Some of us collect fantasy kitchens to roll around in our imaginations. We spin them into dreamy scenarios of the lives we want to live, and of the people we want to be. Advertisers count on us to aspire to that gorgeous, granite-countertopped room with the stainless appliances where all good things will happen.

And they are onto something. I don't think any other room gets to us this way because the idea of the kitchen strums some primal chords in our psyches. In the best if all possible worlds, this room feeds us, brings us together, it warms us -- all those good old basic needs within four walls. In our imaginations, the kitchen has heart.

To some, like food photographer Ellen Silverman, that sense speaks through images of another place and experiences. Spare Beauty: Cuban Kitchens was a 2012 gallery photo show and is an ongoing exhibit on her site.

Ellen describes Spare Beauty this way: "This past year, I traveled to Cuba three times. Having a strong interest in food and food photography, the kitchen was a natural subject for me to focus on. I was welcomed into homes where I found sparse spaces, where time has stopped. Due to years of lack of money, supplies and equipment, people have been forced to adapt and improvise. These photographs reflect the personalities and the circumstances of those who inhabit them."

Here is a sampling of Spare Beauty:

You've seen Ellen's work in magazines and books, including Gweneth Paltrow's My Father's Daughter, and our book, How to Eat Weekends.

Find Ellen's Spare Beauty: Cuban Kitchens show and get a sense of how a food photographer works at her site,

[More: Silverman and food writer Ana Sofía Peláez explore Cuba's cuisine for The Cuban Table]

Lynne Rossetto Kasper
Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.