Maggie’s One Butt Kitchen got me thinking. Size is always relative, and yes – for an American kitchen, hers is very small. But it looks inviting and is ergonomically planned. I think she has room for someone to stand beside her and help with the washing up, if a volunteer appeared.
My own kitchens (I am fortunate enough to have two homes) are also not large. The one in my Swiss apartment truly does have room for one butt only but it is very well planned and is sufficient for me. My French kitchen is more or less square, about 3 m per wall, and has two doors on adjoining walls and a window on a third, which is not very convenient, but there is room under the window for a small table. The table was originally intended for two, but we have at times had a family of five around it. No one could move their elbows of course, but it was family so not a problem!
My mother’s kitchen is also tiny, and to make it even more awkward there’s a door at each end, with a window next to the back door. Her work surface or counter is just about big enough for three dinner plates. She has cooked and worked in there for 75 years, producing delicious meals – even Christmas dinners with all the trimmings for a dozen people. It seems hard to believe but until about 1970 she didn’t have a fridge: refrigerators and freezers were luxuries, you had a cold pantry and went shopping more frequently in those days.
For the last ten years or so we have been trying to figure out how to fit a microwave oven into this small space without having to revamp the kitchen. The obvious solution would be to hang it on the wall at eye level, but my mother has shrunk and is now only 4ft 10 tall, a very low eye level. During the past year, however, she has done very little cooking apart from making tea, so my daughter dared to buy a very small, simple microwave oven. This now sits on the counter, occupying about half the space, so there is now room for only one dinner plate. It’s a bit like cooking in a ship’s galley. You just have to be very organised and keep putting things away!
The lack of working space struck me particularly today as I made pastry for the first time since we have had the microwave and I had to roll my piecrusts out. There really is very little wiggle room! But it was only a small pie, so by keeping my elbows in, I managed. It was what my granddaughter calls “short-cut pastry”. This was cut very short! indeed!
What kind of pie? Credit to James Martin for a very delicious apple and blueberry pie recipe.
Did I change anything? Surprisingly, no – except that the fruit produced a lot of liquid, which I strained off before filling the pie. That made a lovely warm drink, full of vitamin C and soothing to a slightly sore throat.
If you can’t be bothered to make a pie, you could just stew the apples, blueberries, lemon, sugar and cinnamon, add a little warm water and whizz it in a blender – then enjoy it on a cold winter’s day, possibly with a dollop of Cassis liqueur. Or freeze it to a sorbet or slush on a very hot summer’s day.