So, the brilliant thing about "Subcontinental Food" which The Mayor and I have experimenting with over the past week is you don't need an oven to cook it. Nearly everything can be done right on the stovetop, which was handy for me seeing that my "oven" went on the blink about a month ago and only two burners were functional. Still, I was able to turn out magnificent feasts night after night.
So, look here: Do I win for the Ugliest Kitchen Contest? Come on, I defy you to find a kitchen that is more stomach-churning that this one. (Notice the jugs of rum and tequila on top of the fridge... it's the only way we could get deal with this disaster on a daily basis.)
Just look at that "range." It has a range alright -- your choice from one all the way up to two burners! The options for the oven temperature are a bit more limited: just one setting -- blast furnace.
I got pretty good at cooking in it though -- I made several roasts that came out perfectly, but I did have to leave the oven door open through the entire cooking process. It was a challenge keeping The Mayor and Crookshanks out of the line of fire (literally.) And aren't the burn marks coming up from the broiler attractive? I think they add a little something special, don't you?
Here is the sum total of my counterspace. It's cleared off in this picture because we've moved everything out for the demolition this week, but picture it with a microwave and The Mayor's coffee pot and The Mayor's tea pot and his Monkey Picked Black Tea and my knife block and all other manners of crap on it. This left me with one square foot of prep space on a good day.
The only things left on the counter are two little jars: Spicy Mango Chutney and Indian Lime Pickle Relish left over from our week-long Subcontinental Feast and a box of Berry Lucky Charms cereal, which The Mayor received in a goodie bag and I have worked my way through by sticking my hand down the box, grabbing a fistful and stuffing into my mouth -- no milk needed.
Finally, here is the sink area. As you may have noticed, I do not have a dishwasher... not a crime against humanity, but the sink is about 5 inches deep with very little counter space to stack the clean dishes to dry. Needless to say, the dishes after a big ol' feed had to be done in stages. And isn't the exposed piping under the sink attractive? That's what I called my "loft" look. The original 1923 icebox to the right of the sink is cute, complete with a door to the outside for the Ice Delivery Man, but not cute enough to save it from the sledgehammer.
So, today is the beginning of a whole brand new kitchen, where I will be able to cook to my heart's content and to His Mayorial Pleasure. Look what's coming:
Isn't she beautiful? May I introduce you to the Aga 6-4 Dual Fuel range in Claret, but I just call her Heaven. Four different kinds of electric ovens (ceramic broiler, convection, warming, and traditional) and six, count 'em SIX working gas burners. I won't know what to do with myself. Well, who am I kidding... of course I will. I am going to cook for the masses. But, I am not stopping at the Aga. A double-wall oven is going in (yes, I need six ovens -- leave me alone... they all serve different purposes), dishwasher drawers, a Sub-Zero -- I am going all out. It's going to be the first real kitchen I've ever had, and it's mine, all mine... well, and The Mayor's... but, really, it's mine.
We started this journey a year ago, when we first bought the house. Like a John Berendt story, we have come into contact with outrageous characters -- some villains, some godsends. The newest member of the troupe on Team Godsend is J.R., a deliciously flamboyant, snarky, hysterical, brilliant and highly-entertaining fellow. We walked in to his kitchen design store this weekend and quickly received a dressing down for not calling first and making an appointment. "We are professionals," he demanded. He also insisted he was Italian, but his last name was very Irish. Eh. Whatever flag you wanna fly, right? He's a seen it all, done it all, bought the T-Shirt kinda guy.
J.R. took one look at our kitchen design -- a plan that took The Mayor and I six months to think about and draw up and said, "I give this plan an F!" and promptly drew a big fat "F" on our lovely drawings and whipped a big fat circle around it. He hated that we planned to have the washing machine and dryer in the kitchen. "It's skeevy. I'm Italian -- we don't like dirty things where there's food." I said, Well you are really going to hate this: We need a base cabinet in the kitchen to hide the cat's litterbox. "In the kitchen?" There is no other place in the house for it, I implored. Look, we've got a 750 square foot house and a few non-negotiables. You know that commercial where the couple goes to the architect's office and the wife pulls a kitchen sink faucet out of her bag, plops it on the desk and says, "Design a house around this." -- Well, we've got a washer and dryer, an Aga, double wall ovens, the built-in nook and Crookshanks' Boodaloo -- design a kitchen around that. I could see he was about to fit me for cement shoes.
But, in 15 minutes he sketched out a plan that one: we never would have thought of and two: was better than anything we could have ever imagined. We loved the kitchen and we loved him.
He asked me to call him today so he could fax over some roughs, but when I did, he promptly said, "Oh, I've given up on you. I can't deal with you and your kitchen." I thought he was kidding, but apparently he wasn't. Thankfully, he also thought I was someone else. "You are the shrink in the Malibu, right?" Uh, no. I'm the Tart, married to the Mayor with the twenty pound cat we need to accommodate in the Venice Beach bungalow. "Oh, it's you!" Whew. So, you haven't given up on us, then? "No, darling, not you. Give me a call after the demo is done. I'll come out to measure." Oh, thank you Lord.
In the interim, we have had to vacate the otherwise blissful Venice Beach bungalow for the demolition phase, and will be camping at a local apart-hotel for a week or so, while Crookshanks has gone to his grandmother's house. She calls it the Ritz, but he has to deal with two Siamese bitches while he's there, so it's not all catnip and scratching posts for him. It's more like an Ian Schrager hotel -- surroundings are lovely, but the clientele is snooty, although the maid service is great. (Thanks, Mom!)
After that, we will bunk at our neighbor's place while she shows her movie The Ground Truth -- The Human Cost of War at Sundance. (Good luck, Patricia!) And, hopefully, by the Groundhog's Day, we will know if there will be a glorious kitchen in our future or six more weeks of construction.
So, probably not the best time to be starting a cookbooking blog, seeing as I will be in and out of kitchens, but I'll muddle through and try to entertaining. The Town Mayor and Tart have to eat... though, we do have our list of the 25 Best Mexican Restaurants in Los Angeles to work through. Published by Los Angeles Magazine in September 2004, we have hit 18 of them so far, and we need to finish that list so we can get to work on the Top 40 Korean places next.