Portion of Grattan School mural depicting children playing on and around a large tree; © L. Kathryn Grace, all rights reserved

Children playing and gardening – Grattan School mural

7:00 am

I’ve nearly finished mincing the garlic, chopping onions, and cleaning potatoes. Janine, head cook for breakfast and lunch today, sings as she kneads bread for the Kaiser rolls over which she will serve a delicious ragout for lunch.

While the bakery produces all the breads and pastries for the village, making bread is one of Janine’s pleasures and you will almost always find her kneading an extra loaf or two on her shift.

Two other cooks, each with a team of three, are preparing additions to the breakfast menu. As shift head cook, Jenine has the privilege of coordinating the menus, selecting the produce and groceries, and choosing her team from the duty roster.

Just as gardeners garden (that’s me), weavers weave, and builders build in Ordinary, anyone who loves to plan, cook, and assemble meals can choose more time in the kitchen. Those who have passed apprenticeship, including village taste tests, rotate through the shifts as head cook.

The rest of us pull duty as our turns come up, as all villagers do for any of the myriad maintenance, cleaning, and production operations that nourish and sustain our way of life.

No one takes another’s work for granted. Because we all help one another at one time or other, we understand and respect the skill, experience, forbearance, and love we bring to our tasks.

At the moment, I’m respecting the work of the twins, Kami and June. Hands dripping with juices, the twins are washing and slicing grapefruit, bananas, strawberries and early apricots for the fruit bowl. The aromas of the fresh-cut fruits tickle my nostrils and make my mouth water irresistibly.

I snatch a half round of apricot from the bowl and pop it into my mouth. Cool juice spurts across my tongue. The fruit is so ripe, I hardly need chew, but I do anyway, slowly, savoring the textures and flavor.

Ralph has a gallon vat of water boiling eggs for the rushed eaters who want to grab and run, while he beats fresh eggs for his cheesy scramble, a favorite of the sit-downers.

Janine sets her yeasty sponge to rise, covering it with a clean, home-spun cotton towel. I’ve finished chopping the onions and garlic and slide them onto the grill where the potatoes are already caramelizing. Grabbing a fresh knife, I clean and cut parsley for garnishes, snatching bites of the fresh, pungent herb. Its curls tickle my tongue.

Servers move in and out of the kitchen, filling pitchers with cold milk and cream, setting out sugars–brown, raw, and white–raisins, fresh-shelled nuts, and other condiments.

Our movements are fluid as a dance. We speak softly if at all, enjoying the morning peace.

Not all mornings are like today. I have spent many an early morning singing raucous rounds as we worked, and not a few of the villagers are expert at keeping the rest of us laughing so hard we must put down our knives, if we are using them, before we injure ourselves.

But today is sublimely peaceful. Even the dining room crew is hushed as they set the tables, carefully aligning tableware, plates, and glasses.

No one would let the others down by doing a sloppy job, even at something as mundane as setting the table, for beauty is as important to our health as nutritious vegetables and clean, clear water.

Through the pass-through, I glimpse Merilee arranging flowers, low bowls of peonies–last of the season–and old-fashioned roses. She’s sprinkled fresh sprays of lavender among the large, delicate orbs. The subtle pungency, combined with the delicious food smells, will energize sleepy stragglers.

Behind Merilee, where I can hear but not see her, Cheyenne tunes her cello. We’ll have music with our coffee today.


  1. Phyllis Stimpert · · Reply

    Ordinary sounds like a truly lovely place to live.


    1. Thank you for visiting, Phyllis!


  2. Anonymous · · Reply

    As I read this, I felt like breakfast in Ordinary must always be a simple, beautiful dance. I’m glad Cheyenne is back has arrived, and I can’t wait to meet others.


  3. Anonymous · · Reply

    Joy and harmony at work, what a concept!


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