, or built-in kitchen, ‘eine Küche’ in German meaning not just the room, but the appliances and cupboards etc in it. Sometimes I think the ‘new kitchen’ is as much of a status symbol as a car can be.

When we bought this house there was a room which evidently had been a kitchen, in that there was a sink with running water in it, and a place (with chimney) where a range could go. The previous owner, Emil, must have lived spartanically, but as he had lost his home (far to the East) and one of his arms (at Stalingrad), I expect the lack of (for instance) central heating was low on his list of priorities.

Anyway, our very kind and friendly bank manager told us we would need DM20,000 for a fitted kitchen and (not having much money at the time) we looked at each other and said, nope.

I really love to cook and knew what I didn’t need (lots of fancy equipment) and what I wanted ( to look out of the window at the garden while I washed up or stamped out cookies).

And so my clever husband built just the kitchen I wanted:

And I love it, still 25 years later. I can’t tell you how many thousands of meals I have cooked here, often for my students or international colleagues of my lovely husband (including even some from Stuttgart!)

One thing I particularly like is that we have curtains under the shelves rather than doors, and it is always such fun to change these according to the season, or to give the kitchen a new look.

Thanks to Netflix, I’ve been enjoying watching lots of TV series in French recently. I watch with English subtitles, of course, but am agreeably surprised how much I understand. I especially like it when the actors want to express that they are sorry about something, “Je suis désolé!”. It sounds so much sorrier than the English “Sorry.”

Things have been tricky between the UK (more particularly England) and France recently (and I am désolée about that), so in the spirit of the entente cordiale I decided I would like to have a French influence in the kitchen for the next few months.

(Oh dear, fishing was a problem between our countries back then already.)

For various reasons I was thinking about Marie Antoinette recently, and so it was clear that to be French, and summery and countrified, the new kitchen curtains had to be toile de jouy.

There are lots of such toiles to choose from, ( all sorts of different motifs and colours,

But I lost my heart to this one, so much going on, who could possibly resist?

Jouy-en-Josas is a small town very close to the Palace of Versailles, and in the 18th century Christophe-Philippe Oberkampf set up a factory producing this marvellous fabric. Louis XVI had lifted the ban on importing cotton from India, and Oberkampf used the highest quality cottons and beautiful designs. Marie Antoinette loved the toile, and so it became all the rage.

The fabric was printed using engraved copperplates, a technique invented in Ireland by Francis Nixon in 1752, and (whisper it) such designs had been produced in England before Oberkampf set up his business.

Bromley Hall Pattern Book | Unknown | V&A Explore The Collections (

Oberkampf’s factory produced gorgeous fabrics for 83 years, not only the pastoral scenes but also more than 30,000 floral designs. His designs were so popular they were often copied, and became featured in for wallpaper, ceramics, lampshades and these days even T shirts and pyjamas (Hmmmn….).

Anyway, fortunately my lovely husband has finished pouring over two tons of concrete into the foundations of our greenhouse, and was available for lighter duties:

And as you can see in the header this week, our kitchen has been transformed into the Petit Trianon.

So I will finish now and order myself the matching pyjamas, to wear whilst I dream of la douce France…would it be too much to order matching toile de jouy bedlinen?

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