April 13, 2006

The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook: a book review

I was recently sent an itty bitty book targeting people with itty bitty kitchens. I have worked in kitchens that are bigger than my entire 2 bedroom condo, with every appliance known to mankind at my disposal, so my modest four-burner standard-rental-issue Tappan oven/range and my stupid (no really it's stupid) one-basin sink is a chef's horror. Kelly and I are constantly fantasizing about how we could just tear out the walls, convert the dining room area into part of the kitchen, and have a big, lovely, roomy space in which to work. Fact is, I've got too much stuff to move around well in my current space, I really need to move some of that stuff out.

Stuff, however, is exactly what Justin Spring, the author of The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook is telling me to get rid of. And he's right, I know. I'm just in denial.

I have a full set of everyday spatulas, spoons and whisks.

...but I also have a backup set of spatulas, spoons and whisks. In the kitchen.

... not to mention, the complete set of spatulas, spoons and whisks I use for when I go do Personal Chef work

... and, um, the equally complete set of spatulas, spoons and whisks I bring with me when I need to hire kitchen staff on catering jobs.

...and the two abbreviated sets of tools I keep for cooking Kosher.

It's all color coded and organized, so even if stuff gets mixed, it's easy to get separated and reorganized. But it is a lot of stuff.

It's just a guess, but I'll bet I've got over 75 spatulas to my name. Rubber ones, plastic ones, wooden ones, metal ones, offset metal ones, and my favorite, the silicone spatulas, and my favorite of those is Greenie. (insert angels singing here) Whenever I see Greenie for sale, I buy the store's entire stock. I have bought greenies in New York, Chicago, and Las Vegas. Do I need that many green silicone spatulas? YES! They're awesome. They're not indestructible, though, so when I find them, I buy them. They're $3 apiece, so it's not like I'm investing my retirement money in spatulas, however I do confess, I'm single-handedly cornering the market on Greenies.

Anyway, back to the book review CHEFFY!!

So, this book was really good at making me feel guilty for all my stuff. (The author actually used a special font or a graphic image that made the word "stuff" look different than the rest of the typeface, so you know he was serious.)

But, just as seriously, how am I to make waffles without a waffle iron? How am I to make delicious frozen delights without my cool Cuisinart machine?

But, then again, do I need a toaster AND a toaster oven? Do I NEED a standard countertop blender, an immersion blender, a countertop mixer, a hand mixer, and a hand-crank eggbeater? They perform similar but very specific functions. Do I NEED that hotpot on the counter, when I have a stove and microwave at my disposal? No, probably not, but you can have it when you tear it from my burned, calloused, ragged-cuticle-beset hands. so there.

Actually, there's a very, VERY good list of the drop-dead essentials at the end of part one. Even if you don't use the 100 recipes he includes, that list alone is worth the price of admission! Plus there are lots and lots of useful tips for how to economize space and make tools do double-duty.

I also love that he doesn't hold the space sacred. Hang things from the walls! Hang things from the fridge! Hang things from the cabinets! It confounds me when I go to cook in other peoples' kitchens, and find that the counters are decorated with tons of useless trinkets, and all the useful stuff is put away in remote cabinets. *then again, these people don't cook, and that's why I'm there!

Anyway, even if you don't cook on a boat, even if you have graduated from college and don't have to cook in your dorm, and even if your kitchen is larger than 45 square feet, I think this book is well worth the paltry $10.

The pants hanger trick was the one that really hit home for me.

Anybody need a spatula?

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