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Nov 20, 2008 02:56 PM

The Minimalist's minimal kitchen

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  1. yep, those of us who have lived in an NYC apartment know what that's like. sadly, Bittman's kitchen is actually nicer - and better equipped - than most!

    1. The article mentions something called a dishwasher. What's a dishwasher?

      1. Ugh! Tell me about it. I store most of my pots and pans in the oven. It's such a pain for me to use the oven because I've got to take every single piece out (have got pots in pots and stack all my fry pans) and place it in the middle of the floor for me to trip on. But even with my limited space, I've managed to store not-so-frequently-used items as my paella pan, takoyaki pan, juicer, bean fermenter (don't ask -- my dad bought it for me), a Japanese fish grill (another present from dad), large water filter (another present from dad). Like Bittman, I don't have a food processor but have managed to get along fine without one so far.

        The plus having a small kitchen is that it doesn't take as much effort to clean. But it does take more effort to keep things clean and organized. My spices are all on the fridge door on magnets which really freed up a lot of counter space (especially since I've got over 50 now).

        18 Replies
        1. re: Miss Needle

          What a clever idea about the spices. I also have a small Manhattan kitchen, and store a number of pans in my oven, and it is a pain! I noticed in a photo I posted in January on the HC board, that you can actually see them resting on a foot stool next to the fireplace! I moved from a huge kitchen in Miami with a double oven and tons of storage place, to a smaller kitchen in DC that was its own room, and where I used the guest room walk in closet (larger than my current kitchen) as a pantry, to a tiny kitchen that opens to the living room. Fortunately, though it only has two tiny drawers, the cupboards are pretty deep, and there are bookshelves with cupboards below in the kitchen (though you can't open one cupboard door the whole way because of the fridge). I somehow manage to store innumerable pots and pans, appliances, four sets of dishes, about 50 wine glasses, and the ridiculous amount of ingredients I have, with the help of a large Tibetan chest in the living room. I have quite a bit of space above the kitchen cupboards, and found some nice square lidded baskets at Crate and Barrell, so I store some of my less used ingredients in those up there, along with the fish poacher, wok, bamboo steamer, paella pan, huge colander that I rarely use, huge LC ceramic oval casserole with lid, and some tins with cookie cutters in them! My counter space available for use (i.e., not used by toaster, knife holder, olive oils, utensil jar, dish rack) is about three square feet.

          Also - I have some Metro shelving that I bought to fit under a counter in my DC kitchen - it's now in the living room, stores wine and platters as well as the stereo. I had a piece of plyboard cut to fit on top, covered the piece with a large piece of fabric, and now it looks like a piece of furniture in the living room, decorated with picture frames, etc.

          It's doable - just, as Miss Needle says, you have to stay organized.

          1. re: MMRuth

            If you look at this photo, you can see the pile of frying pans on top of some books - and to the right, the left edge of the covered metro shelving - kitchen is to the right of that.


            1. re: MMRuth

              Judging from your wonderful pictures of food on the Home Cooking Board, your small kitchen hasn't limited you as to what you can do!

              1. re: Miss Needle

                It just proves that most of our limits are in our heads! :) Miss Needle, can you talk a little more about your spices on your fridge? Are you saying that you've glued magnets to each of your spice bottles or something like along those lines? Do you find that you're constantly knocking them off?

                I have an embarrassingly large (compared to Bittman or MMRuth) kitchen, but, I still find searching for spices in my cupboard terribly frustrating, so, I'm curious.

                Also, did anyone notice that Bittmans says that he chucked all his cookbooks? *gasp*


                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  "Also, did anyone notice that Bittmans says that he chucked all his cookbooks? *gasp*"

                  Yes! I did notice this and I almost had an anxiety attack thinking about what I would do if I was forced to give up my cookbook collection due to space limitations. If anything, I've been daydreaming about being able to afford a bigger house to fit all of my books in. Ain't happenin' any time soon, so in the meantime, we live among my piles of cookbooks (those that won't fit on the shelves) and my DH and son seem to do so cheerfully - I'm guessing as long as I keep preparing delicious food for us to eat. :)

                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    I think it would probably be very difficult to glue magnets to your original spice bottles as you need a flat surface. They do sell those magnetic spice racks out there. But they can be pretty pricey. I got the idea after reading a blog about somebody who made their own. The person originally had the spices attached to the oven (which I thought was not a good idea as the heat is probably not very good for the spices). He/she then moved it to the wall using a magnetic sheet. But why waste precious wall space when you've got the fridge canvas to work with!

                    I purchased 4 oz food grade tin containers from specialty bottle (which is great because you can buy as much as you'd like as opposed to buying a certain preset amount). I originally purchased the ones with the see-through tops. In retrospect, I would have purchased the ones with the solid tops as light can have detrimental effects on your spices. I'm planning on finding pics of the spices on the net, printing them on and gluing it and Mod Podging it to the lids to make it opaque. I just haven't gotten around to that yet.


                    I then purchased some super duper strong magnets from a teacher's website (I believe I got the M-180):


                    Voila! No need to glue the magnet onto the box. The tin box will stick to the magnet. I believe the blogger glued each magnet to his/her tin. Just stick the magnets on your fridge (they're really strong) and place your tin containers (mine is 4 oz) over the magnets. The lids don't fall off the tins and the magnets hold everything in place. I labeled everything on the back of each tin.

