This article in the New York Times, lamenting the frequent lack of roominess and fanciness found in a professional chef’s at-home kitchen, can really drive home the point that one cook’s sad and meager kitchen can easily be another cook’s dream.
Is it the fancy appliances that make an enviable kitchen? The stove that can be heated to 600 degrees to facilitate the crispest, most bubbly pizza crust ever known to a home cook? Is it generous square footage? Maybe you love to entertain while you cook, so you dream of a kitchen with room enough to accommodate one or two dozen roaming friends and family members who will keep you company in the kitchen while you prepare a feast fit for royalty. Or perhaps it is this:
A straight up, no holds barred showroom. You can make three different cakes at once while you chop enough vegetables to make a vat of soup the size of a Navy ship, all while brewing gallons of fresh, hot coffee!
After living in four different houses in ten years, all of which possessed very different, very unique kitchens, I have finally come to realize what single element is most important to the creation of my dream kitchen: acres and acres of open counter space.
Our current kitchen, while sizable, boasts the least efficient layout of counter space I’ve ever seen. Counters are small and chopped off at strange angles, and there is a noticeable lack of workspace. In order to create a space that was suitable for rolling out dough, chopping and prepping large quantities of food, and placing out more than one mixing bowl at a time, we bought a wooden work table at a kitchen supply warehouse. The table is a great space for working, but the only place we were able to put it was at the end of the kitchen that is opposite the stove. Not exactly the most efficient set up, but we make it work. This house is the only house we’ve ever bought that came equipped with a remodeled kitchen, so it seems incredibly wasteful to tear out the kitchen and start over when everything in it is still new and shiny. And it’s not as though the kitchen is unusable–far from it–it’s just not well designed. We work with what we have, and appreciate the fact that the counters are not peeling up at the edges and all of our drawers are not painted shut (because we once bought a house with a kitchen that suffered from both of those maladies, as well as a vinyl floor that was melted in one patch by the stove, and an unfortunately robust colony of ants living beneath the floors).
The situation with our kitchen is not that different from the situation in which I often find myself when faced with a handful of ingredients that are not enough to complete a recipe, but not enough to discount either. Such was the case when I found myself with three separate halves of pear (how, I am still not sure) and the last few squares of a Belgian chocolate bar. What to do? Make this cake, of course, courtesy of the always-reliable Smitten Kitchen, a kitchen that has less usable counter space than mine and seems to do just fine.
The cake was a beautiful thing, moist and rich with the nutty flavor of browned butter. It did not suffer in the slightest from the halved quantities of chocolate and pear, proving that sometimes having less does not necessarily mean you will suffer wanting for more (cake and counter space alike).