I am blessed to have a kitchen that is large enough for all of my cooking and baking endeavors. Sure, it could be bigger, have a better layout or more storage but now that I am in my 30’s (almost mid – yikes) and I am so much wiser than I was when I designed my kitchen and stocked it, I have discovered 2 things.
1. Bigger means more cleaning. The tiny home movement is a thing for a reason. Who on God’s green Earth has enough time on their hands to clean and maintain the larger houses made popular during the early 2000’s housing boom? Not me. Well, that’s not true. During the summer (as a teacher and childless for now) I have all the time in the world to clean and maintain our house. I like to think it would pass the white glove test. Well… Not my sister’s white glove test but she has no pets . I am not without help. My husband Luke is a master tidier (I think the KonMari method was actually stolen from him) but master cleaner or daily picker-upper of his stuff – not so much. He is absolutely the best husband in the world though and I wouldn’t trade him in.
When I say I have “all the time in the world” I am certain of this because I spend “all the time” during my free summer days doing – guess what – cleaning and maintaining. Now, I get this goofy standard of work ethic from both sides of my family. If you aren’t constantly working or doing something, you are doing life wrong. Another barrier to keeping a clean house is, as you may have noticed in my writing, I get side-tracked. OFTEN. I am convinced that I have undiagnosed adult ADD but I have just enough coping skills to slide by unnoticed. I find it very difficult to complete a project from start to finish. Perhaps a smaller house/kitchen wouldn’t help me but it may help you. I do have a few cleaning tips (to come at a later date) that I use to help me stay on track (kind of) and minimize my time spent cleaning. These strategies help me maximize my time chugging coffee and reading.
The dirty (pun intended) truth is that during the school year, we live in filth. I simply cannot keep up with the amount of cleaning needed to take care of our house. Dirt and clutter are neither simple nor sophisticated, I know. My life is a lie.
2. Less is more. An old cliche, I am well aware but there are just those things you need to have in your cooking/baking life and those you do not. Here are the top “Haves” in my kitchen (in no particular order – except the first one is #1).
- My grandmothers’ dishes. If my house were on fire and my pets, husband and any other living, breathing being in my house had gotten out safely, these dishes would probably be the first thing I grab. I use them. I love them. I use them on special occasions when I have family over to remind them of two very fine ladies. The use of them also makes me feel sophisticated because the original owners were and are just that. The dishes are incredibly simple yet lovely.
- Cookbooks. Yes. I know that the internet is a treasure trove of recipes and I heart Pinterest as much as the next person but there is just something magical about holding a cookbook in your hands. The heaviness of it, being able to touch the gorgeous pictures, dogear your favorite recipes or see a note in the margins of a hand-me-down book in the script of a beloved, lost relative, is not an experience you get through a screen. I must have cookbooks. I read them as I obsessively drink my coffee on my patio or in front my fireplace in the colder months. They tell someone’s beautiful and often personal story through much loved recipes. What are your favorite cookbooks? Leave me a comment and I will let you know what I am reading right now!
- White dishes. Now, these are my everyday ones. Why white? Want a simple and sophisticated look for every meal you create? Serve it on a white dish. Unless you are serving an all white dish (don’t know what that would be – perhaps an unflavored snow cone), almost everything will pop against the white background. The other nice thing about white dishes is that if they stop making your “set” and you need more, white goes with white. You can easily mix and match different sizes and shapes of plates, bowls, platters for a modern eclectic look.
- Cutting boards. Lots of them. They are so much more than just a surface to chop and slice. I used my biggest one to create a show-stopping charcuterie board for our last game night with friends. I use them for backdrops and surfaces for many of my food pics (shhhhh). I use them for trays when we want to eat breakfast lunch or dinner in bed. They carry my coffee, cup and book to the patio. I also use them to keep my loved-ones safe and healthy. I some very dear friends and a little cousin who need to eat gluten free so I have specific cutting boards reserved for prepping food when they are over.
- Wooden spoons. Plastic melts and you have to replace it often. I have had the same wooden spoons for almost 14 years. I have added to my collection but I have no doubt those will last just as long. Heck, my grandma has the same wooden spoons in her kitchen that I played with as a child so boom. Longevity.
- Quality cook/bake/prep ware. Quality does not have to mean expensive. Look for stainless steel everything and keep your prepware glass or ceramic. A few WHITE baking dishes in various sizes and you are good to go.
- A good knife set and honing tool. Using the correct, sharp knife makes food prep easier and insanely more satisfying. Ever tried to slice a tomato with a dull knife? Try it. I dare ya.
- Stand mixer. I don’t know how I got along without one of these for so many years. It does the job of a million little kitchen gadgets that you have to find homes for. Plus, it is lovely and I don’t mind keeping it on my counter. I am over the single-task kitchen gadgets. Just over them. They are definitely on my “Need Not” list. If I had a “Want Not” list they’d be on that too. Blah.
- Proper measuring tools. I have a kitchen scale but meh. I could take that or leave it. The batteries are always dead when I go to use it. I am talking dry measures and wet measures. Don’t try to measure a dry ingredient in a wet measure or vice versa. You might be okay when cooking but baking is an exact science. Your dish may not turn out. Don’t risk wasting your time or money just because you grabbed the wrong measure.
- Cast iron Dutch oven. You guys! This is probably one of the most versatile tools I have in my kitchen. I literally use it everyday. I braise meat, simmer soups and stews, create one pot wonders, make mulled wine and have even used it in a pinch to catch drips from a leaky roof. It goes effortlessly from stove top to oven for a Sunday gravy or roast. My Dutch oven is perched majestically on my stove at all times. It doesn’t have a home in my cupboards.
Unfortunately, I am not at a place of minimalism yet so my kitchen does happen to contain more than just my “Haves” list. Not everyone has the same list. Drop me a comment below! I am dying to hear what is on your “Haves” list.