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All is fair in love, in war, and in crying for a new kitchen.

came to this conclusion after reading the entries in a contest in which people explained in 50 words or less why their kitchen was ugly and needed fixing.

The victor got $15,000 worth of materials to remodel the kitchen from Hechinger, the Maryland-based chain of do-it-yourself hardware stores and home project centers that sponsored the contest.

It was a sweepstakes with the winner plucked from a pile of 2,000 entries. But the fact that the luck of the draw rather than the power of their prose determined the prize winner did not stop folks from using all kinds of tactics -- including sending in photos of their pets and writing bad poetry -- in attempts to land a new kitchen.

The winner, Melinda Tomalino of Glen Burnie, simply stated that she was "desperate."

Many contestants used poetry to plead their case. The first few lines of one poem read "My doggie has been itchin' . . . for a brand new kitchen." It didn't get better.

It is not easy to rhyme kitchen parts with other words in the English language. The contestants proved that over and over again.

There was, for instance the poem from Diane of Baltimore describing her metal "cabinets that clank" with the fact that she had no money in "the bank." She also rhymed "disgust" with "rust," and walls that were "not square" with an invitation to come to the kitchen and "stand and stare."

In a similar vein, Kendra from Pasadena pleaded that "the floor is torn, the kitchen was built before I was born." And Susan from Forrest Hill was "aghast" that the wallpaper was "peeling fast." At times the kitchen descriptions reminded me of some of my favorite country-western songs. Bernadette from Baltimore, for instance, mentioned Mama. After slaving away for 38 years in an ugly kitchen, Mama, she said, "deserved" a new kitchen.

The guys tended to link the state of their kitchen with the condition of their marriage. Like one fellow who simply filled out the form with "save my marriage." And Matt from Baltimore penned a poetic plea for a new kitchen mentioning his "wife" and an end to "marital strife."

And then there was hyperbole. Susan claimed that the cuts on her ugly kitchen counter made it look like "a sushi bar." And Theresa said her kitchen was so ugly that she was afraid to open the kitchen curtains for fear of scaring the neighbors. And Terry and Mary Jo, newlyweds, said they needed a new kitchen because they have no place to put their wedding gifts.

Some sent snapshots of their kitchens along with entries. Picturesque they were not. There were a lot of bright yellow appliances, floral wallpaper -- one appeared be to a portable dishwasher that had been swallowed by the wallpaper -- and bright orange knotty pine cabinets.

I kinda liked the cabinets; they reminded me of my Cub Scout projects.

But of all the pleas I read, my favorite was from Barbara in Baltimore. She said her kitchen is so old and so cramped that she had to store silverware in the oven.

Now that is one awful kitchen.

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