Cooking can be a labor of love, even if we're only cooking for ourselves. It can also be a gratifying task, creative, functional and deeply meaningful. Think about it: what do we do that has more direct effect on health and happiness than the way we feed ourselves and our loved ones?
Cooking is also, at times, time-consuming. A lot of us spend more of our waking hours at home in the kitchen than in any other room. For these reasons and many more, I believe that it is important that you curate (yes! I said curate!!!) a kitchen that pleases you. You need to have the function of a kitchen, yes. You should also have the heart.
Whatever it is that makes you smile when you see it, that should be what you look for as you furnish your kitchen. It doesn't have to be all straight from a high-end retailer (unless you really do have that kind of taste and budget, then go for it). My own kitchen is the result of many years of gifts, purchases and even rescues.
Let's roll back in time a little. I grew up in an age where young girls were still sometimes given a "Hope Chest". My very traditional parents liked that idea, but they were also very smart. So my sister and I each had an "Independence Chest". After we reached our teens, Christmas presents usually contained some useful object for the Independence Chest. The idea was that we would have a good start on furnishing our first homes when we flew the family nest. Some of what is in my kitchen today came from that Independence Chest.
I was given a fabulous cookbook, which I basically beat the hell out of until it was only a collection of stained pages, loose from a binding. When I saw the same cookbook in an antique store in Missoula a few years ago (that kinda hurts to even say .... ) in much better condition, I glommed right onto it and fondly kissed the battered volume goodbye.
(**edit: several people have asked me, "What IS this 'fabulous cookbook' you love so much?" So here's the link: )
Beyond the actual objects in your kitchen, I think it is important to arrange your kitchen in a way that makes intuitive sense to you. For many of us, a kitchen with zones works well: a prep area, a cooking area and a plating area, for example. Other kitchens might have a baking zone, where the mixing bowls, appliances and baking staples are kept, and cooking zone with the pans, knives, etc. What works for you? The simplest way to find out is to start cooking and note what you wish was in easy reach as you go along.
So let's talk about my kitchen. My ACTUAL kitchen.
It's in a state of transition right now. Even as I sit here typing, Sweet Hubs is working on a building that will house the pantry of my dreams, with a place for large kitchen pieces that don't get used frequently but are still needed: canning equipment for one. Also, it will be a place to store all the food I can, and the foods I buy in bulk. It kind of makes my heart race a little bit just to envision it.
My kitchen is also in a state of transition right now because we moved in full time recently and combined two fully-stocked kitchens into one very small kitchen. There is a level of disorder I am not comfortable with or happy about, but this is life at the moment.
So here we go:
First, some things I love. I love the hutch because Sweet Hubs built it for me. Also because it contains a selection of beautiful and useful bowls. And wine. Storage for kitchen electrics behind the doors. The earthenware bowls on the bottom-left and top-middle section were rescued from Great-Grandma's hoard. And that giant bowl in the middle-middle (Alice's Brady Bunch spot) is my bread bowl. I bought it from the potter herself at a craft fair in Pine, Arizona. Also note the platter at middle-top and matching bowl on the third shelf on right. Sweet Hubs had them custom made by another Arizona potter, just for me. The lovely bowl on the third shelf on left was a gift from my sweet Risa. I am a blessed woman.
My spice cabinet. Kept away from the stove, as all spices should be.
It's one of those rotating things,
So I can fit a lot of stuff in there. You'll note that I generally keep baking type spices on the top shelf, since I make fewer desserts than dinners, and cooking herbs and spices on the bottom two.Incidentally, that meat tenderizer you see there? I don't use it for that. I use it for bee stings and mosquito bites. I have NO idea why it's in with the food. Go figure.
More spices plus cooking oils and such.... in another cupboard. Heaven help anyone who needs to find anything in my kitchen right now if I'm not there to guide them. Things are so scattered!!!
Then there is the pantry cabinet. Also built by my beloved, and horribly disorganized right at the moment. But it's chock full, that's for sure.
Please take note of a box of Ding Dongs, and also the liquor on the top shelf. We aren't monks, after all.
This cabinet also has a huge bottom drawer, where I store my skillets.
As if that isn't enough of a mess, there are the condiments and spices in the fridge. You know that all red spices should be refrigerated, right?
Here is where the magic happens as far as prepping and baking:
See my darling Kitchenaid mixer and knives? Also, the useful and beautiful cutting boards: the olive wood one in the back is so pretty I almost hate to use it. The Kobi one below is my daily workhorse. And isn't that cast iron pot a thing of useful beauty?
The whole picture overall? It's a little, happy kitchen where little happy Hausfrau things happen almost every day:
Last but not least? A huge help to me in the kitchen because I'm not much over 5 feet tall?
I love this place and this space and what happens here. If you don't feel that way about your kitchen, I suggest you take steps immediately to turn it into a place where you can express yourself.