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Mark Bittman’s Minimalist Kitchen

I felt awkward about posting the photo here without a way to embed it (though I was able to share it on Facebook very easily), but I shouted with delight at the photograph of Mark Bittman, the “Minimalist,” cooking away in his echt-minimal kitchen.

I have an essay I’m trying to place about preparing a Thanksgiving feast in the officers’ quarters of Osan Airbase in Korea in 1990 — a meal that with one funny twist was its own triumph. I think that kitchen was even larger than Bittman’s (the hard part was gathering the ingredients).

Bittman’s post brought back those memories, as well as others about preparing feasts under challenging circumstances: military barracks, tiny sublet kitchens, the year I decided to brine a turkey and found myself, at midnight, grappling with a large, cold, wet, bumpy-skinned bird flopping in a vat of salty water. (Next year I returned to my painless trick: buying a kosher bird.)

But Bittman’s minimalist chic is a perfect tone for our time.

I often have very bad kitchen lust. We have a surprisingly nice kitchen for a small, 1950s-era house; it’s a square room that was redone by a previous owner with black tile countertops and matching appliances, and a wonderful reddish tile floor. It’s also the largest kitchen we’ve ever shared; after a series of one-rump kitchens, two of us can be in our kitchen at the same time as long as we aren’t trying to do the same thing. The Kenmore stove (gas top, electric oven) even has one “pro” burner that can bring kettles of water to boil in a flash or stir-fry at the proper temperature.

But then I visit houses with really large, heavily-equipped kitchens — vast parking lots with huge powered islands, countertop that stretches for miles, refrigerators that could chill half of Florida’s food crop, “professional” rangetops and dual ovens — and my brain twitches with envy. That should be my kitchen! I fume to myself. That person doesn’t even cook!

Well. If Bittman can write cookbooks and a cooking column in his dinky Manhattan kitchen, then I can go back to feeling unqualified love for the kitchen we work in.

Oh, and after peeking online at Bittman’s latest edition of How To Cook Everything, call that a sale. Yesterday I bought 3-ish pounds of lamb breast on a whim; I spent less than five dollars and thought, I can make something of this.  (Even standard cuts of lamb are very inexpensive in this area, but lamb breast intrigued me.) The 2003 edition has some suggestions. The 2008 edition is even clearer, offering five basting sauces. This will be fun — even in my own minimalist kitchen.

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