Sunday, November 1, 2009

Kitchen Reorganization with the Richeys

Reto Biaggio, a personal chef and the owner of Home Cuisine (see blog post from Sept 28, 2009 for more on Reto and his business) , has become our second corporate sponsor!!

And recently he spent a morning with me at the Richeys and helped transform their kitchen and clean out some cabinets. What fun it was!

Somehow, kitchen reorganization is one of those things that we all mean to do and it oftens takes the actuality of moving some place new to make us do it. (Or it happens if a "helpful" relative comes in and does it for us, which seems to be more irritating than helpful as you usually aren't consulted!)

Anyhow, we'll wait to see Kim and Mike's report to see if we irritated or helped - ha ha! Again, I was happy to think we helped.

We started the morning with a trip through the farmer's market to get some general advice and insights from Reto. As a professional chef with an eye on freshness he has traversed many a market and sees things that the rest of us might miss. If you have ever known a designer or an architect and appreciated how they see things through the lens of a completed project where we just see an empty lot or a room full of mess, this is how a chef sees the market. It is a bounty of completed dishes and tempting treats.

So, off to the market we all went. Reto was in search of some kale and Kim wanted some flank steaks to cook for friends. I wanted my regular CSA bag and whatever else caught my eye.

Then back to the Richey's house for a kitchen clean-out. Reto quickly observed that their kitchen had a lack of good counter space related to placement of the microwave and some other miscellanous items. We all have a tendency to let things find their place over time and then we just live with it. But for efficiency we need to rethink our spaces.

Where is the most ideal work space? Do you have a space that provides natural light? Looking outside a window while working is one way of bringing the bounty of nature into the kitchen. How is the space situated to the oven/stovetop, sink and refrigerator? Ideally, you want to minimize steps in your kitchen so having the things you use most often close at hand is the best arrangement. Reto identified the same space that Mike likes to do prep work in but it was crowded with the microwave and extra utensils and dishes that were more accessories than standard work items. So, we decided right off to move the microwave and clear out that space.

And then Reto started cleaning out all of the surrounding spaces starting from that spot outward: cabinets, drawers, shelves and counter tops. He is a big fan of getting rid of things that you don't use often. Kim had a large assortment of sippy cups and baby items that is akin to my nightmare of a "Tupperware" cabinet.

I literally have a dark hole of a cabinet that becomes a catch all for all of my plastic storage ware. I dream nightly that the Tupperware fairy will visit me and arrange all that chaos and create lids for the lidless and bottoms for the variety of lids that don't fit anything. My Tupperware hole is listed in Websters right next to the word entropy - the state of going from order to disorder. So I am throwing no stones when I point out that the Richeys kitchen had a fair number of entropy holes also. But Reto gleefully started asking questions and sorting and rearranging - it was like watching an episode of "What Not To Wear" in the kitchen.

So while Reto was tackling cookware I headed to the assorted pantry areas. The Richeys have two main pantry storage spaces and one is a shelving unit in the kitchen, mainly used for canned items, and the other is an antique cabinet that housed a ton of dry goods, wine, baking items, chocolate and other things. So I pulled all of it out and sorted it by category and type of food. We threw out all the outdated items or things we knew were just too old. There really weren't many of these, but it is always funny to find these things. Again, not to cast stones I just dug out a bag of double zero flour I bought in Italy last fall and I could have kicked myself for not getting around to using it!

We then ended up having Steve paint the inside of the cabinet as it was sorely in need of a paint job and Kim suspected it of having lead paint on it originally. It made quite a difference in the appearance and I think it will make it brighter, on the outside at least. There are several foods that are best stored in the dark: flours, oils, wine and spices to name a few. UV light can destroy nutrients in food and accelerate the process of rancidity so it is best not to store foods in clear containers on the counter, no matter how attractive.

So, in the end we kept the canned goods on the open shelves and organized the items that were in the pantry cabinet so they could be tucked back in after the paint dried. There was a large pile of stuff to go into basement storage for the next yard sale or Goodwill trip and while I felt bad leaving the whole dining room table still covered in stuff for the cabinet, it felt like a cathartic and refreshing experience.

Reto got the kale dish that the Richeys were bringing to a party later that evening all prepped up and talked Mike through the recipe. He showed Mike how to flip the microplaner over to catch the lemon zest in it so you can see how much you have and all the greens were washed and made ready for cooking.

It's small tips like these that I think help facilitate and inspire all this change. Remember we are going for slow and steady change. This was a rare overnight transformative process.

Eat well and be well.

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