Sunday, October 28, 2012

The kitchen

So, I thought all kitchens were the same, and had been forever and ever, until I read this article from Slate. It's about how Lillian Gilbreth revolutionized the kitchen layout.

"Under her arrangement, a person could mix a cake, put it in the oven, and do the dishes, without taking more than a couple of dozen steps."

What fascinates me, (besides how cake is always a motivator), is the idea that kitchens weren't always the two-step shuffle that most are now. You see this in older homes, this presence of odd furniture pieces in the kitchen, which sparks the inevitable "what is this thing doing in here?" response. Or, you see kitchens that are just not able to handle the size of modern appliances. When we were searching for a house, our budget was such that we came upon this situation multiple times. One kitchen had been reworked to the point where, if you opened the oven, it blocked a door. Yikes!

Rather than a "L", "C" or "U" shape, our kitchen is sort of an "I". From one end to the other, it's fridge, a bit of counter space, standard oven, counter over dishwasher, sink, pantry. I have one of those awesome space-taking soffits, never to be removed thanks to its electrical contents, and cabinets over each element, except the window over the pie-corner sink. The pantry is sort of a small sampler of our supplies. I keep a good amount of canned goods in the basement, a holdover from growing up on the farm, along with fermenting beer and liquor.

Shortly after we moved in, I bought a kitchen cart, which houses our silverware, mixing bowls, antique KitchenAid, toaster and coffee-maker, as well as bowls of potatoes and onions, and various at-hand paperwork in a mini kitchen-office tub. It doubled our storage in the kitchen, and also offered a respite for the counter. This was, as you can imagine, a total game-changer for the kitchen. It also saved the lives of several bowls that someone had determined we didn't need. :)

Over the years, we've replaced glass, added new hardware, shelves, extra doors and sliding drawers. Recently, a new window has made a difference -- for one, we can open it. More than that, though, we've constantly reworked the storage and placement of items to make sure they make sense for cooking, washing and baking said cakes. I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but it seems the kitchen is constantly being adjusted and tweaked to fit one's current life and cooking style. We brew beer now, and those tools are present. We are more adventurous with recipes in general, and have more spices and ingredients to store.

 It's fall cleaning time, and that means going through the cabinets and storage bins and jars again. I wonder what kind of system we'll end up with this time. No doubt, I'll discover something we haven't used in awhile, and wonder at how we change in our food habits. Perhaps I'll get out a long-forgotten cookbook and once again, tweaking will begin.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Tomatoes and lavender, a last hurrah

Tomatoes. They never really leave, do they? Even after the Actual Freeze the other night, they were hanging on, ready to go the distance. Even after the harvest, the seeds stay on, determined to fight through and regenerate in the spring.

The season was brutal for tomatoes this year. We had all the sun in the world, and too much heat, and no rain. The tomatoes, what arrived early, turned spotty and white. Then when the rain finally came, the plants soaked it in and bloomed in a second harvest. 

This year, we planted three Early Girls and three Big Boys, and none really distinguished themselves as such. They were the entire lot of tomato planting this year, save for a few brazen cherry tomato plants that wouldn't be squelched. Combined with donations from friends, we had enough for some red salsa and for some tomato basil jam. After the cold, though, the tomatoes were still kicking, trying to get some time on their side, determined not to be robbed of a full season. 

I picked the last of the green ones this weekend, and ended up with a bowlful. I suppose they, and the rogue reds, will end up in green tomato salsa. 

I also picked the rest of the lavender.

I plan to use it in some natural cosmetics and candles this winter. Even the leaves smell wonderful. I have bunches of it hanging in the kitchen. 

I wish I had a recipe for you, but the Bourbon Ribs recipe (written hastily in pencil on a sticky note) is still on the fridge from the other night. As it is, there are no photos. Even if the camera had been charged, we ate as if the rib wranglers were on the loose. 

So there it is. Lavender, green tomatoes and no ribs for you. Maybe next time!