A handy guide to using our kitchen!
Hi, and welcome to our kitchen! This is for you who are house-sitting while we’re away, but it is also a note to self. This may come in handy when I’m older. Let’s start with a general overview, shall we?
The whole kitchen
As you can see in this bird’s eye photo, there are no cupboard doors. Everything is open to view, so there is no guesswork in finding a pan or a bowl or a wine glass! And there should be no guesswork in returning the pan or bowl or wine glass to its original place after washing it! Am I right? Now, let’s zoom down to —
As you can also see, this is a two-basin porcelain “farmer’s” sink. The drain stoppers don’t work, even though they’re new. If you wish to fill a basin with water (say, to thaw something like a vacuum sealed frozen duck breast), simply grab a couple of heads of garlic from the hanging basket over the sink and rub them vigorously over the drain. We all know this works extremely well to plug up a drain, but we rarely do it on purpose.
Using hot water: The hot water starts in the on-demand heater in the basement in the opposite corner of the house. It then courses through red-colored plastic pipe two or three times around the perimeter of the basement before rising up into the kitchen a few minutes later. Turn on the “hot” water, cook a hard-boiled egg, and by the time the egg is done you will have hot water. Let’s move on to —
The dishwasher is a favorite appliance of mine, but it helps to know its foibles. When placing tableware and knives and utensils in the basket in the lower rack, put the pointy ends facing down. This is not a “foible,” it’s to prevent unnecessary bloodshed. I can’t say it enough: pointy ends down!
The top rack is obviously for glasses and mugs and small bowls and such. There is one long-stemmed wineglass that fits in only one place in the top rack. This is on the far right side, which has the most clearance, in the space nearest your abdomen as you face the rack. It must go there. If it goes elsewhere, it will come out clean, but in two pieces.
This wine glass MUST go here…
When the dishwasher is running, do not take a shower. Really, just don’t.
Now, time for some food —
We designed our kitchen to have a walk-in food pantry that’s always open to view for easy access to many kinds of delicious foods in a variety of colorful packages.
Pantry, left and right
While you’re house-sitting, you’ll see that each shelf has a kind of theme. There is a liquor shelf (this is mostly for guests), a can and jar shelf, a shelf for baking ingredients, a shelf for crackers and coffee, one for cereal and miscellaneous nuts and unrelated items, one for soup and rice and some other unrelated items, one for empty plastic containers and their lids which don’t always fit, and so on. You should be able to find nearly anything you want in our pantry!
This is not true for walnuts. We do have a bag of walnuts, but it’s nearly impossible to find. So we buy another bag of walnuts, which also tends to hide behind the bread crumbs or sack of popcorn, so we buy a third bag of walnuts, and soon enough wherever you reach on any shelf you will find a bag of walnuts – even on the liquor shelf (which is mostly for guests). Ironically, I don’t cook with walnuts. They’re only there for a Waldorf Salad (which needs walnuts) some distant day in my future.
Occasionally, a bag of Hannaford granola will migrate totally on its own to where the cans and jars are. I can’t explain why we have this sort of “pantry gremlin,” but please be respectful.
Large jars on the counter
These are mostly antique glass jars that aren’t labeled because you can see what’s inside. Most of the contents are various shades of brown or off-white, except for the very obvious black beans (not shown). It’s easy to confuse the couscous with the corn meal. Be careful!
I find it’s helpful to remember this general rule: the darker the contents are, the less suitable they’re likely to be for making cookies.
Here’s where our kitchen tour enters a kind of “Adventure Land!” Curiously, almost all the really interesting things are in the fridge door (not shown) and the more pedestrian items on the main shelves. Note that invariably there will be half a dozen or more unlabeled jars and containers and plastic bags with unknown foods inside, generally various shades of gray or tan, but sometimes very dark brown. We use the tried-and-true “Open ‘n’ Sniff” method of discovering what gustatory glories lurk within.
The plastic drawer, which many would use as a meat drawer, is instead a cheese drawer. It also contains non-cheese food items that may have a cheese-like color.
The spice rack and shelves
Everything’s pretty easy to see, except for thyme. We have thyme, but you will never find it. There’s always one such herb or spice that’s in everyone’s kitchen but can’t be found, and in our kitchen it happens to be thyme.
Learn to cook without using thyme, you’ll be all set. (see about “walnuts”, above).
Grand Finale: The Middle Drawer!
While you’re house-sitting, you may have need for a zester, or pizza cutter, or rolling pin, or ice cream scoop, or seafood doohickeys. While most of the regular cooking utensils are in bean pots and such to the right of the stove, the more odd-ball items are in this Middle Drawer to the left of the stove. They include some antique kitchen gizmos that we bought at yard sales and such because they were kind of cute. But of course we have no idea what their purpose is. No matter; ignore them. The main idea here is, whatever you’re looking for in the Middle Drawer, don’t give up! Keep at it! We know it’s in there.
That should do it. Please enjoy yourselves, and cook up a storm!
(How to care for and enjoy our cat is in a separate document).