Weekend Meditation: Discoveries in a Borrowed Kitchen

For this fall at least, and perhaps even into next spring, I'll be living in a sublet of sorts, a furnished apartment of a friend of a friend who is overseas. When I left my last apartment, I put almost all of my kitchen things into storage, thinking it would only be a month or two until I would see them again. But that reunion, like many things in life, hasn't proved to be a straight line and here I am facing nearly a year without many of my beloved kitchen necessities. Or what I thought were necessities.My new kitchen is rather full with the friend of the friend's stuff. It's astonishingly small, too, so I have to be careful about what I bring in as there is very little room for more. This situation is proving to be an excellent opportunity to discover what is necessary, truly necessary, for me to get a meal on the table.

From what I can tell from what she's left behind, this friend of a friend is a very interesting cook, not without sophistication and knowledge of the culinary arts. I have been enjoying using her old copper pots which I believe to have been in her possession for over 30 years. And she has a nice spice selection, complete with tins of anchovies and packets of exotic chilies, and a beautiful array of old Chinese and Mexican dishes. And a really sweet turquoise colored tea pot.

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There's an unusually well-performing toaster oven, too, and a lovely old Wedgewood stove and of course a modern refrigerator. But mostly it's an unplugged sort of kitchen, without a food processor or electric mixer or blender in sight. One would think that this would be a problem, given that I earn my living writing about food and developing recipes. But instead I'm finding that a few pots and pans, some sharp knives and a surface to chop on, and a fistful of utensils will produce an astonishing number of delicious meals. The strainer is also a colander and a steamer. The soup bowls are prep bowls when needed and the round copper tart tatine pan my mother got from Paris also makes cake layers and pies and can even hold a small roast.

There's a quiet simplicity to this kitchen that I'm growing rather fond of. The food so far has been a bit rough but it's honest and tasty and I'm happy for the resourcefulness it is bringing out in me. I'm not entirely free of kitchen greed, however. There are still eight kinds of vinegar and five kinds of salt on the counter and little pots of pates from the farmers' market in the refrigerator. I cannot resist bringing home a bunch of the last of the dahlias for the little table by the window. In kitchens as well as in life, its important to know what is essential and today, looking at them glowing like lanterns in the afternoon light, there is no doubt in my mind as to the supreme necessity of dahlias.

Related: Weekend Meditation: Silence

(Images: Dana Velden)

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Weekend Meditation

Dana Velden is a freelance food writer. She lives, eats, plays, and gets lost in Oakland, California where she is in the throes of raising her first tomato plant.

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