The Minimalist Kitchen

Just saw a great Mark Bittman video and read the accompanying article on NYTimes.com about equipping an entire kitchen for $200-300. Although I am as guilty of lusting over ridiculously expensive kitchen equipment as the next foodblogger, living here in Sicily has really made me step back and think about what is actually “essential” in a kitchen. In a country where electricity is expensive and limited, I quickly learned that packing away my stand mixer, food processor and blender not only freed up counter space, but didn’t really put many limitations on what was coming out of my kitchen. We lived in an Italian villa for two years and rather than use a transformer to get my U.S. 110v appliances to work in my Italian 220v kitchen, I really did pack them all away. I purchased a 220v Braun hand mixer that had some useful attachments and an inexpensive food mill. I learned to love my knives, I rediscovered the joy of kneading bread by hand, and I realized that the pleasures of cooking really have nothing to do with the price or quantity of your kitchen equipment.

Ok, now I have to admit something. We are currently living in military housing and our place is equipped with European and American electrical outlets. After our move, my appliances came out of storage and I do use them from time to time. But, my perspective on what is truly essential in a kitchen has definitely been altered and with our next move, I really plan on downsizing my kitchen quite a bit.

Check out the video and article by Mark Bittman while they are still available at the New York Times site and if you have never shopped in a restaurant supply store for your home kitchen, check out your local yellow pages and go find one!

Video can be found here. Article is here.

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20 Comments »

  1. 1
    jessica Says:

    Not only have i learned how to do without, living in switzerland…i’ve learned to discover food, cooking, seasonal foods, “going without.” It’s utterly changed me. i’m still a baker at heart, and i want my mini bundt cake pan that’s back in america…but still. I feel simpler, and fuller here.

  2. 2
    Julie Says:

    After living in Mexico with an oven that was 1 foot by 1 foot, having one burner that worked and a tiny fridge I love my kitchen in Virginia, even if it’s not that huge. I still dream about having a gourmet kitchen. Oh, and a dishwasher is amazing.

  3. 3
    Curt Says:

    I have fun with all my kitchen stuff, but when I do bbq comps, we go minimalist. as we do everything outside, sometimes with no electricity. But I do still have my Shun knives!!! With good fire control, you can do everything on a grill and/or smoker outside.

  4. I’m gonna watch that at home, Nicole – tks for sharing!

    As much as I’d love having a Kitchen Aid (not to mention other things), I manage to make my recipes with my good old simple mixer. I loved your post, I can totally relate to it.

  5. 5
    Veronica Says:

    Hear, hear! I can relate to that too. I cooked for 5 years in a kitchen with an oven the size of a large biscuit tin and a worktop that consisted of the top of the fridge. Yet I still turned out great 3-course meals for up to 10 people :-)

    I find most gadgets don’t justify the counter/cupboard space they take up. So out went the microwave, and the food processor lives in a cupboard, only brought out when I need to slice potatoes for gratin dauphinois. I do have a blender and a handheld electric whisk, but those are the only gadgets I use regularly. Apart from that, good knives, good pans, what more do you need??

    Oh — and yes, a dishwasher is invaluable in a small kitchen!

  6. 6
    Terry B Says:

    A wonderful, thoughtful post. And a nice reminder that cooking is about starting with good food and preparing it in a way that brings out its flavor, not about having the latest expensive kitchen toy. I find the best cooking—be it Italian, French, classic American or whatever—is often the simplest.

  7. 7
    Jason Says:

    Good stuff. So do you have an article about how many dishes, bowls, and cups to have? Because we have like 16 of all of that, and its just the two of us. So far the only advantage is that the dishes only have to be cleaned once a week.

  8. 8
    Kristen Says:

    That is so fascinating. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Hey, maybe I should consider moving to Italy. I must be the most gadget-free food blogger out there. My kitchen is tiny, with virtually no cabinet or counter space, so I use spoons and hands instead of mixers and dough hooks. I’m not complaining though; I like it. I just can’t tackle all types of recipes, you know? Truth be told, I’m most grateful for my dishwasher!

  10. [...] The Minimalist Kitchen Just saw a great Mark Bittman video and read the accompanying article on NYTimes.com about equipping an entire kitchen […] [...]

