The Floating Kitchen

Floating Home KitchenI had to laugh when Tammy selected tiny home food management/cooking as the topic of our current issue.  Me writing an entry on cooking makes about as much sense as Paris Hilton writing an entry on frugal living.

In my long history of culinary disasters, perhaps my most ignoble moment was managing to set my kitchen cabinets on fire attempting nothing more than to boil a pot of water.  My survival strategy when it comes to food is simple… I fall in love with men who LOVE to cook. They cook and I happily do all the clean-up. (Even for the one who made it look like Julia Child had not only been busy in the kitchen but had actually been murdered in said kitchen.)

And when that plan has failed, I either eat out or survive on unlikely combinations such as beer and ice cream and an unhealthy amount of  Captain Crunch Peanut Butter cereal. (Yes, Tammy, I can see you sadly shaking your head over there. But I’m being honest.)

What has been interesting, though, is how my cooking and eating habits have begun to change since moving into my little floating home.  While my pantry is pretty expansive compared to what you would find in a Tumbleweed, it is still significantly smaller than anywhere I’ve lived previously.  There simply is not a lot a room to stockpile items that are likely to be around for a long time. Moreover, trash management can be a hassle in a marina.  Any sort of packaging you haul in is also going to need to be hauled out. And I got tired of hauling pretty quickly.

What I’ve noticed as a result is that my diet has shifted significantly away from preprocessed/packaged foods and more towards items such as fresh fruit and vegetables.  (Admittedly, some of this has also been a conscious effort on my part to live on something more than just breakfast cereal as I try to improve my general health.)  That combined with the fact that I have no patience for cooking times of anything more than a few minutes has translated into my diet starting to vaguely resemble that of a raw foodist.

farmers-market-1Additionally, now that I’m spending so much less on housing costs, I have more available funds to invest in quality food.  I’m buying organic and locally grown wherever possible.  I have two farmer stands within a few minutes of my house and also a fantastic Farmer’s Market in downtown Portland on Saturdays.

I’ve never been much for grocery shopping, but I enjoy farmer’s markets.  They’re much more of a social outing and adventure than simply a task to check off my list.  I’ve also noticed that if I’ve gone to the trouble of picking something up at the farmer’s market I’m much less likely to let it go to waste than if I just absentmindedly threw it at my cart at Safeway.

All in all, it’s been interesting to see how my shift in housing has had an impact also on my eating.  Below I have included a brief tour of my kitchen.  (And I just have to note that, once again, I’ve managed to be upstaged by my cat.  He’s becoming quite the little camera hound.)

My Simple Kitchen

Posted July 13th, 2009 by Betsy McCullen and filed in Issue 9: Food and Cooking

I am not a huge fan of appliances in my tiny kitchen. Besides the inevitable fact that there isn’t much room, I also hate clutter!! However, I do have 3 essentials that I consider my kitchen icons.

foodsaverDepending on how tiny my living space is, I always have room for my favorite small appliance, the FoodSaver. It comes in several different models, but mine will stand upright to save space on my countertop if I decide to keep it out all the time. Although most people are familiar with what they are, some are not. The FoodSaver is a vacuum pack system used to seal and store foods to keep them fresh for long periods of time.

As with many other appliances it comes with lots of different accessories like different sizes of bags, canisters, bottle stoppers, sealer tops, etc. But, I don’t have alot of those. I do have the Mason Jar Sealer and I love it. I save on alot of the accessories by buying Mason Jars instead of FoodSaver canisters which can be rather expensive. I can also save lots of foods, wet and dry, in Mason Jars without vacuum sealing them. For the most part though, I generally use the bags for meats and solid things while using the Mason Jars for soups & stews.

Now, don’t get the idea that I clutter up my kitchen space with jars and vacuum packed foods because I don’t! You might not think someone living alone would even use one of these things. They are primarily used for larger families that buy bulk food quantities at large wholesale stores. But, I don’t use mine for those kinds of things. I generally go to places that make me up meals I can pack up and save for later. I might buy a meal for 3 instead of 1 and then make them into smaller meals to refrigerate or freeze. Then, I just drop one in boiling water or heat them up in the microwave. In northeastern winters I make up my favorite soups & stews, while in summer months I use it to keep salad stuff and summer fruit items fresher.

freezerMy next favorite appliance is a compact freezer that stands upright and opens from the top. The size I get depends on how much space I have, but I never have a very big one. For now (and until I build my tiny house), I generally use just the refrigerator with a freezer that comes standard in an apartment complex.

convection ovenAnd last, but not least, I have a small convection/toaster oven that bakes, broils, heats, cooks and toasts. I almost never use the large oven that comes standard in the apartment complex I live in. It uses a lot of electricity and to cook for one, it is not necessary when I have my convection oven. I also use a small microwave to heat foods and make my tea quickly.

But, I don’t really even need all of that! With a little imagination from my simple mind, I create very simple meals like soups, stews and meat, chicken or fish with a salad or those steamer vegetables that you pop in the steamers2microwave for a couple of minutes. I never thought vegetables could taste so good yet be so easy…no tedious pickovers at the produce stand, no storing, no cutting, no cooking!! I don’t like alot of ingredients in my meals because I don’t like to store them. I can make very tasty meals with only butter, salt, pepper, sugar and a few select spices. All in all, I try to make all my eating needs very simple.

With all this said, I have to be honest. I am not really a big fan of cooking at all!! I am lucky enough to live in an area where I can get very tasty, healthy, home-cooked meals to go. More often than not, I take advantage of this method since the ingredients are fresh daily and it saves me from having to store alot of stuff for cooking it on my own. While this is a bit more expensive, it has always been cheaper for me than throwing away spoiled food I didn’t use up in time.