Janet Combs

Janet Combs

You know that joyful, everyone’s-family feeling you get when you walk into a really good Mexican restaurant? Accomplished with bright, lively hues on the walls and shared chips and salsa at the table, the ambiance at my favorite Mexican restaurant demands you deposit your lethargy at the door and find something worth celebrating at the table with the ones you love.

Naturally, loved ones are the folks who typically accompany you to restaurants, however, it may be worth a shot for the current administration to host the next contentious environmental summit at the bar at Habanero’s on Route 17 on a Wednesday night. Who knows? Good things might happen. It dawned on me, literally, as I was cutting in the vivid tangerine color we selected for our kitchen walls this past weekend and the area under our cabinets grew exponentially warmer and brighter: our kitchen is now Combs Cantina. Without consciously knowing it, we have replicated a fine Mexican restaurant atmosphere in our almost-remodeled kitchen.

It all started with the construction of our kitchen island. My husband created a simple, elegant design sturdy enough to support a slab of granite. A few weekends ago, he had all the pieces sanded, pre-drilled and ready for us to assemble together on the back porch. Even so, I consistently handed him the wrong piece, or the correct piece facing the wrong direction, throughout the entire afternoon. I did not do this on purpose. I revealed to him that in the mandatory Home Economics class I had to take in junior high school, I sewed my final project—shorts—with the fabric inside out. I even have difficulty with basic IKEA labeling; I once put a whole set of Kligsgaard chairs together incorrectly, and, if you’ll excuse my language, had to take every fliskonberry one apart and rebuild it. But this is not a column demonstrating the ease with which I can mix references to the Mexican and Scandinavian cultures! Though, come to think of it, what is a Chipotle restaurant but a Mexican-style smorgasbord?

We eventually completed the island assembly, and in a moment of daring, decided to paint the base of it poppy red. Before you are struck with vertigo at the thought of putting poppy red and tangerine adjacent to each other, please have a look at the artwork of Paul Gauguin, or the October 2017 cover of Oprah magazine, whichever is more convenient.

These colors also coexist in fruit bowls nationwide. And when you come across them in nature, they are show-stopping—think of the lush marigold garlands used in traditional Indian festivals, to bring yet another culture into this column! Even more surprising is the fact that, according to an article by Vikram Doctor in The Economic Times, the marigolds used in Indian festivals originated in Mexico. This column has now come culturally full circle.

Further research supporting our bold kitchen color choice indicates that warm colors—like reds and oranges—stimulate the appetite. And who doesn’t prefer hungry people hanging out in a kitchen? The color red, specifically, evokes love, warmth and comfort. Orange, apparently, induces feelings of playfulness, energy and enthusiasm. Now that the painting is almost done, I can say with confidence that when you enter our kitchen, you will be ravenous while simultaneously wanting to hug somebody and start a festive game of Old Maid or UNO at the island.

Doesn’t that sound like fun? The testing period will be Thanksgiving, when we are hosting our five children and their families as well as my husband’s sister and parents.

We expect our family to be hungry, of course, as well as warm and loving, but should anyone become disgruntled or cranky, we will guide them in a subtle manner into our kitchen.

I will report back on the outcome in a future column. Until then, Feliz Thanksgiving season to all.

Janet Combs is a freelance writer living in Georgetown County.