You just never know where life will lead you. Who would have thought in December 2009 that I would be considering an opportunity to manage a luxurious Bed and Breakfast in Atlanta? I thought at the ripe old age of 65 it was time to retire. But as my daughter says, “Mom, you will never retire!” So here I am! Loving it, and now I understand from Barb that I have “fans” who like to hear what is going on in the kitchen at Stonehurst Place. Absolutely amazing!
Barb and I have given this some thought and I suggested perhaps you might like to learn some of the cooking tricks that this gal has learned over 50+ years of cooking. I am not a trained chef, just a Southern Gal who learned to cook and has expanded her skills with some international travel and trying different foods. We tossed around ideas and I thought I might approach this as if I had the pleasure of each of you joining me in the kitchen and we were just talking about what makes cooking fun, and produces good food that you, your family, and friends will like. So here goes!
The first question I hear from our guests is “Where did you learn to cook?” Why in the kitchen, of course. My Mother was not the least bit interested in the kitchen or anything to do with the equipment located in that strange room. So in sheer desperation I taught myself the rudiments of cooking. If I can do it, anyone can do it. And guess what, the biggest news to pass along to you is “this is not brain surgery.” Good food and having fun cooking is built on a solid foundation of basics. Which brings me to the beginning of any good recipe ….. your kitchen. Like anything else in life, you must have the correct tools in the proper environment to complete any job well. Fifty plus years have taught me there are two types of kitchens:
The first I term the “designer kitchen” and you can easily recognize it: it has every known tool, gadget, mixer, blender, appliance, and anything marketable that advertising agencies can convince you to purchase. Come on; admit it, how many of you bought one of those cute salad spinners on the HSN? The cabinets and appliances in this kitchen would appear as a photo for the latest high end magazine! Isn’t it interesting the only people ever seen in this kitchen are the wine drinkers, the catering staff, and the pizza delivery guy or gal! This kitchen has design form, but not function. You will admit defeat not because of your cooking skill but because you are not in the right environment.
The second is the “cook’s kitchen” and please note I did not say the Chef’s kitchen. This one will vary in size, is highly personal in style, and will be so organized Martha Stewart would turn green with envy! There are always people in this kitchen because it is the life center of the house and the smells that waft through the house make it a home! Friends, family, and even strangers know they are welcome! Nothing superfluous in this kitchen; everything has multiple uses, and there are different “stations/locations” for different functions. The cook(s) love working in this space.
So what type of kitchen do you have in your home? Think about it! The last time you were preparing anything did you have to move things out of your way to create a work space? Did you have to walk to different locations to gather ingredients and equipment? Do you have a prep, baking, beverage/snack, and designated clean stations/locations? Is your refrigerator organized into logical sections, milk and beverages in one location, vegetables in another, etc.? Are your cabinets also organized and in close proximity to each of the station/locations mentioned above? If not then I can promise you cooking will be very frustrating, tiring, and not at all fun or easy!
If you emptied your cabinets and kitchen drawers how many items could you identify that you have not used in the last 6 months? Is that expensive and pretty heavy duty mixer the one you reach for, or is it the little light weight portable one? If you separated all of the items into two different piles: one with the things you use almost every day and in the other pile things you have not used lately, which would be the smaller? I bet the one with things you use most often. So why do you need all that other stuff? It just gets in the way, takes up storage and counter space, and makes cooking more difficult.
The very first thing I accomplished when I began at Stonehurst Place was to empty every drawer and cabinet in the kitchen. I discarded things that were not necessary for me, made a list of things we needed to bring into my kitchen, and then set up logical and workable “stations”. I organized the fridge and even the spice drawer so when I prepare anything I rarely have to take more than a few steps to reach for anything: ingredients, pots/pans, mixing bowls, knives, etc. I think by now you have gotten the message: The first thing you need to do if you really want to learn how to cook is take a good look at your kitchen. Then, get it organized!
So, do any of you have any questions or comments? I can just hear some of you now … my kitchen is too small, there are not enough cabinets or counter space, my kitchen is too large, my appliances are old and ugly, etc. etc. etc. Let it all rip….send me your questions and comments and I will do my best to respond. I was the manager/owner of a residential remodeling company and kitchen design/cabinet shop for 8 years – I think I can help.
Next week let’s talk about “what is a recipe?” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? You know, I think there are only 4, 5, or 6 basic ones in the entire world….so do you think you could master that many?
Until next time! Off to make a country ham and cheese strata with fresh peppers and spinach for breakfast tomorrow.