I love to cook, but I’m also busy, and sometimes those two facts of life don’t merge neatly. That’s one reason why I recently wrote the column “Are We Making Cooking Too Hard?” for The Seattle Times.

With the onslaught of cooking shows and “food porn,” it’s easy to view “cooking” as gourmet meals prepared in a gourmet’s kitchen, with anything less being inherently sub par. Not so! It is possible to prepare tasty, nourishing meals at home even with time, budget and/or space constraints.

Reality bites

Time constraints have been my reality for, oh, about a decade now, ever since I started preparing to go back to grad school to study nutrition. But what I’m currently navigating are my new-found space constraints. Living in a rental apartment with a tiny galley kitchen (pictured below) after 13 years of owning a house with a kitchen that wasn’t huge, but was quite adequate, is challenging, to say the least. Especially when doing recipe development and food photography.

Working with what you’ve got

So even if I have time to do “project cooking” on the weekend, I have to think carefully about staging and timing, because I don’t have much space to spread out in. And did I mention that my refrigerator is size-challenged and likes to freeze stuff on the top shelf no matter how we adjust the temperature? And that the oven runs hot and smokes given the slightest opportunity? [Bright spot: the oven’s hotness is surprisingly good for bread baking…and, yes, those are big food-safe plastic containers of bread flour on the dining table.] But we carry on, we learn our quirky appliances and we stay on top of the dirty dishes (and while a few meals have been a bit overdone, none have been ruined yet).

When I want to make myself feel better, I remind myself that in Paris, few people have large kitchens…or refrigerators. And they rarely have separate clothes dryers (that, I do have!)

A brighter (kitchen) future

And, just as what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, revisiting the type of kitchen I haven’t had since my first years out of undergrad, many moons ago, will make me extra appreciative of my future kitchen, in the house we hope to start building SOON! (Only the approval of an architectural review committee and the building department stand in our way.) It won’t be super fancy (i.e., no top-of-the line appliances) or super-huge, but I designed every inch of it, it will have a gas cooktop, and it will be MINE.