the matter of size
December 23, 2005

I have a theory: Cooking mess is infinitely expandable or contractable based on the size of the kitchen. I'm at my parents' house for Christmas, trying to make good on my boast that I make the best holiday cookies ever, and my father says he's never seen messier cooks than my mother and I. And it's true: I've sprawled across three lengths of counter, all of which dwarf the two square feet of counter in my Brooklyn kitchen (if you put away the dish rack); there's flour everywhere; ingredients hide behind other ingredients; and Dad can't wash dishes fast enough to keep up.

The thing is—I made this same batch of cookies last week in my kitchen and the mess was proportional to that kitchen (i.e. about one-fifth the size of this mess).

So why even opt for a bigger space? A tiny kitchen certainly limits sharing the work, and there's only so long I can balance my laptop on the basket of onions sitting on top of the cookbooks before disaster strikes. When we realize Mom has only blue and yellow food coloring for Frosting, she can knock on the neighbors' door and be assured of finding red. I wonder how many New Yorkers keep food coloring on hand.

But the Mexican Wedding Cookies that formed perfect little balls in my kitchen collapsed into puddles in the big-kitchen oven. Heat and humidity can affect these (according to Joy of Cooking), but I kind of suspect my fraction skills (some recipes I halfed, others I made a third of) suffer when I have company. A tiny kitchen usually means cooking alone, so you can bang pans if things go wrong. Cooking in a family kitchen means you can't cry over collapsed Wedding Cookies.

When I was little I had a book that said that small bedrooms for children helped develop their imagination, while large rooms stunted it (my room was bigger than most of my friends' rooms, so I resented this logic). But I think I want to say the same thing about kitchens.

Here's to the tiny kitchen. Reach for the stars.