When we first moved into this house where we will be living for one more month, Lu was only 8 months old. There is no way to convey how long ago that feels. A dear friend of mine and I were pregnant at the same time and have survived every phase together since. When the girls were less than a year, we both admitted to looking at 3-year-olds in amazement. How would our small, crawling babies ever be big enough to dance in tutus, talk in full sentences, or skip besides us down the street?
These last few years have been several lifetimes long.
Now, not only does Lu talk in full sentences but she goes on talking jags, galloping through the stories of her day, plus the imagined ones, with a determination I love. Yesterday, she was on this kitchen counter, talking with me as I cooked. Suddenly, she grabbed the apples in the red bowl and said, “Mama, apples are not vegetables!” (Except she pronounces them something like wapajos.) She put the apples in the fruit bowl, decisively, then returned to telling me about chasing Max that morning.
I honestly don’t remember her much when she was 8 months old. Pictures give me a glimmer but not much more. Now is so present, so giggling, so here. 8 months old is a long-ago memory.
So is moving into this house. When we moved here, we were really moving to the island. This house was our leaping pad.
It doesn’t feel like the right place anymore.
Oh, this has been our home, the space where we survived Lucy’s surgery and the sleepless year that followed it. Where she took her first steps. Where she started talking. Where we grew a garden and learned to run and fell down and laughed and laughed and laughed. We have done so much laughing here.
And so much cooking. We did all the major edits for our first cookbook here. I’ve cooked every meal in the new one on the gas stove in our kitchen. We have loved this home.
However, this photo up there? That should tell you. There’s just not enough light.
I took this photo in the middle of the afternoon, the sun out, on a low shutter speed. There just wasn’t enough light to make it more than a dark Rembrandt feel.
Have I ever told you that I take almost all the photographs for this website on our porch? I have a marble pastry board set up on a rickety black table, underneath an awning. Sometimes I’m dodging raindrops as I make a photograph of pasta.
I’m looking forward to taking photographs on our dining room table again soon.
Book’s due in a couple of weeks. I’m working nearly every moment that Lucy is asleep or in school. I’m going to make it. I’m going to make it.
However, when I’m not cooking or writing, I’m thinking about our new kitchen. I’m purging everything from the house we don’t need anymore the thrift store on the island is probably bulging with our stuff right now and putting the rest into plastic tubs and organized boxes.
This move is a fresh start.
When we moved into this house, Lu was 8 months old. She caught a nasty virus that required a trip to the emergency room. She recovered and then had skull surgery. She didn’t sleep for longer than an hour or two at a time, for a year. All the while, I was editing our cookbook.
We lived in chaos for awhile. Not anymore. The kitchen is clean as I write. The laundry done. The floors swept.
It feels good.
I’ve learned a few things lately, especially as I have cooked three to six dishes a day for the cookbook. (There are 120 recipes. Every one of them has been cooked at least twice. Some, many many times, especially the baked goods.) As you can imagine, I spend almost the entire day in the kitchen these days.
This helpful primer from David Lebovitz on the tricks he has learned about how to keep a kitchen running efficiently helped me to change my habits. (Read it. He knows more than I do.)
I’ve been cutting out anything we don’t need. We used to have SO MANY pots and pans. (I still think we have too many. Danny disagrees.) Now, we have three cast-iron skillets in various sizes, a sauté pan, a Dutch oven, a stockpot, and a pot for cooking sauces. There’s no need to have anything more than that.
We’ve purged almost any tool that has a specific purpose, like an avocado slicer someone gave us. I want to toss the citrus reamer. A good pair of tongs is great for everything. I use a baking sheet for almost every food that goes into the oven.
I’m still learning to label everything in the refrigerator. That used to be like a toxic waste site after awhile. What is this grey-green sludge anyway? Now, whatever I make, I label it. It’s not pretty. Masking tape and a Sharpie does it. I have a label maker but it’s in another room. And the masking tape and Sharpie is a trick I picked up from the restaurant kitchens where I’ve been.
Speaking of restaurant kitchens, I’ve been watching Danny do inventory every week at his restaurant and learning from him. I’ve made a long list of every ingredient we have used in our cookbook as well as any ingredient we have used, even once, in our discovery of dishes. This weekend, I’m typing it up, in specific categories, and putting it in a folder in a kitchen drawer. Once a week, I’m doing inventory for our kitchen. What is running low so we can buy it on our next trip to the city? What do we need right now? It’s a heck of a lot more efficient than trying to take notes on my phone as I stand at the start of the store.
Speaking of trips to the grocery store, I have learned to not just fling the bags on the kitchen counter and walk away. The work only begins there now. I unload the groceries immediately and start chopping. Finally, I have learned to cut up all my vegetables, wrap them in a paper towel or damp cloth, label them, and make a list of the produce we have on the blackboard in the kitchen. There are very few shriveled carrots in our fridge right now.
(And this video from Tamar Adler? Beautiful. Man, I wish my kitchen was as spacious and lovely as hers. But I love the way she roasts the vegetables for the week in one fell swoop.)
I could tell you more, but I have recipes to write. I’ll be writing about some of this in the book, too. Mostly, though, I would love your help.
What do you know about keeping your kitchen organized? (The rest of the house too, for that matter.) What helps you keep on top of it all without cleaning all the time? What is your food storage like? Has anyone figured out a better system for buying produce than using all those plastic bags from the store? What is your psychological state when you’re cooking in a clean kitchen? How do you get there?
Oh, and our spice cupboard is still a shambles. I have a few systems in mind but what do you use?
Tell me your secrets. I want to learn.
In a few weeks, the first draft of our book will be in. And then, we move to a new home. It’s not grand but it’s filled with light.
And soon, hopefully, there will be another baby in that home. Before that beautiful chaos sets in again, I want to know how to do it right this time.