Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Cabinet That Physics Forgot

There's really no other explanation for it. I don't see how all the stuff I squished into that cabinet stayed there without raining (too much) on me every time I opened the door.

Then, when I visited my sister in the Fall, I was making dinner and asked where she kept her Crockpot. "In the garage, where else?" she laughed. And sure enough, her don't-use-it-everyday stuff was neatly stacked in a cabinet in the garage - accessible, but not in the way of the used-regularly skillet and casserole dish. BRILLIANT.

This is short because, y'all, it has Been A Week. Work. Funeral (far, far too young). A cold that won't go away. You know how it is.

So in a nutshell, here's the 3-weeks-or-so process it took to streamline my kitchen so that I can fly through dinner prep. Undoubtedly someone could knock this out in a day or two if they had a lot of time to focus on it, but the 3-week process worked just fine for me.

1. I cleared a shelf in the basement and relocated some rarely-used, but necessary, items from the kitchen to nicely labelled storage boxes downstairs. Specifically - my canning equipment, roasting pan, deviled egg plate, cupcake tin, chip & dip plate, big wooden salad bowl, and a specialty cake pan or two. Key - if it has dust on it, you probably don't use it enough to justify the kitchen real estate.

And there's really no go-to list for this. I have two Dutch ovens and truly use both of them a lot. Not everyone does.

2. Sometimes more is more. If you are washing something multiple times midpoint through a recipe, perhaps you need more than one. My baking goes faster now that we have two good sets of measuring cups and two sets of measuring spoons.

3. Sometimes less is more. If you have 3 soup ladles, and you never make 3 kinds of soup at the same time, keep your favorite and let the rest go.

4. Repurpose. When I moved all the canning equipment to the basement Sweetie went nuts trying to find the funnel. It turns out the widemouth funnel I use for canning was also the perfect size to funnel coffee beans into the grinder. Since it had a regular use I didn't know about, we brought it back upstairs.

5. Bins! Plastic or vinyl-coated wire bins! Fabulous, and cheap! I have a long, narrow cabinet next to the stove and keep grains/rice/pasta in there. And OY, what a pain to have to pull everything out piece by piece (some of it falling of its own accord) to get to what I needed or even see what I had.

What took me so long to figure out that putting the different kinds of rice, biryani packets, box of cous cous, etc. in one of these $5 babies would make such a difference?

And when I had a side-by-side fridge, this (probably $10) was a LIFESAVER - it was sooooo much easier to pull the basket out of the freezer and sort through it on the counter than to remain crouched and frozen, pulling one item out at a time and hoping it would all fit back on the shelf when I was done... We've since sold the old refrigerator but I kept the basket for the new freezer.

Note - write down the measurements of your cabinet/shelf/freezer before you go. A bin 10 inches wide is no help for an 8-inch-wide cabinet.

6. What's it really worth? I am fortunate to come from a family of excellent cooks. And my roasting pan and some other equipment previously belonged to one grandmother or another.

And you know what? To them, it was just kitchen stuff. Not heirlooms, not the souls of their being, not a key piece of their identity. I nearly had a breakdown when I was trying to make some room in the kitchen and couldn't come up with any reason to keep the old handled eggbeater except it was Grandma's. Mind you, I had never used the eggbeater in the 8 - 10 years it had been in my possession.

Realistically - did my grandmother ever gaze fondly at her eggbeater, or vegetable peeler, or Pyrex pie plate (which, actually, I have and use) - and wonder who would care for these treasures when she was gone? Not my practical Grandma, I'm certain. Her heirloom china is beautifully displayed in our china cabinet, but the eggbeater has gone on to grace a stranger's kitchen. Ultimately, she would not want me to live my life surrounded by stuff that gets in my way and keeps me from doing what I want to do. For all I know, she hated that eggbeater and always meant to replace it.

More recipes coming soon!

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