Marilyn McDonald

‘The old kitchen had been condemned by the health department when the Becks owned the Springs. It was torn down in the first weeks by an overzealous Zen student caretaker acting on his own who knew it was condemned and thought it looked too dilapidated. The small staff dining shed which already had a four-burner stove was quickly converted into a temporary kitchen. When the hotel burned in 1949, the sandstone blocks were bulldozed into the cellar. Many of these were dug up in the creation of a garden and used as foundation stones for the new kitche, The walls were made from stones gathered in the creek bed. Roof timbers were cut from Coulter pine from Chew’s Ridge and from Tassajara canyon sycamore. No nails were used in the joints which were made by traditional Danish and Japanese methods. None of the masons had ever built a stone building before. It was finished in 1970. “People didn’t want to use the square stones – wanted to use the rounded, ‘pretty’ ones. It took a lot longer of course. Some people would hunt the whole day to find the right stone.” – Paul Discoe.’ (A Brief History Of Tassajara)

Perhaps as part of my missing my usual visits to Tassajara again this year, I picked this lovely book off the shelf. I had heard a little about the construction of the kitchen, but not about the prior demolition. When I was doing rock work around Tassajara, I always felt a little envious of those who were there in the early days, to have the pick of all the rocks in the creek. Though of course, after a heavy winter of rain, when the creek slowed and the level dropped in the spring, there was often a new harvest that had been washed down from upcreek.

I have plenty of photos of the Tassajara kitchen, which is little changed since 1970, though the light was always difficult to manage.
It was always cold in the kitchen in the winter, even without snow on the hills, and we used to joke about going into the walk-in fridge to warm up.


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