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A beautiful kitchen does not good food make

A series of what can only be considered fortunate events culminated in finally pushing the Quotidian household towards Chicago. If cities could be soul mates, I’d say I’ve found my other half. As the Intelligentsia website put it, Chicago is “a city that is brooding, practical and reluctantly beautiful.” (Their flagship coffeebar, by the way, is a mere 472 ft from my front door.) I hesitate to label myself in front of others who know me so well because I can just imagine you coming up with counter examples to any category in which I choose to place myself. However, brooding practicality seems as good a description of my personality as any.  It’s true I once favored the purely decorative, whether it was collections of porcelain figurines or jelly shoes that caused my toes to grow funny. As I’ve grown older, though,  I’ve come to recognize the beauty in things like a quilt casually crumpled over the back of a chair, a bowed shelf of canned goods in a cold basement,  or even an expanse of cleared off table.

And you don’t know me well if you think I don’t indulge in a good brood every once in awhile.

While I do get a thrill out of already claiming Chicago as “my city,” I know that I am still a newcomer here. There are new corners to be rounded just about everywhere I go. So it seems a bit disingenuous to inventory all the reasons Chicago and I are the perfect match. Things like not being the only one sporting the homeless granny chic grocery cart. Or being able to attend a live jazz concert simply by opening my window. Or that summer here waits until spring is finished speaking. There are also some things that are common to any major city- enjoying public transportation along with people from all different economic backgrounds, passing a couple in the street and not being able to assume the conversation you overhear will be in English, and deciding on a cuisine for dinner (Japanese, Italian, Lebanese, ect) still leaves you with about three restaurant choices within walking distance.

There are also other less desirable things common to cities. Namely, the mac ‘n’ cheese kitchen. You know the type: a room that seems like an afterthought with a fridge squeezed in, postage stamp size counters,  and just enough cupboard space to store a few pots, bowls, and of course, your blue stash of mac ‘n’ cheese. I am now the proud owner renter of just such a kitchen.

This is the picture I took  during our apartment hunt which turned into more of a scavenge when two (!) apartments were rented out from under us. By the time the dust had settled, this was the only apartment left out of the dozen or so we’d looked at. The rest of the apartment is quite nice. There’s wood floors instead of plastic elementary school style tile. (Yes, that huge hole in the floor is still there. It grabs disturbingly as stocking feet.) The apartment is on the south side of the building, so even though I don’t have any private outdoor space, there’s ample sunlight.  And the location is something out of a dream. Two bus lines within blocks that will take you downtown within 20 minutes. A local bagel bakery, diner,  and chocolate shop clustered at the end of the block. The kitchen, however, was cause for big tears and gnashing teeth. And maybe a little sackcloth. Only Mr. Quotidian will know whether or not ashes and swearing off cooking for the duration of our lease were involved, and he’s been sworn to secrecy on the matter.

How was I supposed to cook -  I mean really cook – in a kitchen like this? Sure, it’d be perfectly adequate for other people, but for me? Where’s my food processor and 16 pots and pans supposed to go? Not to mention all my pantry foodstuffs,herbs, and spices, which accounted for an eighth of our moving boxes all on their own. My cookbook collection probably bumps that fraction up to a quarter. Where were all these chef-ly accouterments supposed to go in a kitchen like this?

To hell with a chef’s kitchen you say? Power to the small kitchened people? Granite and stainless be damned, too, you say?


A few days after signing the lease through tears, I decided sackcloth and ashes was probably not the most helpful response. (Actually Mr. Quotidian decided for me and I was forced to agree.) After all, a beautiful kitchen does not good food make. Do I seem sure of that? It’s only because I’ve repeated it as a mantra these past weeks. As I came to terms with my new kitchen, I began to look at it as a creative challenge. A wise person once taught me that limits are the harbinger of creativity. If that’s true, and I believe it is, this will be one of my most creative kitchens yet.

Here are some of my limits:

  • I’d rather spend money on quality ingredients than fancy kitchen organizers. Therefore, make every effort to repurpose things I already own. When something must be bought, try to purchase things that can be repurposed themselves in a new kitchen. (I won’t, after all, be living with this kitchen forever.)
  • The kitchen must be as intrinsically baby proof as possible. Safety latches and rubber bands can only go so far.
  • Even though it’s small, it must not feel cluttery. The counters will be kept clear.

“beautiful kitchens do not good food make”
“beautiful kitchens do not good food make”

“beautiful kitchens do not good food make”
“beautiful kitchens do not good food make”

Posted 12 years, 2 months ago at 11:21 am. 2 comments