"Lasagna? Sorry, kids, not tonight.” That’s what I used to say whenever my children asked me to prepare their favorite dish. It wasn’t that I was too busy, or out of noodles. I was scared. The idea of preparing anything more complicated than meat and potatoes was too much for me. All those pots and pans. All those ingredients. All those steps in the recipe — and then a big mess to clean up. My kitchen was like the proverbial lion’s den. I feared I would be swallowed up.
I tried to overcome my fear of the kitchen. Really. I bought cookbooks. I watched cooking shows. I even tried some of my sister-in-law’s recipes. Nothing worked — until my husband and I decided to renovate our kitchen. The project forced us (along with our pots, pans, and utensils) to abandon the kitchen for two months. During that time, I did a little cooking on our outdoor grill (chicken, burgers, steaks). Mostly, we relied on take-out from our favorite pizzeria and Chinese restaurant.
Finally, the job was done, and it was time to move everything back into my beautiful new kitchen. I was excited — but still scared. How would I ever figure out what went where?
Food preparation ‘stations’
Fortunately, our designer had gone with the “stations” concept; counters were set up at strategic locations next to all of the appliances, with lots of drawer and shelf space nearby. If I stood in the middle of the kitchen and looked around, I could immediately see where everything should go. As I put away the last baking pan, I realized that this was the first time my kitchen had ever been properly set up and truly organized.
In the ensuing months, I was delighted to realize that I finally felt at ease in the kitchen — and competent. I’m still no Emeril Lagasse, but at least I’ve managed to stop making excuses about the lasagna.
No renovation necessary
If a kitchen makeover could work such magic in my life, I’m sure it can do the same in yours. Better yet, you don’t even have to renovate!
Stand in the middle of your kitchen, and scan the room. Note the location of the stove, refrigerator, and dishwasher. Now, imagine making a salad. Since the greens are in the refrigerator, your salad-making station should be on an adjacent counter. Your salad bowls, cutting board, knives, and peelers should be stored within easy reach of this spot.
Now, set up a coffee station (mine is on the counter just to the left of my oven), making sure that the pot, filters, measuring spoon, sugar, and the coffee can be reached without having to move about the kitchen.
Get the idea? Pastas and sauces go together, near the drawer with the lasagna pan, and between the cutting station and the stove. Storing dishes and glassware over the dishwasher makes for a quick and easy put-away. Soups go above the pots and pans, with the can opener in a nearby drawer — ideally, beside the stove.
To simplify breakfast and lunch preparation, keep cereal, bowls, spoons, breakfast bars, and bread for toast or sandwiches in one drawer or on a single shelf. Now all you have to do is fetch the milk or sandwich filler from the refrigerator, and you’re good to go. Once you get everything set up properly, you’ll find that meal preparation is a lot faster, and so is cleanup.
Now that my kitchen is orderly, I feel liberated — and my family is better fed. I don’t make lasagna every night, but I do feel in control. The lion has left the premises.
This article comes from the April/May 2007 issue of ADDitude.