Katy and Cassidy live on a 30-foot, 1985 Laguna sailboat in the Santa Barbara marina. Their kitchen is about the size of the desk I'm currently writing upon. It's smaller than small. Unless you've spent time on a sailboat, it would be hard to imagine the tiny proportions of this space, let alone envision cooking oyster feasts for your loved one and dog too!
I grew up near this very harbor and have stepped onto many boats, but never before had I truly grasped what it would be like to live and cook in such an environment. My morning spent cooking and eating breakfast with Katy, Cassidy and their dog Murphy was one of the finest of my life — how often do you get to dine in 80 degree weather at the tiny table of friends, in a sparkling harbor atop a ship, on March 1st no less? Katy and Cassidy know how to live the life.This couple is unafraid of their limited space. In fact, it brings them together. They focus on cooking just enough for that meal (leftovers aren't really an option with a small, rickety fridge that rarely works) and they often share their bowl of food. They take turns cooking as only one person can function in the kitchen at a time and they eat either in the open air on top of the deck, at sea on a sail to the nearby Channel islands, or cozying up on their couch down below.
Katy and Cassidy are avid cooks and enthusiastic eaters with California produce starring in almost every meal. While I was there, fresh coffee, curried eggs with peppers and onions, steel cut oatmeal and fruit salad were all shared. This would be a lovely meal coming from any home, but was especially sumptuous knowing the dance it took to create the three dishes.Last and certainly most, my kitchen visit was deeply humbling. Never again will I complain about any rental kitchen I occupy. I've never regarded my working oven, 4 burner range, regularly-sized fridge, average sink, trash can, and pantry as luxuries. Now I do after spending time without all these conveniences and seeing the ability to thrive and cook exceedingly good food, well, it left me in awe. Katy and Cassidy show us all you really need to nourish yourself is some type of flame, a pan, a precious knife, a bowl and a companion to share your treasures with. Good friends with working ovens are good to keep around too.
10 Questions for Katy and Cassidy (and their Kitchen)
1. What inspires your kitchen and your cooking?
K: Being healthful, space–conscious and frugal — I work well within constraints. And Cassidy's appetite!
C: Having one pan, creativity within a single pan.
2. What is your favorite kitchen tool or element?
K: Our knife.
C: Our one knife is our favorite tool. I also love thyme and cook with it a lot.
3. What's the most memorable meal you've ever cooked in this kitchen?
K: We did an anniversary night where we cooked Hope Ranch (local beach) oysters with steamed mussels and freshly caught local, seared salmon. We like our fish as raw as possible. We accompanied this meal with McCarthy Family's Stomping Ground Wine (my dad makes a batch each year). We dined in the interior of the boat on the couch.
C: Katy made a delicious stir fry with lentils but when she went to put the salt on the meal, the salt top came off — we shared my portion together because of this. Or the salmon salad Katy made! Salmon with wasabi mayonnaise with big green salads. Shared the big bowl!
4. The biggest challenge in your kitchen:
K: Only one person can be in the kitchen. One at the stove; one person cooks dinner, that's it. We've been known from time to time to run out of cooking fuel, in which case, there's no dinner.
C: Size. As soon as one dish is dirty, the entire kitchen is a mess. Fumes from the alcohol, you get woozy and fumy.
5. Is there anything you wish you had done differently?
K: Take out the engine and put a library in there! The engine weighs too much. It'd be brilliant.
C: Katy, that is a terrible idea! I would want have the countertops be metal so I wouldn't have to worry about mold. It's all wood now. Lots of boat people are switching to metal.6. Biggest indulgence or splurge in the kitchen: K: Our paring knife, local produce and veggies and fresh fish!
C: Nice chocolate, cute teacups and our Rancho Gordo cookbook!
7. Is there anything you hope to add or improve in your kitchen?
K: I wish our oven worked, it doesn't get past 100 degrees, it's more of a dehydrator really.
8. How would you describe your cooking style?
K: I am attuned to what Cass can taste (Cassidy lost some of his ability to smell due to an accident several years ago) — sometimes he has trouble tasting without smell. It's fun to figure out what tastes the best. It's a discovery thing.
C: Experimental. I like to start with good ingredients, so I try not to overwhelm them with the cooking.
9. Best cooking advice or tip you ever received:
K: Richard said once, sometimes you cook the dinner and do the dishes — you don't always have to take turns.
C: From Deshane (former coop I lived), you're never out of ingredients — whatever you have, you can make a great dish with it, never be afraid.
10. What are you cooking this week?
K & C: Asparagus, spinach, a lot of organic hot cereal with agave syrup, curried eggs with peppers some, Hope Ranch oysters, Homemade raviolis, Tom Ka.
• Pots and pans: inherited from the boat — stainless steel, no weird chemicals on them.
• Dishes: hodgepodge from the boat, nautical theme, some we bought in a picnic set — Everything has to stack, thrift store china, 70s era bowls and tumblers
• Fancy nautical cookbook came with our boat (see photos)
• Visit Katy's Site: Katy McCarthy
We're always looking for real kitchens from real cooks.
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Related: Joan and Jim's Jolly Kitchen
(Images: Leela Cyd Ross)