I currently live in a 5-room, 1000 sq. ft. town home, of which the kitchen is the largest space by a significant margin. I’m well aware that any NYC apartment I can find (and afford) will be about half that size, and the kitchen will be little more than a nook or closet. I’ve lived in studios with that set-up before, and have gotten along quite well. The difference now, of course, is that in the year-and-a-half that I’ve lived in this home, I’ve amassed a giant collection of cooking elements. I can say with all honesty that, with the exception of two small gadgets and a set of miniature juice glasses, I have used every one of them in the last three months. I feel comfortable asserting the honesty of that proclamation because I set myself the task earlier this afternoon of pulling every one of those elements out of cupboards, drawers, and shelves, and putting back only what would fit in a miniature kitchen space. Everything else goes to family, sale, or charity.

I did not expect this to be so demanding or stressful an activity — I didn’t have nearly as much trouble completing a similar task with my closet or books. Yet, I also feel as if it was far more rewarding.

I should back up a bit.

Food, and the preparation of it, is a big deal in my family. A *really* big deal. Parties and events are superb functions, but when issued an invitation, the response is always, “I’d love to come, thank you — what can I bring?” Holidays and birthdays are an even bigger deal — the most important gifts given are the baskets of special and unique goodies at Christmas, and the delivery of pies at Thanksgiving. When I asked my Nana about how we became so focused and attentive to the food baskets, she explained that it was always important because when my Mom and her siblings and cousins were growing up, there was never enough money for elaborate gifts (simple and heartfelt, yes, but elaborate, no). This was still the case when I was born and the whole family started celebrating the winter holidays en masse — special occasion foods were exchanged in lovely arrangements, wrapped and beribboned, and anticipated with extravagant expectation. (I have a vivid memory of being about 5 years old, riding in the back seat of our car with my face pressed against the door, trying to “smell the cookies soon,” because they were “the best part” of Christmas.) Children see things in funny ways. I know that my Mom, Aunts, and Sister don’t feel anything like the anxiety over preparing Christmas foods that I do, and they’ll probably laugh at me for it – but there is a very real anxiety, a desire to make something fantastic and wonderful. Poor Erica, who has witnessed and participated in my Christmas-cookie baking frenzies on several occasions, can attest! Thus, there is a very real anxiety for me in losing a cooking/baking/preparation/presentation element that will diminish my Christmas/holiday/special event food offerings.

Expectations and anxieties aside, this was a fabulous experience. I’ve allowed myself to keep two full cupboards-worth, two drawers-worth, and the oven’s pull-out drawer of dishes/glasses/pots/pans/bakeware/tableware, etc, plus one small stack of pieces that don’t fit into those places. Considering that I started with six cupboards and four drawer’s worth, that’s a pretty massive overhaul!

What I’ve kept:
– Full place settings for six in a combination of this pattern and related red/gold solids, plus glassware and flatware
– A single stack (on small shelf-height) of serving dishes plus a serving bowl for pasta, a cut-glass presentation tray with a center handle, and a silver serving tray (in desperate need of polish) which don’t fit in any cupboard (because of their size being larger than the cupboard footprint)
– A set of silver serving utensils that I inherited from my paternal grandmother, also in desperate need of polish
– A mismatched set of mixing/preparation bowls that nest perfectly inside a lidded plastic salad bowl
– All of my stoneware baking pieces (baking sheet, roasting pan, muffin tin, 2 loaf pans, a mini-baking tray, and 2 small oval baking dishes) plus an aluminum Bundt pan and my cooling racks, which will live in the drawer below the oven.
– A stockpot, 3-quart lidded pot, 1.5-quart lidded pot, lidded saute pan, and a small frying pan, plus my Slow Cook Crock, the inner dish of which can serve as a dutch oven.
– Four gadgets: Kitchenaid hand-held mixer, Cheese/Nut/Vegetable grater, manual Chopper, and Magic Bullet mixer, with their associated pieces and parts
– Three stacks of glass storage pieces with rubber lids in various sizes and shapes (round, square, rectangular), nested together
– Measuring cups and spoons
– A china teapot, a glass teapot with a copper warming stand, and two tea strainers (one for black tea, one for green and white), plus three tea cups (separate from the six included with the place settings), one of which will live in my office
– An assortment of utensils (knives, juicer, egg separator, zester, peeler, garlic press, masher, soft fruit and egg slicer, corkscrew, etc) that fill the second drawer, plus a small crock with rubber spatulas, servers, spoons, etc that sits on the stove
– Two glass pitchers, which will live in the refrigerator holding ice water when not otherwise in use.
– A stack of cutting boards in various sizes and materials — I will trim this down to two (one for meats, one for everything else) when I get to NYC, but I’m bringing all of them with me to start out.

All of these items fit neatly and easily into the aforementioned space, and will serve me well in the cooking and baking that I do. I’ll need a ceiling-mounted pot rack in order to make the kitchen space functional for multi-step preparation, but that’s an easy addition.

Better yet, I don’t actually miss or regret any of the 100+ pieces currently strewn around my living room waiting to be packed up and delivered to family (two other silver serving sets from Gram that are being delivered to my sister, two dozen pieces of stemware that I’ve never used (as I don’t actually *like* wine or drinks that I mix myself) that are going to my mother), placed for sale (the backup set of plates and bowls), or delivered to the Salvation Army (that pile includes the juice glasses and the gadgets I haven’t used in three months, plus a whole lot of other stuff).

Listed out as it is, that seems like an enormous amount of “kitchen stuff.” For a non-cook, it probably is, and there are certainly better cooks/bakers than I who get by with much less (as my favorite cookbook, a Zen, “Three Bowls” affair attests daily). But it’s my kitchen, and I think this will enable the functionality that I crave.

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