Rather than the embankment-around-an-island species that's typical in the U.S., the German kitchen is more like the shoreline around a lake. Otherwise, the German--juxtaposed with American--kitchen is not particularly distinctive. On one shelf of the overhead
cabinets are glasses, on another mugs, on a third plates and bowls, then wine glasses, then beer glasses (granted, "Maßkrüge"--what people drink from at Oktoberfest--are abnormally large beer glasses for American standards); pots and pans are cleverly stowed
away somewhere (my friend's kitchen has an ingenious storage cabinet that I call "the Batmobile" because it unfolds just as impressively as the doors of Batman's car); silverware is organized into its respective families in one of the upper drawers; the wooden
spoons, whisk, ladle, and spatula are all accounted for on a bar above or in a vase next to the stove--probably close to an assortment of oils and vinegars; under the sink dwell either cleaning tools or the garbage; the fridge is stocked with basic animal-byproducts,
veggies, jam, ketchup, tofu, and Tupperware with leftovers; a spice-rack with Italian seasoning, pepper, salt, basil, oregano, thyme, curry, basil, cardamom; a pantry with pasta, flour, sweets, canned goods, snacks, honey, cereal, tea, coffee beans... The
appliances usually include a refrigerator, oven, dishwasher, espresso or coffee machine, kitchen scale, Kitchen Aid (very popular yet pricey in Germany), toaster, perhaps an automatic bread-slicer, a microwave (though not as frequently as in the States), and
a little device to carbonate tapwater, and a hand-held blender.
Also housed in the kitchen is the home-owner's very efficient recycling system. My sister and brother-in-law, for instance, have a silver bag for metals, a yellow bag for glass, a green bag for plastic, and a blue bag for paper as well as a bowl for compost
that they empty regularly; and my friend's WG ("Wohngemeinschaft," an apartment shared by students/friends), which doesn't have too large a kitchen to boast of, has a separate container for each recyclable material under the sink. Recycling here, for the most
part, goes without saying, even in the U-Bahn stations.
How time is spent in the kitchen depends on whether or not it includes a table. Houses usually have a dining room but also enough room in the kitchen for a smaller table, where families eat the more mundane breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, or get their
daily cappuccino fix in between. Regardless of the presence of a table, however, the kitchen is of great importance in any home. It witnesses how we return to our ancestral dawn through the instinctual allure of food. It's where the family gathers to cook,
gossip, make jam, bake for special occasions, quickly satiate grumbling tummies after a long day in the office or school, pass along old traditions to young generations...
Cooking and baking are creative processes--a bit like carpentry in that they wed practicality with art. When friends or family members assemble to cook/bake/grill, everyone contributes to the development of a shared memory. But of course the kitchen can
also serve as a zen garden for the individual: cooking as a solitary activity to decompress and self-reflect. Whether accommodating only one person or buzzing with many people, the kitchen is a place of "Geborgenheit," a feeling of security and comfort and