Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Dinner: Impossible

One of the reasons that I am so very excited to move down to Phoenix (besides the obvious one of being with my husband) is that we finally get to have our own place again!  We've both been living with family members for the past four plus months, but even before that we didn't totally have our own place.  We lived in the basement of my dad and step-mom's house in Portland for almost a year and a half.  They had moved to California and rented out bedrooms on the top floor.  We had the responsibility of managing the renters and finding people to move in when someone moved out.  We actually had quite a bit of space downstairs, including a living room, a large bedroom for us, a decent sized bedroom for Cy and a bathroom.   Although the separation between the main floor and the basement really wasn't enough to have total privacy, we eventually got used to keeping our voices down in certain areas.

Because we excepted three people to share the upstairs kitchen, we thought it might be an easier sell if we weren't also using it.  So, we set ourselves up in the downstairs kitchen.  Take a look.

Looks pretty  nice, right?  Except, do you notice a few things missing? Like, say, a stove?  Oh don't worry, I had one:
What about an oven?  Here it is.
And the fridge?

OK, OK, this isn't all we had.  We kept essentials like milk, eggs, butter, yogurt, cheese, etc in here.  We actually had a full sized fridge and a small chest freezer.  The only catch was that they were on our back patio!  So, most of the time, I had to go outside to get food.  In addition to the items pictured, I also had a rice cooker that doubled (or I guess tripled?) as a veggie steamer and pasta cooker, a small outdoor grill and two crockpots.

A lot of people I've talked to about this kitchen have commented that they would just eat out most of the time.  Believe me, this was appealing, and I'd be lying if I didn't say that sometimes we gave in (some weeks more often than others!).  However, our budget and our desire to maintain some level of healthful eating meant that I needed to cook dinner most night. It's actually quite amazing how many things you can make with enough of the right counter top appliances and a little creativity. Casseroles and enchiladas fit nicely in the toaster oven if I used smaller pans, and the electric skillet could be used for a myriad of things. We even managed to make 90% of Cy's baby food in this kitchen. I have to say, though, that the number one most used appliance was the crockpot - it pretty much saved my life.   I probably used it four or five nights a week, not to mention that it was the primary vessel for most of the baby food making.  And this website saved dinner on more than one occasion!

There were a few things that weren't terribly practical, and therefore, just didn't get consumed very often.  I actually didn't cook pasta all that often because the rice cooker took forever and was too small to cook very much.  Deserts were a challenge because the toaster oven wasn't quite big enough for a cake pan or cookie sheet.  (Although, about a month before we moved out, we found a quarter sheet pan that fit perfectly!)  Also, meals that dirtied multiple appliances were limited just due to the massive pain it was to clean them in our tiny sink with the HUGE faucet!  A few times, we did ask the upstairs roommates if we could borrow their oven for things like birthday cake, or a large pan of enchiladas.  But then we had to go up and down the stairs, invading their space multiple times, so we tried not to do that too often.

Obviously, this "kitchen" wasn't intended as a kitchen at all - it was simply meant to be a bar for an entertaining basement.  In fact, before my parents remodeled, the basement actually had a fully functional kitchen, and two privacy doors leading upstairs!  They took all of that out to make the house more buyer-friendly.  Then when they couldn't sell it, they decided to rent it out, and thus we ended up with the non-kitchen.  

Admittedly, the kitchen could have been much, much worse, like that one in Harlem!  And we made due just fine. Most nights I had a pretty good attitude about the whole thing, although there were plenty of nights when making dinner felt like some sick, never-ending Food Newtork challenge! But believe me when I tell you how very much I will appreciate having a stove, and an oven and a dishwasher, and, oh yeah, my fridge actually in my kitchen!  Do me a favor though, and remind me of this in a year when I'm complaining about cooking dinner and doing the dishes...


  1. Life is truely an adventure! It is amazing how adaptable people really can be! Looking forward to a full sized real lfe kitchen very soon! You should have mentioned that we once prepaired a brunch for 20 in this kitchen as well as 8 cheese cakes...they baked upstairs, but that isn't much space for all that prep...

  2. Thank you for that crock pot website! I was so excited to find a crock pot here and I am always on the lookout for new, great recipes.

    I'm impressed by your adaptability to a subpar kitchen, too.


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