For the past few months I have been moving in to my new kitchen.
I had no idea it would take so long.
After all, the cupboards now rise to the ceiling. I have two stacks of small narrow drawers instead of one. There’s a pullout pantry, and deep drawers holding both baking dishes and pots and pans.
I naively expected that there would be space for everything. And then the reality of the new kitchen set in. It’s still a small kitchen. It still has limited shelf space.
If I plan to cook in harmony here, and I do, then I have to limit the things I put in it. Everything has to be considered; nothing gets a free ride. Sift, sort, put it in, remove it: it’s a meditative process with a few surprises.
Take the little wooden Thai Buddha head for example, a gift from someone who had just come back from Thailand, (John Bishop, but I don’t want to name drop). For the past few years, it has floated around between the kitchen and dining room, and never really had a home.
I was clearing the counter a few days ago and sat it up on the ledge in the corner. It snicked into place as though it had always been there: a benign kitchen spirit overseeing all that goes on.
Another surprise: because much of the cupboard space is glass-fronted, any groceries behind the glass have to be good-looking. That means space in the pullout pantry is at a premium.
In the old kitchen I could tolerate half-boxes of diverse pasta shapes. Now I look at them and think: how long has it been since I used seashells in anything? Do I really need two sizes of penne?
I don’t make pasta often, and usually prepare some variation of a long noodle, like my Baby Artichoke and Spot Prawn Pasta. So couldn’t I just cut it down to one or two slim boxes? Angel hair, spaghetti and linguine – okay, three boxes – would pretty much cover what I need.
And as I stare down the half-empty pasta boxes, I have another major puzzle.
I don’t have a good place to hang a dishtowel.
The current solution – the stove door – guarantees that whoever wants to dry their hands is going to drop water on the floor between the sink and the stove, which will turn to grime by the time dinner’s cooked.
I don’t want to add a rack to the outside of the sink cupboard. It’s a logical place, but visually disruptive.
That leaves the hooks on the back of the sink door, currently occupied by the oven mitts.
Where else could the oven mitts go?
One logical place is the narrow top drawer to the left of the stove, currently occupied by the spices, measuring cups and spoons, and the cooking implements.
I was giddy with joy on the day I realized that I could put the spatulas, flippers, and wooden spoons away out of sight in that drawer. No more jar on the counter sprouting implements, just clear space beside the stove.
If I put the oven mitts in there, it’s going to be crowded.
I opened the door and contemplated the contents. Could I pare down the spices? Move the measuring cups? Discard another implement?
That’s when my eyes lit on my current favorite kitchen gadget: the pasta-testing wooden spoon.
On the surface, it’s just a wooden spoon like any other. But this wooden spoon has a super power – like Superman’s cape, only it’s always there – a groove cut in about half an inch from the end of the handle.
Poke it into a boiling pot of spaghetti and you can pick up one strand, which will rest in the groove, ready for you to nab it, cool it and test it.
I felt a sudden rush of affection for that spoon, not dissimilar to the affection I feel about my iPhone, and I’d say for the same reason. My phone is also an address book, music player, voice recorder, notebook and camera.
In a world of proliferating objects, it collapses multiple functions into one compact space.
My wooden spoon, so much humbler, does the same thing, blending either tongs or a pasta claw, plus the best spoon for baking, into one simple piece of wood.
If only it could take pictures.