                    It's really opened up a lot of counter space for me as I originally had three spice racks on my counter. I don't find myself knocking them off the fridge at all. But I do find myself adjusting them from time to time so they look nice and neat on my fridge as opposed to some haphazard arrangement.

                    1. re: Miss Needle

                      I love it! How clever and simple. Do you use the square tins or the round ones?


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        Well, as my apartment is more on the contemporary side, I opted for the square ones. I really need all the help I can get with my limited space. Here's a pic of what my kitchen kind of looks like. Like MMRuth, my kitchen extends out to the living room. This is heaven compared to my previous apartment which was a converted hotel -- very large rooms but a small rinky-dink kitchen. Note: this is not my kitchen but from my apartment building's website.

                        I really envy those of you with large kitchens.

                        1. re: Miss Needle

                          It looks very nice!

                          I was thinking the square ones would somehow look tidier. I feel a project coming on! Thanks for sharing this idea!


                          1. re: The Dairy Queen

                            You're welcome. Good luck with your DIY project!

                            1. re: Miss Needle

                              Reporting back, because I am so so excited, but I just finished my own take on the spice tins project. I bought adhesive-backed magnetic sheets by the foot from this site, then cut them to fit the interior of my cabinet doors. Then, I bought these spice tins that you recommended.

                              I wrote the names of the spices on the tins with a red grease pencil I bought on Amazon. Now my spices are all organized, labeled and alphabetized. I keep opening my cupboards to look at it, because I love it so much.

                              Thanks again for the inspiration.


                              1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                Oh! Really nice to hear about your project! And because it's in the inside of your cabinet, you don't have to worry about the light and the spices.

                          2. re: Miss Needle

                            needle, i know you said that's not your personal kitchen, but do you at least have a window like the one in the photo? that would be a definite plus.

                            i managed with teeny NYC kitchens for years, until i moved to Southern Cali...where i was completely spoiled - plenty of storage & counter space and large, open kitchens. then when i came back to the east coast earlier this year, i was staying at my folks' house for a while, and their kitchen is the size of a studio apartment! i was in heaven.

                            fast forward to me moving into my current place, and griping about the lack of counter space & deep cabinets for pot storage...until now. as i read everyone's posts about the limitations you all have, and remember what i managed with in the early days, i'm feeling quite humbled...and much more grateful for what i do have, which includes full-size gourmet appliances and enough storage space to keep my oven free for use at any time!

                            but i'll still fantasize about having my dream kitchen someday ;)

                            1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                              "but do you at least have a window like the one in the photo? "

                              Ha! I wish! No, my kitchen is sadly windowless, and I have no floor-to-ceiling windows in my apartment. Some of the models do in our apartment building -- but they are a lot more expensive. Of course, just like hotels, buildings always put the best pics on their website.

                              I hear you with the amount of space in S. California. I was staying in my grandmother's house in LA for some time and her kitchen was freakin' humongous! I had the lovely task of cleaning it every day. It took me a damn 1.5 hours daily to clean! I used to complain all the time. My aunt would reply, "Well, it may take you 1.5 hours today. But if you do this everyday you'll get better and faster at it. Eventually you'll be able to clean this in only 1 hour." One hour every day? To clean a kitchen?!?!?! But it was that large.

                              Lucky you for not having to empty your oven! Most of my pots are damn Le Creuset and I have a few cast iron pans. It's really quite a workout.

                              I also fantasize about having my dream kitchen. I read the Cookware Board from time to time and keep a list of all the things I want in my fantasy kitchen. Am debating in my head whether I want to go for the stainless steel or go for the warmer copper tone appliances. I fantasize about having a hole cut in my counter for garbage. We have some friends who recently designed and built their own house in Connecticut. Their kitchen is the size of my entire apartment! One day ...

                  2. re: MMRuth

                    You have three square feet of usable counter space? That's more thn I ever had when I lived in Manhattan! I stored pots and frying pans on the back burners of the stove, and had to find a place for them when I wanted to use more than two burners. Oh, and the linen closet doubled as a pantry (the linens were stored under the bed!).

                    1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                      I'm going to measure and report back! The coat closet does some pantry duty too.

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        The first place I lved in Manhattan had a corner kitchen, meaning the entire kitchen was simply the corner of a room. There was one drawer (fairly wide, but still) and one lower cabinet. Once the microwave (not something my then-SO was willing to live without) and dish drainer wre on the counter, there was no room for prep. That's when I ddiscovered the time-honored cutting-board-parked-on-the-sink method. This kitchen also had an 18-inch electric stove with around three inches between each small burner and an oven too small to accomodate a half sheet pan. But we had dinner parties and cooked ful Thanksgiving dinners. So, one learns

                2. For years, I live in a studio apartment in NYC that had a "separate" kitchen. There was a very old stove that was actually fabulous because the burners were so out of whack that they would go up to about a million BTUs. The oven, however, was another matter -- two settings: high and off. The kitchen sink was tiny and on top of the tiny half refrigerator. When my husband moved in, we used to give huge dinner parties all the time! Nothing like a fire escape as a subsidiary refrigerator! Now we have a great kitchen with wonderful appliances, etc., but we still talk about all the Thanksgiving/Christmas dinners and parties we used to give there. Ingenuity on tap.

                  1. I've thought at times my kitchen was a little cramped. But after seeing that, I realize it's positively spacious.