Monday, September 19, 2005

Kitchen conquered
in which Gina learns to deal with the lack of plaques, cooks things more complicated than pasta, and only hits her head a few times.

When I moved to Eugene, 2 whole years ago, I had a full (albeit small) kitchen and wondered how I was ever going to cook anything. I learned how to cook and bake and how to enjoy it (I think it’s in my blood or DNA or something) and went on my merry way, all the way to Lyon. Faced with a cooking area about one third the size I was used to dealing with, I was ready to throw myself from the terrasse onto the train tracks. Ok, so maybe it wasn’t so dramatic, but doesn’t that make a better story? Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, the kitchen is very small. I ate a lot of pasta for a while (including during the period that you may remember where I thought the plaques didn’t work at all) then got fed up and made a life changing decision- I would cook something more complicated! (again, I admit that this is an exaggeration and that the decision was not so much life-changing as food-changing, but it’s all in the name of interest, people!)

The first challenge- curry. I chose to face off against Iron Chef Italian, because then I’d definitely win. Or maybe I chose to face off against the entire grocery floor of Carrefour and scores of very determined French power shoppers (I also landed in the equivalent of food-shopping rush hour). The fact that I had no recipe made the entire experience that much easier, too. After the great chicken-broth quest, with ended me searching madly in every aisle for the bouillon cubes , I was faced with the prospect of making something that made an enormous mess in my Eugene kitchen every time I made it in ma petite cuisine lyonnaise. But have no fear- ingenuity is here! I made make-shift hotplates to rest food on, chopped everything on one cutting board on a tiny space, balanced things on top of each other, and tried to will the plaques to have a better temperature control. After it all (and after making the recipe from memory) I had a lovely curry, leftovers, and a huge fan club. All of that is true except for the part about the fan club. But applications are being accepted!

Fueled by the success of the curry and an unexpected dinner guest, I moved on to my next challenge- my very own PBS cooking show to air after Jacques Pepin and Breaking Bread with Father Dominic. And I shall call this show risotto. What? Me, exaggerate? Never! Anyone who has followed my other blog, the venerable Quel est ton problème?, may remember the trials and tribulations of my first risotto. This time it was not so much the technique that was the problem (I was greatly aided by my American-style measuring cups, and my mad skillz in figuring out how many cups are in a liter), but the space. Anyone who saw the kitchen would have laughed at my manipulation of space, but I wanted that creamy risotto! After an epic battle (not so much a battle as a triumphant victory on my part) I had my food. And a lot of dishes. Which my roommate washed, because I did all of the cooking, aided by unexpected dinner guest’s chopping.

I am now happy with my ability to cook in this apartment. I almost feel that since I can cook here, I could probably cook anywhere. Maybe not anywhere, but I’d say on at least six continents. Besides the complete lack of oven (I’m inching closer and closer to buying a mini-four, basically a toaster oven), I’m doing ok. There’s just this one problem. It’s not really even the plaques’ fault this time, but rather the shape of the apartment itself. Since I’m on the very top floor and basically in the roof, there are very nice exposed beams, as well as a very slope-y ceiling. This means that I can only stand in a little part of the kitchen without bending over. A friend of mine, who is even taller than I am, said that the very thought of cooking in this kitchen made his back hurt. But I am determined to cook, even if it ruins my posture! Besides, my landlords just gave me a pressure cooker, and I have to learn to make stews for winter. And to prep for the cooking show and my next Iron Chef battle.


At 8:43 PM, Blogger E said...

A reader might be more sympathetic to your small kitchen problem if there were photographic evidence. Can this tiny lyonnaise kitchen be smaller than the typical kitchen in NYC or Philly? I wonder...


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