I have a small kitchen. All of my kitchens have been small, except the one in my first post-college apartment, in Boulder, Colorado. I’m pretty sure it is supposed to go the other way, that one’s living spaces should get larger over the course of a lifetime, but it also seems to be true that, the bigger the city, the smaller the kitchen. Hong Kong is a big city.
My current kitchen is better equipped than the one in my first HK apartment, which resembled the kitchen in a camper van. Here, at least, I have three burners (gas!) and a freezer that holds more than a few trays of ice. These are important improvements, because about ten months ago, my baby daughter started eating solid food.
I feel grateful to be someone who enjoys cooking, and to be reasonably good at it. Because this whole routine takes time and effort. This doesn’t necessarily take the pleasure out of it; to the contrary, watching my daughter learn how to eat has been deeply gratifying. But it’s work, make no mistake. The Munchkin needs to eat. Three nutritious meals and snack or two. Every. Single. Day. You’re on the hook, Austin.
Admittedly, I sometimes make more work for myself because I like to make things from scratch. This tendency doesn’t come from any sanctimonious opinions about store-bought foods (“store-bought” – who am I? Ma Ingalls?). It’s just that, well, I know how to make applesauce and it’s actually really easy, and makes the apartment smell nice. As a former pastry cook, I’m unlikely to buy a sheet of frozen pâte brisée to make chicken pot pie (a current obsession), and I’m also going to make a simple stock from the bones after roasting the chicken legs for said pot pie. I’ve stopped cooking dried beans, but that’s mainly because every package of chickpeas or kidneys or cannellini I’ve bought in Hong Kong has been so old that no amount of soaking time or slow simmering can turn them around. I dabbled in making my own bread, but my little countertop oven isn’t really up to the task; instead, I get a loaf from one of Hong Kong’s few good European-style bakeries and freeze some of it in individual slices so it’s ready for toasting or for grilled cheese sandwiches.
And that is the difference between the pre-Munchkin era and life as I currently know it: I am now a woman who freezes bread. And the words “one pot meal” sing in my ear like sweet, sweet music.
But I will tell you something: On the occasional evening when my husband goes out to dinner with a friend after work, I will cook something for the little person, get her bathed and off to bed, and then bring a pot of water to boil to make myself a big bowl of buttered pasta with cheese, which I invariably eat sitting on the couch. It’s long been one of my favorite dinners for one, lazy and delicious. And these days it feels downright luxurious. Not in spite of its laziness, but because of it.