In Praise of the Small Kitchen

small kitchen ideas

When we began looking at Oakland apartments, we found one that was not listed as a studio and went for the asking price of our San Francisco apartment. After that, I began color-coding listings on an excel spreadsheet by interest and neighborhood. Like a boss, I reached out to each contender, as if sending out cover letters for possible job interviews. The building manager of one unit left a voicemail message inviting us to check out the apartment and a few hours later, we signed.

I took for granted my long San Francisco galley kitchen where the smooth countertops were perfect for rolling pie dough or letting bread dough sit in bench rest. When writing my book, I had space to outfit an entire gigantic shelf full of tea for me to pluck as I developed recipes. Everything fit in our previous kitchen. Our new kitchen asks me to make some choices lest we be squeezed out of its square footage. My optimism with the apartment extended to the much smaller kitchen.

Amanda Cohen writes of running the small kitchen for Dirt Candy, her restaurant in the East Village in New York City. I visited Dirt Candy a week after it first opened and became a fan right away for its creative interpretations of vegetarian cuisine. Their kitchen is notoriously small for New York standards and she describes working in it with three other cooks. While I can’t imagine three cooks in my kitchen unless we win the opportunity to host Thanksgiving, it reminds me of the fine art of the cooking dance and choreography of speech necessary in a working kitchen.

She reminded me of the practicalities of running a small kitchen, even as I began contemplating rummaging through my spatula collection to hold onto the very best one (or maybe two). Does a person really need five whisks? I can’t imagine not having three sets of measuring spoons (and luckily, their  small footprint will allow that to happen).When you are about to move, you purge through everyday items for ones destined for Goodwill. When you move into a new place, you purge again.

A small kitchen provides the answer to the question before it is asked: Do I really need this? Perhaps the follow-up question could be, Would someone else use this more? That small kitchen juts open shallow drawers as if playing the role of candid advisor, offering a visual cue of just how much room you really have. It defines what really matters and makes decisions about what to give away startlingly clear. By clearing out extra gadgets, it opens up space, and space opens up ideas.

Some things have moved out. A cabinet in the dining room has been consigned to house all of our loose and bagged tea. A piece of shelving holds baking pans and mixing bowls. Already, I am embracing the spirit of the small kitchen, letting its optimism and structure inform the food of our days.

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