  11. 11
    Connie Says:

    great article, thanks for calling my attention to it. its really all a part of the ‘how much stuff’ in genereal do you need frame of mind. and as someone in a tiny tiny apartment with a tiny tiny kitchen, i can relate! although sometimes i wish i had piles and piles of fun kitchen toys

  12. Yep, the most high-tech thing I have in my kitchen is my blender. I figured if my ancestors ate well without the appliances, I can too. And yes, it definitely helps with the electric bill.

  13. 13
    Marce Says:

    I´m with all of you. I have a small kitchen so I only have a handheld mixer with a processor, and a whisk attachment… that solves all my needs, even when I have to beat egg whites. I admit it gets tough sometimes and some things would change for me with a bigger kitchen, but there are also things I enjoy better with less gadgets, such as kneading bread by hand.

  14. 14

    I typed very big comment but something happened and page got refreshed. What I meant was everything in India is manual. With high electric city bills and powercuts its really difficult to use electric gadgets in kitchen. You should visit India once. I will be going sometime in this year, what do u say, would u like to join me??.

  15. 15
    Nicole Says:

    Jessica: YES!! :-)

    Julie: I’ve never had to deal with a kitchen like you just described. I really do love to have a big kitchen with counter space, a nice gas range, etc.

    Curt: I think a good knife is the most important kitchen ‘gadget.’ :-)

    Patricia: Yes, although the trend (in the United States) has been towards more and bigger appliances in the kitchen, most of the world seems to get by just fine with much less! And truth be told, the food coming from everywhere else is much better! :-)

    Veronica: Thanks for sharing! I’ve been lucky that I’ve never had to make do with a really tiny kitchen but with as much moving as we do, it’s bound to happen one of these days :-)

    Terry: I completely agree with you! Simplify simplify simplify! :-)

    Jason: Hahaha! You and Corinne should start throwing big dinner parties :-)

    Kristin: You’re welcome, thanks for stopping by!

    Susan: I grew up without a dishwasher and for some reason, still have a hard time not washing things by hand! I’m sure I would change my mind if I were cooking for a family every night but a dishwasher is one thing I don’t mind doing without :-) Same goes for the microwave!

    Connie: I agree. Moving away from the states, and in turn removing myself from the onslaught of advertising that I used to be constantly exposed to (without even being aware of it), made me realize a few things. One, I have way too much stuff. Two, I don’t need all this stuff. And three, I can’t even remember why it was that I thought I needed it all!

    Lisa: I think back-to-basics hand-on cooking is not only more fun but gives you a much better understanding of the food and the process of preparing it.

    Marce: My handheld mixer is definitely the appliance that gets the most use in my kitchen.

    Padmaja: I would love to visit India!

  16. 16
    Corinne Says:

    Aw man Nicole, now Jason says no when I want something new for the Kitchen! I saw the cutest kitchen stuff at Cost Plus and Jason said “read Nicoles post, you don’t need all that stuff!” =)

  17. 17
    foodette Says:

    It’s true – of all of my gadgets, the only one i really use is the food processor. I didn’t even want one at first, but I do love it for little things – like tapanade (yum!). I have considered tossing my microwave plenty of times, and I don’t even have a dishwasher!

    Thanks for the post – we all need to realize what lucky spoiled americans we are sometimes!

  18. 18
    Butters Says:

    Very useful insight. I have to say that while I was engaged, I coveted and registered for many expensive kitchen gadgets. I have found that they mainly take up space and I seldomly use many of the them, especially the little gadgets with only one obscure purpose such as a olive pitter. I do love my new pots, pans and knives! Great post.

  19. 19
    Scott Says:

    Oh so true! I’ve nearly forgotten the kitchen we used (4 of us) in France, actually was smaller than my bathroom stateside. The fridge was about 4′ tall, the oven, 1/2 to 2/3 the size of my current one, and somehow were able to shoehorn a washing machine in there to boot. (no clothes dryer.)

    When I think back to my pre credit card days, it was so easy to do without. I didn’t even carry cash in college (when I had it) to curtail the small impulse purchase. Granted some things are much easier, and still fun with all these “essential” small appliances. we lived and thrived for years without a breadmachine, vitamixer, stand mixer, food processer, and so on.

    Oftentimes I’ll find myself working out a solution to avoid dragging out all those gadgets – sure it might take longer, but I’ll have much much less to clean afterwards! If I could start all over, my house would be wonderfully spartan – save for only the things I really, truely love.

  20. 20

    I have a passion for my knives that is bordering unhealthy and dangerous:)


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