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You don’t need a designer kitchen with a Miele refrigerator and a Wolf range to produce tasty food. One of my favorite food memories is sharing a loaf of bread, a roll of salami, a wedge of brie, and a Hershey bar with my kids while sitting on a driftwood log at KVI beach. Granted, the lack of a knife meant tearing off a hunk of Bill bread, gnawing on the roll of salami, and scooping an ooze of brie, but the meal was perfect.
I’ve cooked in commercial kitchens from Stratton’s 6’x8′ stainless steel closet, to a slightly larger Border Grill box, to the 1984 LA Olympics commissary kitchen, housed in the cavernous Hughes aircraft plant. Some of our home kitchens have also been less than fabulous. As a new bride, I lived in a converted chicken coop that had a toilet in the kitchen, discretely surrounded by a ceiling-hung, flamingo-themed, shower curtain.
Then there was the Cove Motel with its unique “kitchen work triangle.” In this triangle, the stove was in one corner of a huge square room, the sink was in the opposite corner, and the refrigerator was out on the back porch. On Strathmore Avenue in Los Angeles, the kitchen was so small, I could touch the stove, the refrigerator, and the sink without moving. I could also, without moving, open the screenless window and toss a garbage bag from our second floor apartment into the dumpster below. (The apartment manager chastised me one afternoon after I tossed a bag of raw chicken scraps out the window, missing the dumpster and nearly hitting him.)
Anyways, our current kitchen has granite countertops, teak wood floors, and plenty of cupboards; but no stove, no dishwasher, only two working electric outlets, and a refrigerator that opens halfway. I’ve prepared melty cheese sandwiches, tomato sauce (thanks to “As Seen on TV” copper sheets), and pizza, as well as chicken, fish, and steaks on the outdoor Weber. I grilled peaches for a peach, ricotta cheese, prosciutto salad, made “cowboy caviar” (black beans, diced tomatoes, corn, and cilantro), cooked pasta in the microwave, and stir-fried Thai noodles in an electric skillet.
But my favorite came straight from TJ’s freezer section: frozen brown rice mixed with “Multigrain Blend with Vegetables” (both zapped in the mw) topped with diced avocado, chopped tomatoes, boiled egg (see recipe below), and served with a whisk of Greek-style yogurt, tahini, garlic, lemon, and Sriracha. This no-fire Buddha bowl is the gourmet version of my favorite quick lunch: brown rice, jarred salsa, and yogurt.
Then there’s coffee pot cuisine: fill the machine with chicken stock instead of water, run the cycle into a Cup O’ Noodles bowl, add diced tofu, and ¡Viola!, ramen soup. Or how about this: put eggs into the coffee carafe, run a cycle of hot water through the filter, and let it sit on the heat for 5-8 minutes—boiled eggs. And don’t forget your vegetables: fill the coffee machine basket half full of raw broccoli, run the cycle twice (or until done to your taste), and—a nicely steamed side dish. I read about a dorm rat who made grilled cheese sandwiches with her clothes iron and bacon with her curling iron, so the possibilities are endless, if messy.
So, man up, fire is for kitchen sissies—claim your microwave, celebrate your Mr. Coffee, and if you’re flush with cash—buy a fancy toaster oven or a George Forman. BTW, the coffee machine’s heat element makes an acceptable piece of toast. It has to be round and may take a while, but we fireless cooks are in no hurry.