Space is the Ultimate Luxury

Jordan
Orange trees in full bloom just beneath my kitchen window.

Orange trees in full bloom just beneath my kitchen window.

It’s hard to know where the days go here in Amman – they speed by, but at a seemingly much slower pace, and some days I don’t even know what I was so busy doing. It’s a weird bending of time, or perhaps just a bending of me, that finds me, for the first time in a very long time, feeling like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. My to-do list never ends.

That said, I don’t have much news to write up for all of you, however, I wanted to keep the positive momentum going lest you think I’d disappeared again. I do have a couple of interviews with local culinary artisans in the works and a series of workshops coming up that I’ll tell you more about when I have the information, but I haven’t had any real a-ha culinary moments of late.  So I’m going to just give you all a tour of my new kitchen, where I spend much of my days and where I’ve spent a great deal of energy organizing and making just right so that I can conduct business out of it until the business location is up and running.

My copper pots hang off the side of my METRO shelves for easy access

My copper pots hang off the side of my METRO shelves for easy access

When we decided to rent this apartment, one of the major reasons was the enormous kitchen space. You don’t understand, after living in New York and San Francisco and London, where space is at a premium, to have room to spread out, plate things up, store all of my gadgets and platters and endless varieties of flours and spices, brings me such joy. While we were waiting for all of our goods to arrive from London, I spent a lot of time in the empty space, just looking around, thinking hard about where everything would go and how I wanted to arrange the free space. If you happen to find yourself living in a sort of empty kitchen I highly recommend as it made unpacking and organizing a breeze!

I love having open shelves (although many here say I will rue my decision as dust seeps through the window seals and covers every surface very quickly), so I can see everything I have in one glance and for easy access.  These are a particularly ginormous set and arranging everything on them made the kitchen nerd in me very happy. There’s nothing like being able to grab pans directly off the shelf when you’re cooking as much as I do. I love the tray full of all my oils and vinegars and cooking wines so I can easily see what I’ve got available. We’re also going to have to store bulk ingredients at the house for certain items I’ll be making – things like 25 pound bags of coconut flakes for my granolas – I’m having them specially imported.  Plus, if I never have to stand on my head and wrestle with various cake pans and muffin tins lodged in the back of a cabinet, I will be forever grateful.

The custom made stainless table is my pride and joy (thank you Amin and Leen at AWAR)! It’s 2mm thick stainless steel with an American finish (which means the edges are rounded). I designed it so that we could store stools under the surface for a quick meal or so that I can write while I keep an eye on what’s bubbling at any particular moment. I store all of my cutting boards and my knife block on the table for easy access and a bowl each of salt and pepper for seasoning as I go. At 90 cm high, it’s the perfect height for me, so I’m not hunched over, the surface does scratch, but I think it gives it character, and I can set anything on it without fear of burning, melting, etc. I can stand and look out the window, make a huge mess only to disinfect with ease, and its position in the room also gives me that perfect triangular workspace orientation you hear that proper kitchen design should have.

Just next to the sink there was a weird floating shelf, up high, that I wasn’t quite sure what to do with. As my appliances arrived I decided to make use of my ample counter space and make a dedicated baking area. All of my various baking ingredients now fit nicely on that random shelf. I nabbed two enormous jars from my mother-in-law for all-purpose flour and caster sugar and placed my scale, KitchenAid mixer and KitchenAid food processor on the granite countertop. Below, there’s a large cupboard for my ramekins, measuring cups and spoons, electronic scale, mixing bowls and overflow of ingredients. I can’t tell you how happy walking into my kitchen and seeing this set up makes me. No more pulling out the appliances, trying to find an outlet to plug them into, and setting them up precariously on the edge of a counter!  A tier of wire baskets to the side of this cabinet serve as my office space, with bins for measuring tapes, masking tape, pens, sharpies, notepads and stacks of recipes to try.

IMG_0437The fridge is from my in-laws and after living with European fridges for the past seven years, is a joy – commodious and simply designed. We’ll soon move this fridge into our pantry (yes, there’s a large utility room just off the kitchen) and get another one so that I have lots of room for clients’ food and they don’t get mixed in. We also have a full-size freezer in the utility room, complete with drawers and oodles of room for my ice cream maker bowl. In London I never had room to freeze the stock I’d made or keep meat or vegetables for later in the year. If I wanted to make ice cream I had to take everything out and pray they wouldn’t melt too much in the process! I look forward to lots of ice cream making.

More open wire shelves (these ones from Ikea) for our everyday plates, mixing bowls, serving bowls, and also from Ikea, their marvellous new wooden wine crates – perfect for onions and other root vegetable storage. Finally my beloved cake stands have a shelf I can reach without a step stool! I love to use the Ikea hooks on the sides of all these wire shelves to hang mesh sieves, my aprons, towels, mandolins, graters. I also have two enormous wire baskets that hang off the sides: one for plastic wrap, baking paper, foil and the like, the other for kitchen towels and aprons.

IMG_0443Finally, next to the stove (a five burner is standard here and a thrill), is a cabinet with all my spices, powders, potions and general fun stuff. In spite of the kitchen being huge, there is a real lack of cabinet space (well, at least there is when you have as much stuff as I do), but this giant cabinet is a delight to behold when you open it up and the scent of a souq comes wafting out.   A few kitchen tools hang within easy reach to the left of the stove and our coffee and tea station is just there too for when I stumble out of bed in the morning and need my lemon water!

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That’s it, really! I had to share because I absolutely love my new space and maybe now you can imagine where I’m making all of these recipes I write about.  My one complaint is that because it’s so big, I spend a lot of time wandering back and forth across the kitchen – in London everything was very well designed and I could do almost everything without moving an inch – but since I walk outside very little here, let’s call it a trade-off I’m happy to make!  Well, I’m off to wash a pan that’s been soaking since lunch. It’s 93 degrees here right now and I’ve got the windows open, praying for a breeze so that the orange blossoms on the trees below share their sweet scent with me!

 

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