Nesting in the Kitchen

When you last heard from us, we had just moved into a new old house and immediately moved out all the decrepit kitchen cabinetry. While the rest of our home was (largely) functional, an empty space appeared where the kitchen once was. Without a kitchen, it’s been a little hard to settle in completely. I’m eager to finally entertain friends and family in our new-old bungalow: break out the party ware! As we finish the last details of our cocina nueva, it finally starts to feel like we’re really here: all ready to nest in our new space now that the kitchen has arrived.

From Zero to Kitchen in Five Weeks

the original kitchen

Well, Mr. Spice would tell you that this kitchen didn’t just arrive; it came together after lots of work taking the plumbing and electric back into the wall studs and crawling around for far too long below and above the house. All this work over the past five weeks on the kitchen space has felt like slow surgery to repair and improve every aspect of our little kitchen—our cocina pequeña. We’re bringing the heart of our new house back to life and ready for some foodie action. After plenty of years in an apartment kitchen where we pretty much had to live with the layout of cabinets and counters, this chance to design and build a new kitchen inspired new ideas about working and cooking best in a small space.

Alicia Bien, whose funny wine pieces appear in the Spice blog, is also experiencing the triumphs and challenges of a kitchen remodel. In her blog New House Girl, she writes about the experience of imagining and bringing to life the new-old kitchen she shares with Mr. Wonderful and Jackson the cat. Ask anyone who has created a kitchen space and you understand that it’s a process that takes some time to come together. When you’re doing heart surgery on your house, you want to be sure to do it right.

Sharing a Kitchen with the Past

Almost finished:
new lower cabinets, old upper cabinets

Just like the meals we plan to produce in this cocina, the kitchen’s pieces and parts integrate new and old for a unique feel. A cabinetmaking friend produced the lovely new lower cabinets with their snazzy slide-out shelves and smooth rollers while we both spent plenty of time stripping, sanding, and repainting the old cabinets that we pulled off the walls at the start of this remodel. Among a smattering of new utensils and appliances, I’m still using my grandmother Hope’s 30+ year old blender (which works better than many newer ones) and have found a good place to mount the old bulldog bottle opener that graced the wall of our Dayton kitchen while I was growing up in Ohio. Ultimately, Mr. Spice and I were both interested in having equal portions efficiency and beauty in our cooking room where we didn’t have to move a few other things to get at the thing we wanted. Keep it light enough to travel, The Be Good Tanyas say.

As we search for ingredients and tools to inhabit our small kitchen—filled with just enough useful knives, pots, pans, and other cooking gear—we know it’s important to keep gadget-fever in check. Beginning cooks who live in or near a big city will appreciate Mark Bittman’s advice on how to outfit a beginner’s kitchen. His kitchen is even smaller than ours so you can be sure he doesn’t go overboard with the zillions of doo-dads you might think you need to cook well. In upcoming posts, read about some ideas to assemble a kitchen with just enough effective kitchen implements to cook up a storm well.

“Can I open that beer for you?”

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