Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook: Everything You Need to Know About Setting Up and Cooking in the Most Ridiculously Small Kitchen in the World--Your Own

Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook: Everything You Need to Know About Setting Up and Cooking in the Most Ridiculously Small Kitchen in the World--Your Own

by Justin Spring, Joel Holland

If your cluttered small kitchen makes you dread cooking even the simplest meal, it’s time for you to reclaim that space—and your sanity!—with this practical and witty guide. Here you will learn how to:

*Purge your kitchen of unnecessary, space-hogging STUFF

* Maximize counter space

*Organize and streamline your kitchen for peak


If your cluttered small kitchen makes you dread cooking even the simplest meal, it’s time for you to reclaim that space—and your sanity!—with this practical and witty guide. Here you will learn how to:

*Purge your kitchen of unnecessary, space-hogging STUFF

* Maximize counter space

*Organize and streamline your kitchen for peak efficiency and easy cleanup

*Locate the best cooking equipment (and retailers) for small kitchens

*Re-think shopping, cooking, and storing food to suit your small-kitchen lifestyle

*Use ingenious creative shortcuts for small-space entertaining

Best of all, each of the book’s 100 recipes is designed for minimal space, time, and pots and pans. With no more than two burners and a toaster oven you can make easy breakfasts, fast soups, comfort food like Mom’s Sunday Pot Roast or Mole-Style Chili, big batch recipes for no-fuss entertaining, and even great desserts like Orange Marmalade Bread Pudding or Extreme (super-fast, super-chocolatey) Brownies.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A resourceful cook will tell you that almost anything (except perhaps, a 25-pound turkey) can be cooked in a small kitchen. But not every cook thinks such a feat is possible, and for him or her, this book will shed some very useful light. A Manhattan apartment-dweller and art historian, Spring lays out the basics of small-kitchen cookery: order, naturally, is of utmost importance. Think like a small-sailboat galley slave (the author grew up on a 36-foot catamaran where the kitchen consisted of a camp stove, ice chest and bucket) and optimize space, he says, by, for example, keeping dish cupboards and cutlery drawers as close as possible to the sink to create economy of motion while washing dishes. In chatty and fun prose, Spring covers every aspect of cooking in a small space, from stocking it with the right ingredients and tools (with suggestions of how much cutlery and utensils you need) to understanding which appliances are really necessary (toaster ovens can be terrific but aren't indispensable, while blenders can do the work of mixers and food processors, making them particularly valuable). Recipes are creative and well within the capabilities of basic cooks; they include Toaster-Oven Meatloaf and Saut ed Cutlets Marsala. (Mar.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Spring writes frequently about home design for the New York Times and Martha Stewart Living, among other publications. Now he has his own "itty bitty" kitchen in Manhattan, but many of his earliest culinary experiments took place in the tiny galley kitchen of his family's sailboat. Although he provides 100 simple but tasty recipes, it is Spring's advice on how to organize your kitchen-or perhaps your life-that the majority of readers, no matter the size of their kitchen, will find most valuable. He includes a wide range of useful tips and suggestions along with sources for any organizational need from storage systems to oven liners. And his understated and witty writing style makes the information-packed text-from "The Kitchen Purge" to "Cleanup Time-A Magnificent Obsession"-fun to read. Highly recommended. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.49(w) x 6.74(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook

By Justin Spring

Random House

Justin Spring
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0767920163

Chapter One


Kitchen Purge

One of the most surprising things about presiding over a functional small kitchen is discovering how few things you actually need in order to accomplish the majority of your cooking tasks-and how creatively you can improvise when you haven't got much special equipment. another equally surprising thing about your functional small kitchen is that it becomes increasingly dysfunctional as it fills up with things that are, on first appearance, quite useful-to the point that, crammed full of great stuff, it becomes almost entirely unusable.

So, if you're just moving in to your new apartment, don't unpack those boxes marked "kitchen" just yet. instead, stop for a moment and consider your barren little kitchen as it now exists-pristine, empty, and full of potential. You have shelf space, drawer space, and counter space. So . . . if your boxes contain things you don't really want and hardly ever use, things that up until now you haven't had the energy, focus, or drive to throw out (in other words, stuff), consider leaving it all boxed up for a while.

Now visualize cooking in a tiny kitchen of Zen-garden simplicity (do you hear the distant strains of a shakuhachi flute?)-a place that holds the absolute minimum of objects, in which you still have room enough to cook.

This,too, can be yours.

For those who have just arrived in a new home

If you are just moving in to your new kitchen, try the following experiment. Rather than unpack your kitchen boxes, leave them as is, and instead take things out of them on an as needed basis. Once you have used something, find a place for it in your kitchen cabinets.

Over the course of the next two weeks, you are going to discover how many things-plates, cups, glasses, silverware, pots, pans-you actually use. At the end of that time, if you dare, consider putting all the rest of your stuff into storage.

Can you rise to the challenge? If you're like most people, you can't and you won't. So . . . read on.

