Story Land

Portlander Kate Christensen wrote her last two books, 2015’s How to Cook a Moose and this month’s The Last Cruise, at a table in her favorite room: a kitchen filled with as much history and reverence for nourishing meals as her storylines.

Writer Kate Christensen in her Portland, Maine kitchen
By Sarah Stebbins
Photo by Douglas Merriam
From our July 2018 issue

1. Kitchen Charms

“I’ve always collected writing charms, and now I seem to collect kitchen charms as well. I’m drawn to objects that feel lucky and inspiring.” Among them: plaques depicting San Pasqual, the Spanish patron saint of cooks, and a paper moose and diner sign that reference her two food-focused memoirs.

2. Stained-Glass Window

The couple discovered this window hidden behind Sheetrock and had it fitted with stained glass in a geometric pattern that Fitzgerald designed.

3. Refrigerator

The secondhand Viking fridge was a steal, and Christensen likes that it has a past: “When an object has a history, it takes on a significance beyond its utilitarian purpose that makes it beautiful and valuable to me.”

4. Pasta Maker

This wedding gift from Christensen’s mother “changed our life, along with my discovery of einkorn flour,” which is made from non-hybridized ancient wheat that the author, who is gluten intolerant, can eat. “Fresh, real-wheat pasta! I still can’t believe it.”

5. Backsplash

Mexican tile from Portland’s Old Port Specialty Tile recall a favorite vacation spot and pick up the colors and motifs in the window.

6. Cookbooks

Christensen’s “random, sentimental” collection includes tomes by Maine cooks Erin French and Christine Burns Rudalevige. “I am an improvisational cook, but I use recipes a lot too, in order to learn, broaden my repertoire, and cook through someone else’s experience.”

7. Reclaimed Materials

When Christensen and her husband, screenwriter Brendan Fitzgerald, purchased their West End Italianate house, it had “a yuppie, 1990s white kitchen.” Their renovation emphasizes salvaged finds: 1880s tin ceiling tiles, 1700s barn-wood flooring and counters, an old Biddeford mill floor turned into cabinets, and a copper island top that once lined a 1905 wooden bathtub.

8. Cook’s Companions

“I love having things around that were given to me by people I love.” These include her “hostess apron,” Costa Rican peppercorns (piled next to wooden checkers found inside the kitchen’s walls), her grandmother’s sugar bowl, “Manhattan Blue Plate Special” dishes, and Hungarian shot glasses.

May 2024, Down East Magazine

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