Hands up who has a kitchen with loads of stuff in it? You know the kind of thing I mean – plates and cups galore, several wooden spoons – all slightly different, kitchen gadgets from processors to grinders, salad spinners, countless pans, earthen ware/oven dishes of every hue, or food mouldering in the fridge or the half empty packets in the cupboards, let alone the unopened packets of dried goods.
How much of it do I REALLY need?
We all accumulate. me included. Oh I MUST have this spice or THAT sauce to make this recipe or to prepare that dish. Do I need ground cumin as well as whole? Do I need several kinds of vinegar? Do I need any number of dried beans and pulses?
The small things, the details make life pleasant I’m the first to admit that. And as an inquisitive cook and gardener I’m prone to seeing a recipe that mentions something new and wanting to try it, Good quality knives and pans make cooking a simpler, pleasanter task. Many things may be gifts, maybe other items are hand me downs with lifetimes of memories attached.
How much of it do I REALLY need?
I’ve just returned from a trip to the French Alps, I had the good fortune to stay in a friends chalet for two weeks before going on to house sit for other friends. The 2nd space was tiny, I mean TINY. There are motor homes and glamping tents that are bigger. Living in a small, sorry that should be BIJOU space made me re-think my needs. Pare life down to the basics. What is NECESSARY and what is a LUXURY. I know I’m fortunate to be able to discern between the two.
Our bijou kitchen was ingenious, a kitchen in a cupboard. Simply a large four door cupboard (floor to ceiling) with a 2 ring electric hob on the left hand upper side, a microwave and shelf above, to the right a sink and more shelves and hooks. On the door a rack for cans or dried goods. Below a small fridge to the left and under the sink on the right a bin and cupboard for kitchen cleaning products and brushes. Simple and small I’m sure you’d agree.
Careful thinking and planning was needed, preparation had to be done on the table, but obviously the table had to be cleared beforehand. Simple tasty recipes for 2 hungry skiiers. 2 pot cookery challenges you, but the small space challenged me further, the need to pare down the ingredients and simplify the methods. When you strip away the clutter what do you need? A couple of rings to cook on, something small to store perishable goods, a few shelves for plates and dried goods. And about those plates and dishes – 4 bowls, 4 plates is all 1 or 2 people NEED. Unless of course you are a food blogger and you want to present your food in an attractive and imaginative way!
On my return home, to what I always considered a standard kitchen, reality hits – how large it is, how many cupboards there are, the acres of worktop space, the stacks of plates and dishes and the cutlery drawer brimming, and glasses of all shapes and sizes and well countless STUFF accumulated over the years. Some of those things hold precious memories (hand me downs from my mum or even my granny), others viewed in daylight are luxuries. When summing up I can’t help but say there is heaps of space and tons of stuff.
How much of it do I REALLY NEED?
Let’s face it, it boils down to a couple of pans, a coffee pot, some good knives……
But there’s a conundrum – there always is isn’t there?! If you grow your own food – even if it is to supplement what you buy in the shops and markets, you need to be able to store it – most food will go off very quickly when dug from the ground, some crops are meant for winter storage (think of pumpkins) – be it pickled beetroot or frozen peas. And how do I prepare and store these precious foods? I need room and space to do so. The conundrum of living in the 21st century and growing your own food, making your own jams and preserves, storing the bounty for winter replenishment.
Perhaps I just need to adapt my thinking, after all previous generations didn’t have the space, the technology and the sheer accumulation of stuff that we all have.
The puzzle I’m struggling with concerns space and paring things down and de-cluttering.. I’m trying to apply the lessons of my recent trip to my life at home. Do I need to spend more and more? And yes I have just been out and bought the cutest omelette pan (there is a way to go here isn’t there?!) Do I really NEED a new jam pan? Do I need several different varieties of seeds to sow? No. But it does give me great pleasure to grow different beans and salads, to be able to store and preserve some of the food for later use. But all of that takes time, energy and space. Besides you never know I might find a new favourite lettuce to grow a variety that the slugs don’t like….
Wanting to grow more and more of my own fruit and veg means I’m always thinking I don’t have enough space to do this or that, or if only the greenhouse was bigger then I could grow more tomatoes or whatever. Or if I had more time I could simply grow more and try things like baking my own bread or making more food from scratch (yes I’m talking about pasta and a pasta machine!)
But looking at what I have with a THINK SMALL – LESS IS MORE hat on I realise I have PLENTY of space. In fact I have much more than many, many people. Let’s face it – I have space, which taken alone is a premium in life. And looking at the copious seed packets I know I don’t need any more, use what I have is my motto for 2013.
Storing food for winter is a way of preparing. Coming home to a fridge with food in is welcoming. Knowing there are cans and jars of food in the cupboards is a lovely thought – I can be flexible and decide to cook what I fancy. It seems unlimited. I know generations past didn’t have these luxuries and countless millions still don’t. Food is not only a necessity but in the 21st century it’s a pleasure and the tools we use, the wonderful fresh ingredients we have all add to the pleasure. And seeking out pleasure is just as important to us in the here and now.
This post doesn’t have answers, it has questions. I’m working my way around these conundrums, celebrating what I have but challenging myself to think about space, time and desire.
Living a simpler pared down life has its complications doesn’t it!