It's something that can't be quantified in resale value or used to impress a prospective buyer. No, the history of life in a kitchen doesn't fit neatly into a real estate ad.
For some of us, it might even factor into the reasons we want to sell a house. (Can't open your oven and dishwasher doors simultaneously? Raise your hand.)
On this Sunday before New Year's, the history of me in my mother's Northeast Philadelphia kitchen is redolent of Italian fish feasts - almost never feasts of seven fishes, though, six at the most.
Mom and I have spent countless Christmas Eve hours in that kitchen, with its early-1970s dark-wood cabinetry and orange countertops, preparing the annual holiday celebration.
For at least one day each year, we work in near-perfect harmony, a well-oiled machine of table setting, cooking, pot shuffling, dish washing and drying, antipasto building, and dessert-tray assembling. She spends too many hours on her feet at the stove, working on the hot foods; I spend far fewer hours at her table, handling the cold.
She misses her old gas range, the one she traded in a few years ago for a new stainless-steel model. Ditto the side-by-side refrigerator she loved, now replaced by a metallic-finish top-freezer model. Ditto the chest freezer that already was old when I was born in the mid-20th century.
Many a shrimp, lobster tail, crab, mussel, and squid were stashed, then fried, baked, or simmered in sauce with those fondly remembered appliances before hitting the plates and being shuffled off to a dining room filled to bursting with hungry relatives.
I am, in no way, the cook my mother is. But my kitchens have offered up some intangible treasures of their own, history-wise.
The first house I owned featured a too-country-to-be-cool, too-blue-to-be-true kitchen that was oddly well-suited to life with a little boy more prone to playing with his GI Joe figures at the table than sitting down to actual meals.
We colored and did puzzles there. I left notes for him in magnetic letters on the refrigerator, and he confirmed my suspicions that he could read by laughing at them.
One Christmas, a friend who knew that Mike and I made Play-Doh cookies started us on real cookie-baking. She and I spent a hilarious Saturday night picking chocolate chips out of the dough at my son's request before popping the cookie sheets in the oven. I believe there was wine involved - for us girls, not the 3-year-old.
My friend and I made dozens and dozens of holiday cookies in that blue kitchen over the course of about seven more years, and then for a few years more in my current kitchen - which I despised when I first moved in, though it's grown on me.
That new kitchen couldn't accommodate my old table. That new kitchen was drafty. And it didn't remind me of all those good old times.
It took a few years, but eventually I discovered the good times had been baked into me, too. They just needed sweetening by the good times to come.