this new beginning
December 6, 2008

It's my three-week anniversary and since nothing's presented itself as reason to move again, I'm settling in for the long haul and giving this new tiny kitchen a good test run—taking stock, making stock, restocking (useful little word).

The plan is to fill my fridge and freezer with the condiments, broth and bread I need to get to through the holidays. In this kitchen, that means chicken and vegetable stock, yogurt, mayonnaise, sourdough starter and chocolate chip cookie dough. By the time the afternoon is over, though, my byproducts have given me lemon-thyme chicken salad, 2 small loaves of brown bread and a christening by a brand-new but hauntingly familiar fire alarm.

First things first: Better appliances and fittings aside, this is still a tiny kitchen. It opens up into a great L-shaped room that gets tons of light (and chilly drafts) from north and south. "Expansive" or "open" are better phrases for this new home. I'm deeply in love with every square inch of it. But when you come right down to it, I've got 44 inches of counter space (I measured), and I have to climb on a chair, move three baskets and a pineapple corer (seriously) to get to my loaf pans. (None of this prevents at least three-quarters of visitors to exclaim, "You don't have a tiny kitchen now!")

The space is in such pristine and primed condition that I want to make all sorts of high-minded rules. As in: Wash and dry dishes immediately so the dirty ones never take up space (or become eyesores); always keep a well-stocked pantry and fridge (preferably with homemade basics); stop ordering so much takeout.

What I want, in short, is for a new kitchen to make me a healthier, happier, neater, cleaner, more creative, more relaxed, more organized, more frugal, more generous, harder-working, better human being. Tall order for a tiny kitchen.

Perhaps more than new careers or new friendships, new spaces—and kitchens are one of the most integral, fundamental spaces in our lives—whisper promises of who we could be and what we can accomplish. I guess it's why we study feng shui.

Total self-fulfillment is probably still a ways off. But tonight the cupboard is full.