Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kitchen Envy

What is it about kitchens that make some of us filled with equal parts of lust and insecurity? Does a great kitchen replete with a bristling armoury of shiny appliances and gadgets actually improve one’s cooking ability? Do you ever notice the fancier the kitchen is often correlates to how shite the cook is that owns it? Some of the best meals I’ve enjoyed in people’s homes have emerged from the most humble of kitchens; the opposite could be said from the most luxe of kitchens.
In what seems a lifetime ago, we did a massive reno on our house complete with the kind of kitchen I deluded myself into thinking I needed. Let’s just say that my love affair with stainless steel was ground out of me by three pairs of perpetually grubby toddler’s hands. I also learned that despite the deafening noise from the shiny exhaust canopy it’s sucking power was questionable at best and that the expensive European oven was like having a twelve string guitar, Its spends half its time out of tune and you spend the other half trying to tune it. Lying exhausted on the couch every evening, my hands swollen from hours of polishing the surfaces of the kitchen I sombrely resolved never to get sucked in again.
Fast forward to the present day we had decided to renovate our kitchen and bathrooms. Browsing through what I like to call an ‘Unobtainable lifestyle magazine’ I was astonished by intoxicating page after page of alluring kitchen hardware. Powder coated baby blue Aga’s, Moss green Smegs, burnished tap-wear, frosted glass cabinets and my bottom lip quivered…Butler Sinks!
My wife recognised that look on my face and snatched the mag from my hand, threw some salt over my left shoulder, did three hail Mary’s and burnt that unholy magazine at the stake. It was a close call.
Months later we had decided on a modest makeover of sorts. Work began quickly and before we knew it the kitchen was a shell. Though we were aware of what was about to take place the reality of having no oven, work benches and the usual accoutrements of the kitchen momentarily left us a tad underprepared.
Once we jettisoned the mind-set that we were missing these things we found our cooking shaped by the sandwich press, the microwave and the kettle very liberating. In fact the ease and speed that our reduced repertoire was able to be conjured was such a revelation that I briefly imagined our new kitchen with only these three items in it.
Cooking with these basics is a lot like being in a caravan or tent on holidays with all that breezy nonchalance that being on leave can permeate.
It’s this feeling I try to recall when I get home stressing about what I’ll end up cooking for my family and their particular and peculiar tastes, rules and cant-eats.


dillon said...

"the expensive European oven was like having a twelve string guitar, Its spends half its time out of tune and you spend the other half trying to tune it" Classic! I had a 12 string, rarely touched. Steve we're looking at getting a new kitchen (starting with a new oven)any advice.....?

steve said...

Hi Dillon-nice to hear from you and thanks for commenting. Despite my post if I had the dough i would love an AGA but thats just the affluenza speaking. We have a standard plain white Chef with fan forced oven big enough for a roast with all the trimmings. It has an electric hob which has taken me a while to like but now I'm used to it. I wouldn't go near induction, I'm personally not convinced

Hazel said...

Kitchen renovations are quite scary- we tried to keep ours simple, lots of bench space, lots of drawers for storage, an extraction fan that is in the wall so that we don't hit our head on it (seriously works too!) and a run of the mill Westinghouse oven. We love our hut kitchen, and really it's about how the space is laid out more than anything. Oh and the fact we got the bench height increased so we would no longer have to bend over. It was weird at first but now in other peoples kitchens I feel like a giant!

Rita said...

I renovated my kitchen a while back, hoping to capitalise on my age and kitchen experience! Stupid assumption! I stuffed up a few things, design and placement-wise. The only things that worked best for me were the colours (black, red and silver) and the fact that one extremely skilled tradeswoman who coincidentally works in your kitchen, did the fiddly work of tiling and trimming. Sally - you rock!

GourmetGirlfriend said...

Totally agree- give me a cook who can triumph while camping with the bare necessities and I give you a chef!
We bought our place 4 yrs ago and I had the joy of designing my own kitchen. I was soooo happy!
My number one priority was that it had to be a place where EVERYONE felt welcome- it is where i spend so much of my time & I love to have company.
No cupboards- only drawers- I have a PATHOLOGICAL hatred of cupboard doors in kitchens!
And a great big long solid wooden prep bench right next to the stove.
Being a bargain queen I managed to do the whole thing for $8k (including appliances)! I bought 2nd hand, at end of year sales, auctions & bargained HARD!
I must say I LOVE my 90cm free standing gas stove. cooking for 7 people it's 6 burners are often all on at once as well as the oven.
I can say tat I am jsut as happy as I was at the start with it- so far there isn't anything I would change. it works great.
But then again I am just as happy camping with my camp cooking gear!
I recking with lots of reno's that it comes down to people genuinely not understanding how they use spaces. If you truly know how you live in a space you have a distinct advantage.
Good style requires functionality as well as personality- and those things don't have to be expensive.

steve said...

Hi Hazel, your kitchen sounds great and I know what you mean about bench heights. As a little takka I'm surprised that some benches are even too low for me!

Hi Rita-I thought your kitchen was fine and well laid out-at least it was for making burgers!

G'day Ruth-You sound like a woman after mine own heart-Its so true you dont need much do you? I watched Luke Ngyens Vietmanese cookery show and was amazed by the food that emrged from a tiny charcoal grill-and thats all he had to cook with!

Madge said...

Great topic!

I'd like to know where this idea of having a separate scullery has crept into house design? I know a few couples who insisted on having a scullery, complete with a sink, bench space and one of those compost thingies.

Apparently, the kitchen sink in the kitchen is just there to signpost the room as being a ... um ... well ... "kitchen".

Have renovated and designed a kitchen myself and adored it. Took out the stainless and used laminate - thought about the Caesarstone, but couldn't justify the $ (and I really find the look and feel too harsh in the kitchen.)

Dedicated rubbish bin didn't sit well in it though. Am looking forward to my next one.