Friday, February 3, 2012

Kitchen Renovations

Well, it’s finally underway, and that’s good news.  What isn’t such good news is the surrounding chaos and the absence of a kitchen in our lives for an undisclosed amount of time.  I have table-cloths and tea-towels in my bedroom, glasses, plates and food containers on every surface in the living room, rarely used kitchen items in the garage, and I’m on the verge of taking a load to work to sit in my office.  I’m amazed by what I have amassed over my adult lifetime (yes, I have some favourites dating back to my 18th birthday) but more-so by how much I’ve managed to pack into a small kitchen, and yet keep accessible within one or two paces.  I’m thinking I need a new house, not just a new kitchen.
Jorge, the renovator
Without a functional kitchen, my weekends are a little lost.  I have started visiting friends, rather then be visited. Friends and colleagues are offering me their kitchens, but I’m not interested.  My kitchen is filled with items I’ve carried from one part of the country to another, each with its own story and I’m usually lost in a strange kitchen. I have continued to read about food, but am uninspired without the means to cook it. And I’m reading cookbooks I would never have considered a short while ago. For example, a dear friend, sensing my crisis, gave me the Caravan Cookbook for my birthday.  I was inspired at first by the one-pot sausages in cider, but once the recipes start requiring ovens, I’m lost.  There are many similarities between caravan cooking and renovation cooking, but there are also some differences:

  • I have no preparation area;
  • The distances between barbecue, burner and fridge seem enormous and are filled with many obstacles such as ladders and dogs;
  •  I can’t find anything;
  •  All utensils, pots, plates have grown a fine layer of cement dust;
  • I don’t have an oven.
Yes, we’ve even had to revisit and renovate our barby! Now, call me a good Australian, but don’t call me a fan of the barbecue!  I have never really understood the point of grilling meat in an outdoor setting, a sausage surrounded by white sliced bread, the flies, the heat, the men at one end of the yard with the meat, the women at the other with salad and bread.  I’ve perused the ‘gourmet barbecue’ instalments in endless food magazines, but I am never inspired, never!  However, this position is up for renewal. For dinner tonight, I grilled wagyu burgers, sautéed onions and toasted white burger rolls  on the barbecue and then filled them with tomato, beetroot, lettuce and some expensive shiraz relish from the local butcher.  I am not a convert, but I am finally beginning to understand some of the benefits of barbecue cooking.
There’s the washing, or lack of, to begin with. There’s a general lack of fuss or fine-tuning.  And then there’s the time factor.  I managed to cook a whole batch of pancakes in one go, on our griddle. This would normally have taken almost 20-30 minutes, much needed time with a nine-year old who has a tendency to drift in the mornings. I have come to consider that some of my less-flexible attitudes towards food and cooking could be up for review. Not that I think there is anything wrong with insisting on table-cloths at every meal, rejecting all pre-prepared pasta sauces, mincing your own meat, making your own fillo and only using home-made stock, but I am prepared to concede that under certain circumstances, it’s OK to buy and cook pre-prepared pork spare ribs, wagyu beef burgers, frozen (butter) puff pastry and even to eat the odd take-away! But only if you have a good excuse like me!
The last things in my old oven: sourdough focacia
and sour dough bread... oh, will I ever cook in my own oven again.
My poor  old oven...