George and His Royal Crown Derby: A Cautionary Tale

Professional organizers all agree that the hardest and least glamorous part of reorganizing any kitchen is clearing it out so it can work properly-and also that the longer a person has lived in a space, the more cluttered his or her kitchen will have become. If you are not a natural-born thrower-outer (and few of us are), the hardest part of clearing out an object-filled kitchen is going to be in getting started, not only because you are basically conflicted about the need for change of any sort but also because you fear that removing even the smallest item will bring irrevocable loss.

Let's for a moment consider an extreme case: a museum curator named George. George lives in a five-hundred-square-foot apartment featuring a modest galley kitchen with six cabinets. He likes to cook, and when he first moved in to his apartment ten years back, his kitchen provided him with just enough cooking and storage space for entertaining friends with the simple home-cooked foods that every homesick, space-challenged, yet relentlessly cosmopolitan city dweller craves.

George's home life took a sudden turn for the worse, however, when his rich uncle Clayton died and left him a service for forty of Royal Crown Derby "Red Aves," an ornately patterned red-and-white china dating from the late 1930s featuring images of birds of paradise and oriental pheasants amid exquisitely detailed feathers and foliage. George already owned his own dishes-a perfectly nice set of Spode "Florentine" for ten (purchased both charitably and economically at the Lenox Hill Hospital Thrift Shop), plus several smaller sets of dessert plates and breakfast china picked up here and there on his assorted wanderings through Europe. But Clayton's "Red Aves" was family china. And so, with some juggling, George found a place in his kitchen cabinets for all of it. Of course, there was no longer any room there for his cookware, his utensils, or his food.

For a while, George managed to make an occasional meal, because he still loved cooking and entertaining. It was just a whole lot more complicated and frustrating to do so. But then his aunt Gladys, Clayton's sister, left George her monogrammed silver: Tiffany "Wave Edge," a combination luncheon and dinner service, also for forty (with related hollowware and buffet items), which she, in turn, had inherited from her parents. Since her monogram was George's monogram too, how could he say no?

A month later, entirely unannounced, four crates of monogrammed linens arrived via U-Haul, along with Aunt Gladys's cat.

That really was the end of George's kitchen.

Today, George no longer cooks. His kitchen and closets are so full of dishes and silver and linens stuff that he pretty much lives on take-out food. While he still loves to entertain, he does so these days in the most joyless and perfunctory of ways: by purchasing precooked meals at the supermarket, bypassing his kitchen entirely, and simply unpacking his rotisserie chicken and supermarket coleslaw right there at the dinner table. He nonetheless takes great pride in serving these cold, flavorless foods in high style-on the same gorgeous china, silver, and linens that have otherwise ruined his life!

Kitchen Clutter Intervention

If, like george, you are an unrepentant collector of stuff, you are probably not going to clear out your itty bitty kitchen cabinets without what is known as a therapeutic intervention. An intervention happens when a concerned family member or friend steps forward to confront you with the news that you have a serious problem that is clearly interfering with your ability to function. In this case, your problem is kitchen-cluttering stuff.

Your first step toward recovery will be in admitting that you are powerless over kitchen-cluttering stuff, and that your kitchen life has become unmanageable as a result.

Your second step will be to envision your kitchen as once again a working kitchen, rather than just a storage area for stuff.

Your third step will be to believe that, through the de-clutterizing process, your kitchen can be emptied of stuff and restored to normal order and use-and also that, by extension, once this stuff disappears, your life will be vastly improved by your newfound ability to make your kitchen function (that is, to cook).

Your fourth step, of course, is actually getting in to that kitchen and ridding it of stuff.

Once you decide that a fully functional, stuff-free kitchen is something you really want-and George, God bless him, may never get there-here is how you start.

The Art of the Purge

Organization experts who consult with home owners on the management of domestic space have many approaches and techniques for getting a kitchen into shape, but all agree that the key to managing any space well is to rid it of stuff. You can pay one of these highly effective consultants anywhere from fifty to two hundred dollars an hour to help you with the process-and it's a valuable service, costing less than psychotherapy; reach one of them through the National Association of Professional Organizers,, which has an automated online referral system. But a more economical alternative is simply to suck it up and do the work yourself. If you choose this latter course of action, you will need an extremely well-organized friend to stand in for that expensive, experienced, and totally focused professional organizer.

So select your mentor carefully. Someone who has himself conquered a clutter problem is best, since that person will know exactly what you are facing, and at the same time will have an appropriate (which is to say limited) sympathy for your anguish. Those who have mastered the art of home organization and stuff removal are often keen to share their hard-won skills with others, but the skill itself is based on a "tough love" philosophy, for stuff is infernally seductive; in fact, the stuff of addiction.

Once you have found the right person to help you, here's the drill.

First, prepare by getting your kitchen as clean and neat as it can be. (Otherwise you may panic and give up.) You will have better luck with your kitchen purge if the rest of your little home is very clean too, since once you start unpacking your kitchen, stuff is going to flood into your living space and threaten to take over your life.

Second, agree in advance that your well-organized friend will supervise you for a set period of time (four hours is about as much as most people can take). Don't hesitate to offer some kind of hourly payment or in-kind recompense for the job, since a "clock-is-ticking" mentality actually helps keep both of you motivated (the natural inclination, halfway through the job, is to wander away from the kitchen, pour a large cocktail, and watch some TV).

