“The heart of a house is the kitchen,” say a thousand design leaders and real estate advertisements.
At least here in New Zealand it wasn’t. Kitchens were hidden like cooking. In most homes, the kitchen was a closed room where visitors could neither see nor hear their mother’s curved pots scraping a pile of continental savory rice from the burnt pan onto the plate.
Then, around 1980, the status of the kitchen rose – alongside the status of women, I suspect, and accompanied their greater clout when designing and buying houses. Women didn’t want to be isolated from others in the house and sneak over a hot stove.
There were also all the cultural and economic factors that made us knowledgeable, demanding and ambitious about food and entertainment. As part of this, the kitchens should be spacious and smart, with “islands”, pantries, butler sinks, quiet dishwashers and soft-close drawers.
Forgive the tangent of social history. The point I come up with is: what does it mean in this big historical trend towards huge and glittering galleys to have a tiny kitchen?
Is it workable? Is it safe? Will it stink or muffle the whole house? What is lost in the concession to the small things?
Our great little kitchen
Our kitchen is a fraction of more than 2 by 2 meters and occupies the front quarter of the house.
It is arranged in a U-shape, which is one of the few layouts that are possible in a tiny house on wheels.
A kitchenette can work in a tiny house. Tom and I stayed in this:
It’s a beautiful house with its own advantages, but the kitchen size would have brought me down. Insufficient space.
It is important to put things away
Storage space in a tiny house is precious. For my way of thinking and our way of life, it is a must to have a lot of space in the kitchen.
This is because you need a lot of “things” in a kitchen and you have to put them away for safety and cleanliness.
And putting things away is important for another reason that is related to both interior design and psychology. Clear surfaces, worktops and access routes make a tiny house appear larger, tidier, less dark and sufficient for its basic task. Disorder can cause stress.
To avoid this demoralizing and dangerous mess, you have to put your pots and dishes away. Which means you have to wash them.
The clatter of a pot and a plate
I don’t have a dishwasher – there is no space and it would be too much power for our solar system. I do the dishes the old way, in a sink with hot water and environmentally friendly detergent, and with a radio or podcast.
Be careful how you get there
The pantry is as big as a tiny house, but its small size can be a test.
To make room on the shelves, I moved what supermarkets call “baking needs” to plastic tubs in a lower cabinet or on the floor under the cabinets. (Unused space in a tiny house? Never!)
Even after that and with lazy Susan and can shelves, the pantry is full and it’s easy to knock things over while I reach for what I need.
I suppose it would be easier if we were people who only use salt, pepper, baked beans and some kind of oil. The occasionally overturned bottle is the price we pay for the sophistication of the food!
Some thoughts on how cooking in a tiny house is the same or different from how things are in a larger house.
- It can become smelly and steamy. So there is an electric fan and three windows. However, smells at dinner can still persist, especially upstairs in the bedroom. Fry or bake better than fry. I haven’t tried a full-fledged dinner party yet, but I would do it in summer if guests could relax outdoors instead of on the smell of cooking.
- It makes no sense to cook large quantities of things like broth or keep a lot of leftovers because there is not enough storage space for them. So we usually cook what we need that day.
- With organization (i.e. not cluttered worktops) it is possible to cook quite complicated meals. Do you have to serve four? No problem.
- A cutting board that is large enough to sit over the sink has proven to be a great advantage.
- There is no space or electricity for a microwave oven, so I rediscovered how to heat things in pots or in the oven. As I type this, the first time I wondered if I don’t have a microwave. So the answer must be “no”.
- Our oven, a Thetford Caprice with a gas bottle drive, exceeds expectations. It is small, so no roast turkey, but it cooked everything well. That means the grill switch is playing.
- Alexa, the virtuous assistantis an aid in the kitchen! “Alexa, 12 minute timer”; “Alexa, sink light 50 percent”; “Alexa, second timer, 15 minutes”.
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