October 6, 2010

Tiny Kitchens and Why It Doesn't Matter

Just so you all have an idea of where I'm cooking, here's my kitchen. It's not the smallest kitchen ever, and works pretty well. Try getting more than 2 people in there and, well you know what they say about too many cooks in the kitchen. 

Cooking in a small college kitchen requires you to get creative. It makes you use up what you have (we only have a mini-fridge, in the bottom left of the photo). It makes you do a lot of things with your hands that you might otherwise throw in the food processor or some other gadget (remember, there was some point in history when everyone was making it with their hands). It makes you deal with stoves that decide to start smoking every time you turn them on. It also make you better at cooking. 

The New York Times columnist and cookbook author Mark Bittman certainly thinks so, his kitchen is as small as ours (then again, he is "The Minimalist"). And as much as I may disagree with Mark Bittman on his recent column about food processors (who purees an entire fish, head included?), I think he's right on this one. Being in a small kitchen is no excuse for bad food. Much as anyone (myself included) would love a six burner Viking range, not having one is no barrier to cooking and eating well. 

So if you're in college, or in a small apartment, or in any apartment or house for that matter, get creative!  The next time you want to make a meal, try just using what you have around and see how it turns out. There are probably a lot more delicious meals waiting in your fridge and cabinets than you think. Next time you want to make a dough with a food processor, use a fork and your hands. Next time you're about to order take-out, or go to the dining hall, try making something new. Make it simple and easy. There's no lack of simple recipes on the internet for inspiration. But you don't need recipes if you don't want them. Think about your favorite foods and flavors you like. Try recreating a dish you love. Cooking is more forgiving than you might think. 

So experiment. It won't turn out perfect every time, but that's how you become a better chef. Make it again. Try it a different way. And next time, add more salt, goddamnit!