Before heading out on our apartment search two years ago, I had only one criteria: it had to have a kitchen countertop.
I said it jokingly, not really thinking we would end up with everything but.
This afternoon I decided to find out just how small our kitchen is. I pulled out the ruler and in less than a minute had calculated a whopping four feet by seven feet. That’s what it would be without the fridge, the stovetop, the sink, and the toaster-sized oven sitting on top of the washing machine. I didn’t think these numbers gave justice to the true smallness of the kitchen, so I tried to lie down to see if I would fit. Nope. Even if I wanted to, I could not sleep in the kitchen.
I admit, there have been many challenges to living in Paris- some of them because I’m not from here (or any big foreign city for that matter) and am constantly learning how it all works, others because adult life (no matter where you live) is full of unexpected obstacles. Unfortunately for the city I live in, I sometimes tend to mix the two up and blame everything that happens on “Paris.” I know, that’s not fair. In any case, one of the greatest challenges hasn’t been what I would have expected; it’s been learning to cook in our kitchen- without a countertop.
Before moving to our current apartment, I would invade whichever kitchen I was using like a mad tornado. I’d whip up this and that. I’d leave behind this and that. I’d forget to close the cabinet doors, leave behind dirty batter-ridden bowls, spill flour and smudge the countertops with chocolate-dipped spoons. I’d only think, “This is fun. I’ll clean it later.” Conclusion: the entire kitchen would be a happy mess by the time I was done with it.
In a “four-by-seven” kitchen you can’t do that. Boring as it sounds, I’ve learned to clean up as I go. Because I have no place to leave a dirty pot, I’m forced to clean it, dry it and put it back in the cupboard. On a good day, it’s great- after all, the bulk of the dishes are already done before dinner begins. On a tired day, I can’t be bothered, get frustrated, put the clean dinner plates on the floor and blame it on “Paris.”
When someone asks me what my favorite spot is in this beautiful city, I don’t only think of the view from the Pont-des-Arts over the Seine to the Pont-Neuf, I often think of our little kitchen. It may be small, but it’s the only place I can think of where I seem to find a complete balance between where I come from and where I live today. (I never said my posts wouldn’t get sappy). Red chili powder from Santa Fe sits in a glass jar on one shelf, dried piments and feuilles de laurier (bay leaves) from Sébastien’s parents’ garden sit on another. A bottle of maple syrup stands next to a bottle of red wine, being stubborn and lying on its side. This is where, after trekking through Paris trying to find the right ingredients (or at least close substitutes), I recreate my favorite childhood dishes. It’s also where I experiment with my yet-to-be-understood French cuisine. And more often than not, it’s where I put the two together.
What combination of cultures lives in your kitchen?