Friday, February 18, 2011

On kitchens, big, small, and minimal

The Deputy Headmistress has a post about minimalist kitchens today on Frugal Hacks.  Not as in decorating, but in function.

Well, I just reposted the Treehouse Kitchen questions and answers, which, strangely enough, I got from the DHM a few years ago.  And you can even see pictures of what we had for dinner last night.  (Thanks, Ponytails.)

And yes, I do like having a big kitchen.  We also have a pantry/cold room in the basement, to store extra groceries, the turkey platter, and all those sorts of things.  And having lived here for a long time now, we've had the leisure to stash, somewhat, and to pick up a few extra gadgets very cheaply at yard sales: a popcorn popper, a sandwich maker.  We also inherited a bunch of the grandparents' kitchen tools and pots and jars, some of which are still in the pantry.

But it wasn't always that way.  Mr. Fixit and I have lived in smaller places, with smaller kitchens, and we definitely had less stuff then.  Of course we had fewer people, too, so we got by with smaller baking dishes and fewer plates and forks.  We've almost always had a toaster oven, a food processor (wedding present), a Crockpot, and a pressure cooker.  We got by for many years without a microwave, and we had a "real" blender for only a short time--I have a 20+-year-old immersion blender, or we use the food processor.

I think the key to going "minimal" is to know what you're going to cook, most of the time, and the minimum of equipment that you need to cook and serve those dishes.  If you want to make muffins frequently, you want muffin pans.  If you make a rice a lot, maybe you want a rice cooker, or at least a dependable pot with a tight lid.  My mom didn't do that much chopping, so she got away with a couple of not-so-great knives; for me, having at least one good big knife around is basic.  I've found that a big 4-cup glass measuring cup is so useful that I'd hate to be without it, or at least something of similar size (any quart-size plastic container would do); I also hate cooking without a whisk and a rubber spatula.

And even if you don't cook a lot, think about what you buy ready-made, and what you need to pop open, store, and serve that.  If you buy unsliced bread, you need a good bread knife, and something to slice it on.  Same with cheese.  If you get takeout Chinese food, it's very helpful to have an assortment of serving spoons, the kind you get in flatware completer sets.  (Check thrift stores.)  We also inherited a couple of lidded serving bowls that have been very useful for more than just mashed potatoes: I use them for mixing instant pudding, making yogurt, steaming couscous, serving salad; and since they're ovenproof, you can even bake in them or at least keep things warm in the oven. 

What are your own kitchen basics?


Lindsey in AL said...

Two whisks. I use both for almost every meal I cook. At least every day. Two big baking sheets with silpats to fit. Lots of dishtowels and cloths. Two sets of tongs. A couple of good silicone spatulas. I use my 2 cup glass measure a LOT but I also use a wide-mouth quart jar in the same capacity, it's just a little bigger :) I've been requesting a 4 cup glass measure for a couple years, but since I always have a bunch of quart jars it seems kind of silly. If I had somewhere more convenient to store the jars (than in my glass cabinet) I'd probably buy the measure :)

Lindsey in AL said...

I almost forgot- a salad spinner! I will not live without one if I can possibly manage. It's one of the few "one-trick-ponies" in my kitchen and worth every cubic inch of space. I hate wet salad!

amy in peru said...

fun post! :)

we had to live majorly minimalist when we moved to the jungle 2 years back. I ditched my microwave, matter of fact, most of my kitchen conveniences. it's really quite amazing how much you can make do without. we only did the extreme for 6 months. after the trial period, when we made our final decisions, it was easier to pare down having lived w/o many things for the previous period of time. I ended up taking -
crockpot (never used; got damaged in moving)
rice cooker
bosch mixer/blender/food processor
electric water kettle
pressure cooker
cast iron griddle for stovetop
silicone spatulas/salad spinners are super helpful
and good knives.

the one thing I feel is a 'necessary' luxury that I've had to live without is a freezer... but we did finally have one lent to us for the last 6 months.

in the apartment we're in now, we've minimalized even further, we no longer have an oven (only a small toaster oven & a separate 2 burner stovetop)...

it's an adventure for sure ;)

amy in peru

amy in peru said...

oh. I forgot to say, I think I may have cried about the crockpot... especially as I'd brought it ALL the way from the States new and never even got to use it... :(

Brenda@CoffeeTeaBooks said...

Well, my ancient Le Cruset dutch oven is probably my most used piece of kitchen equipment. Poor thing has seen its' better days as it is now twenty-four years old but it still gets lots of use.

I agree about good knives. My daughter's in-laws thought it so strange that she asked (as a newly wed) for "really good knives" for Christmas but they have had many good meals in her home since then. :)

My surprise kitchen appliance I now cannot live without? My Kitchen Aid mixer! It was a combined birthday-anniversary (and Christmas, come to think of it) gift from my husband when we lived in Detroit. It has been a real workhorse.

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