Monday, October 15, 2007

"You can tell a man by the size of his kitchen."

This past spring we did a weekend trip to Saint George, Utah, one of the first Mormon settlements in Utah.Right after the Civil War-Brigham Young picked this spot for its mild climate and directed the Saints to plant cotton, harvest silkworms and yes-grow vineyards- to make wine- to sell to the near by miners and use as a tithe to fund the building of a small temple and tabernacle.
Young also picked Saint George as one of his seasonal homes and today you can tour the pretty little Desert Victorian house on the corner lot, surrounded by pecan trees and grape vines, where Harriet Amelia Folsom Young,one of his few wives that did not have children, would usually spend the winter.
When Young purchased the house he added a fine entryway.The craftsmen ship is amazing-with faux painted pine- the only wood they had- turned into the finest grained oak set against the finest furniture and art. While there Young would oversee the churches affair, receiving visitors either in the front parlor or in his bedroom- a massive room with high ceilings to accommodate a canopy bed,with a sitting area next to a tall desk.
But I think you can tell a man by the size of his kitchen and to tell you the truth I was not impressed by the size of Brigham Young's kitchen. After taking the tour through the house and hearing of the entertaining the Young's did in this little house- I was expecting a spacious kitchen with lots of places to work and room to move- well it wasn't that- it was cramped and small. Granted-a hired girl did the cooking for the Young's and who knows what the kitchen looked like really- before it became a museum- but it made me start thinking and realize you can tell a lot about a man by the size of his kitchen. Take for instance- my great grandfather James Jenson.
Jame's parents emigrated from Denmark and settle in Freeborn county Minnesota, where my great grandfather and all his brother and sister were born. I don't know much about his younger days, but I do know when the rest of his family decide to migrate west to Montana- James decide to stay- because he had his eye on a young Danish girl, Christine- who had just come from Denmark with her family and was too young to marry-So James waited- and when she was of age- he married her and started a farm. At first they lived in a shack. Christine, pregnant and with little ones to watch - cooked in a tent- providing meals for the men working the fields. Coming to James, she told him she didn't have a platter big enough to server the breakfast meats and eggs on. James returned from town, that day, with a large pretty platter asking her if it would do. The platter is still passed around our families table today with stories of our grandfather James and how crazy he was for our great grandmother. Also proved by their thirteen children- in a time that when you were done having kids-you stopped- well....
Eventually he built Christine a proper kitchen- spacious with nooks and drawers for her cooking things- next to a fine dining room full of wood and a beautiful archway where she hung large paper bells each Christmas- near the staircase to the top floor where my grandmother remembers seeing her father sitting and crying- when his youngest son, barely two, died of dehydration.
Later in their life, my great grandmother,waking in her sleep,fell down those stairs and James would let no one else carry her back up and to her bed.
I have stories of my other great and great great grandfathers- stories of how important they thought they were and how they liked to rule over their households-but I have never heard those stories about my great grandfather James. Yup, you can tell a man by the size of his kitchen.


  1. I enjoyed reading about your great grandfather, James, and his love for Christine. The story of the platter is especially nice. .How wonderful that it is still passed around the table. I’d enjoy reading more about your family history…you always have such a nice way of telling the stories.

  2. Truly amazing , Julia. What a great story. To have a treasure like that passed from generation to generation is such a gift of love and a wonderful way to remember those who have gone on before.

    The story about Brigham Young is one I never heard, and very interesting.... such a great stove for such a small kitchen.