Now, with the help of this limited-sympathy friend, lay out five boxes or areas in the middle of your living space, labeling them as follows: put away (kitchen), put away (elsewhere), give away/sell, storage, and trash. Now start sorting through your stuff, putting each thing into one of the five boxes. Your friend's job is to urge you on, keep you from getting distracted, and correct you when you start putting huge amounts of stuff back into the put away (kitchen) box. He or she will also encourage you to stop sniveling and whining about what is, essentially, a whole lot of really useless junk.

Not everyone can do their entire kitchen in one go. If you are dealing with extreme amounts of stuff, or find de-stuffing your entire kitchen simply too overwhelming because of stuff-related emotional distress, allow yourself to do the job gradually. Do one box, one cupboard, one drawer, or one shelf. But once you commit to spending a certain amount of time sorting and discarding, stick to it!

When you have finished all of your sorting for the day, hurry the box marked trash out the door. The give away/sell box should also leave sooner rather than later-your stern but caring friend may even offer to take it away on your behalf (he'll probably try to sell it on eBay, but that's his business).

Remember, your kitchen is small, so even if it's packed full of stuff, this will not be an endless task. Just remember that recovery from stuff addiction is an ongoing process-a process you will return to, over and over again, for as long as you preside over a kitchen, itty bitty or otherwise.

For Those Who Can't Let Go: Tips and Tricks For Kitchen Pack Rats

Letting go of stuff comes easier to some than to others. For those of us who have a really hard time getting rid of unused and unneeded kitchen stuff, here are some thoughts to keep in mind:

1. Remember that much of the stuff you are now going to make a decision about was in fact given to you by someone who, however thrifty, secretly wanted to be rid of it-and finessed the job by giving it to you.

2. Console yourself that much of the stuff you are making decisions about was never meant to be held on to and has no great commercial value.

3. Beware of meaningless sentimental attachments.

4. Focus, whenever possible, on the possibility that by cleaning out your kitchen cabinets you will be giving some really good stuff to others. Your guilt about letting go of stuff (and your fear of unwittingly losing some really valuable stuff) can thus be vanquished through the reassurance that you are giving stuff to charity. Thrift shops that benefit specific charities are your best bet, since your stuff will find a good home, the proceeds from the sale will help a worthy cause, and-hey!-you will even be getting a tax deduction.

5. Finally, and most important: remember that you are not so much getting rid of stuff as making room to live.


Introducing Extreme Cleanliness

The next step in fine-tuning your little kitchen will be cleaning it. really cleaning it. "why?" you ask. well, since pared-down and functional little work spaces can't really be "decorated," cleanliness is going to be what people in the decorating biz call "your primary design statement."

Super-cleanliness really can make even the humblest kitchen enormously attractive: it's a sign that the person who uses it cares passionately about the space. so begin your life in your new kitchen with a serious scour. doing so will incidentally serve as a great introduction to your work space, for you will become acquainted with its every square inch. if you have any questions about how to clean, procrastinate by turning to Chapter 8 ("Cleanup Time: A Magnificent Obsession," page 000); otherwise, roll up your sleeves and read on.

Starting Out

The first order of the day is to scrub everything thoroughly: refrigerator, freezer, oven, stovetop, countertops, sink, cabinets, and floor. Then scrub it again! In older, well-used, or downright decrepit kitchens, thin layers of vaporized grease will have accumulated and hardened onto every possible surface like some hellacious and ultra-nasty shellac. Special grease-stripping wall cleaners used by housepainters (such as trisodium phosphate, available commercially as Soilax) can be useful here. But good old-fashioned elbow grease can be equally effective.

Keep an eye out for signs of insect and animal life as you scrub. Remember that mice, should you have them, are best caught with glue traps, which (despite their "La Brea Tar Pits"-type spectacle of wild animals trapped in living death) are cheap, nontoxic, and highly effective at whisking away these offensive and disease-ridden creatures. Roaches and other pantry pests are best treated (at least at first) by an exterminator, who will diagnose the degree and source of your infestation, inspect your cabinetry for the cracks, holes, and crevices in which the pests hide and proliferate, seal the spaces up, and finish by giving you a whole lot of friendly advice on keeping your new kitchen pest free. When buying pesticides, remember to choose baits, bait stations, and gels (the best known and most effective of which are the Combat line of products by Clorox), since spray pesticides often cause allergic reactions and should never be used around food.

Next, if you have adjustable-height shelving, do a quick series of shelf-height checks: Are your food shelves arranged so that at least one of them can accommodate bottles standing upright? Are your dish shelves capable of accommodating your tallest glasses? If not, make your adjustments now, or prepare to face the consequences later.

Next, put down a smooth, washable, water-resistant shelf lining paper in the cupboards.


Excerpted from The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook by Justin Spring Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Justin Spring, pictured here in his 45-square-foot New York City kitchen, is a writer who learned many of his small-kitchen strategies aboard a family sailboat.

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