Kitchen Chaos

I’m a very messy cook. Even a simple PB&J results in a sinkful of dishes, two countertops a-goop with bits and scraps, and a full dishwasher. No matter how much cleaning I do, my kitchen always feels like a disaster. I have self-analyzed for weeks now, and identified several issues at play which might be contributing to my problem:

1. I cannot throw anything away properly.

We recycle as much as it’s possible to do in our environmental car wreck of a community. (I can’t call it an environmental train wreck because, being in the rust belt, we currently do not have access to trains. Another smudge on our environmental record.) There is a nifty bin for the glass and metal and for Plastics #1 and #2, which they conveniently pick up curbside every other week. But most stuff seems to come in Plastic Number Five. Can’t recycle those here (yet). What do I do with all those interestingly-shaped plastic containers and boxes that someone, somewhere, has to have a use for? I save them, of course. In my kitchen.

2. I try to cook too many things at once.

I like efficiency, so I tend to have two or three pots going at once. I mean, if I’m going to bake a meatloaf, why not also put the stock pot on? And bread could be rising while the broth boils, so now we have a towel-covered yeasty bowl resting somewhere. Alas, this often means I am “in the middle of” several dishes at the same time, meaning lots of efficiency but not much progress in the Clean Up department.

3. I cook more like the Swedish Chef than like, say, Giada DeLaurentiis.

Lovely Giada always looks so put together when she cooks. She always has a tidy little kitchen, with her mis en place all en place. Now, I realize she’s doing a cooking show, and that there are probably several mousy little sous chefs chopping and slicing (and cleaning and arranging) before each segment. She probably has someone wiping off the counter and emptying the garbage between the scenes, too. But she seems so organized and with-it when she’s cooking. Me? Not so much. I am usually good at mentally checking off the ingredients list before I start slicing and sauteeing, but that’s as far as my mis goes- it’s never en place. My cooking sessions always involve yanking things willy-nilly out of the cupboard and dumping them in the pot before whatever is already in the pan gets burnt. There is usually a frantic search for some essential implement or measuring device at a critical juncture. And I never clean as I go. I go, and go, and go. And then I need a clean spoon and can’t find one, because all 26 of them are dirty and piled up in the sink, and then realize I should have cleaned at some point. Damn.

4. My kitchen is not well-laid-out.

I should not gripe about my kitchen. I have a fridge with an ice & water dispenser, a garbage disposal, a three-bowl sink, a gas cooktop, and a wall oven. And they all match. But the more time I spend in there, the itchier I become. It’s a pass-through kitchen, you see, with a galley design. The stove and pantry are on one side of the aisle, with the sink, prep counter and fridge on the other. There’s no island to work on, because then people couldn’t pass through. But it’s wide enough that you can’t go from one side to the other without taking several steps, either. So I am always going back and forth, back and forth. And invariably there is always someone passing through. Usually a small person, who is running. With a sharp object. Or something messy. In any case, it’s a poor design.

So, now that I have spelled out the issues, it’s time for a solution. How can I improve so that cooking, which I do truly enjoy, is not so chaotic in my house? What can I do to make the process easier, less hectic, and even neater? What am I missing?

Have to get back to you on that one. DD1 just dumped out the salt bowl, the timer is beeping on the oven, and I think I left some bacon frying on the stove. Has anyone seen my gravy separator?

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