Of Butts, Kitchens, and the Turveydrop School of Deportment

By , February 26, 2013

A year or so ago, we watched the BBC mini-serialization of Charles Dickens’s Bleak House. We enjoyed it, but one aspect of it particularly stuck with me.

A few scenes occurred in the Turveydrop School of Deportment. In almost all of them, the school’s students performed a charming circle dance. Boys and girls swirled around the room, alternating between facing inward and outward as they executed the dance’s steps.

This entranced me so much that after we finished the miniseries, I went back to review those scenes.

I couldn’t say why this appealed to me so much until I passed Michelle in the kitchen the other morning. As I stepped past her, I recognized in my movements the same rhythm of the dance—which was a more intricate and elegant mirror of moves we execute every day.

You may have heard people classify their kitchen by the number of butts it can accommodate. A four butt kitchen is big enough that four poeple may move about in it witout running into each other—bumping butts, most commonly.

Our cabin has a 1 1/2 butt kitchen. A single person may work there alone quite comfortably. Two people are a crowd; when Aly’s home, things get really tight.

To get back and forth through the kitchen while someone is working there, for two people to work in it together, requires a dance of accommodation and avoidance.

Not that I mind brushing up against my wife or her doing the same to me. But such distractions aren’t always productive when there’s a meal to get on the table, or dishes to wash while the water’s hot. The “dance” enables us to pass each other with a minimum of distracting contact.

I don’t know if the dance the children perform in Bleak House is traditional, or choreographed for the movie. But I wonder how many butts the originator’s kitchen accommodated?

2 Responses to “Of Butts, Kitchens, and the Turveydrop School of Deportment”

  1. Linn Hartman says:

    Mark, You never fail to entertain me with your writings – Our kitchen is big enough but with the islands location which has the sink being in front of the stove it becomes a 2 butt kitchen at best. Of course a little butt bumping never hurt anyone.Keeps old people young. Have a great day.

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Hi Linn, I’m glad I entertain you–it’s returning the favor. I always look at kitchens and divide the butt count by the number of islands (although islands can be circled more effectively). And your second point is right on!

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