Making the best of a tiny kitchen

The last couple weeks, we’ve been getting the kitchen area settled in.  The kitchen is itty bitty – a sink, a range, a fridge.  The sink has two and a total of 4 small cupboards above and below. There is no counter space – less than 6 inches on either side.  We bought a bamboo dish rack, but it’s too big for the space.

A quonset hut’s walls are curved, so no cabinetry higher than 3 ft can go against the wall, but we’ve organized a long table to serve as the stand for the microwave, a place to keep the blender and toaster and coffee grinder, a few bowls of produce that don’t need to be cramped into the tiny (and broken) refrigerator.

On the inside wall, which does go to 8 ft, we have put a tall particle board bookshelf to shove our canned goods, the rest of the Kitchen Aid appliances, and some other food.  However, the insertion of this additional shelving precludes the fridge or the opposing sink drawer and cupboards from opening properly.  However, it’s the best we can do. We need that shelving space badly.

So it’s no dream-come-true kitchen by any stretch of the imagination, but we’re more than making do.

I’ve been getting my weekly produce shipments from Full Circle, which is out of Washington.  The problem with getting the food to Barrow is a logistical nightmare.  For the 3 weeks I’ve been here, only once was the delivery on time.  FC has been having problems with in-state distributors and with freight in Alaska.  However, when I do get my food, it’s such a wonderful feeling of relief!  And for anything that doesn’t make the transit (withered greens, soft carrots, smushed fruit), FC refunds me for that item.  It’s a fair deal, though when I didn’t have any greens last week, that was rough.

The grocery store in Barrow is called the AC, and the only organic produce available is Earthbound bagged greens and Organic Girl boxed greens.  I’ve bought the OG spinach a few times. Most of the boxes have a lot of slime in them already, so you have to choose carefully.  Either way, organic or not, it’s about $8 for wrapped up spinach factory-farmed in California.  But I’m grateful for that option when my FC food doesn’t make it.

The only other organic option I’ve seen at this grocery is Horizons organic milk for $10 for a half gallon, but I won’t buy that no matter how much I want milk.  Factory-farmed veggies is one thing, but factory-farmed animals – even if the product is “organic,” is another.  So II was planning on going milk-free up here, but then I found aseptic Organic Valley milk available on Amazon, so I don’t have to.  Problem solved.  Unless Organic Valley has gone to the dark side, too, which I don’t think it has.

The fossil fuels being used to get my food up here is insane.  This is a meat-eating village:  caribou, goose, duck, seal, walrus, fish, and the fall hunt for whale begins in a few weeks.  The only vegetables here are …well, there aren’t any.  There are some salmonberries if you go inland a bit, and there are certain tundra plants people gather and eat, but no one farms or gardens.  The average summer day temperature is 45F, and the ground stays frozen year long, so it’s not conducive to it, and anyway, they are not plant eaters.  It is a meat-eating tradition.

I will eat fish occasionally, but I’m a health-conscious plant eater living in an environment that is inhospitable to my lifestyle, so my two choices are to eat the chemical-laden conventionally grown veggies shipped up here and sold at the grocery, or to Full Circle to ship me up some organic fare.  Both choices are horrible for the environment, but the only sustainable choice would be to become a meat eater and give up vegetables entirely, and that’s not going to happen. Since I’m not going full-on carnie, organic it is.

I love baking, and I have a Kitchen Aid stand mixer with some choice attachments, plus a KA food processor and blender.  I’m good as gold.  I’m going to make pasta this week as soon as my new organic flour arrives.

This last week was a good week in the kitchen.  I made scones twice (blue-berry mango and jalepeno-Irish cheddar), egg salad, stir-fried chard with bulgur, curried squash soup, and curried carrot soup.  We love curry!  I also made kale chips because when the Full Circle boxes came, my partner held up the purple kale that came wilted and said, “What are we doing with this?  Should we trash it or juice it?”  I made kale chips and it crisped right up. It was an experiment, and now I know what to do with wilted kale.

Tomorrow we are heading to friend’s for a Labor Day bbq, and I’ve got corn on the cob to bring for the grill, plus I was thinking of making some biscuits or scones or snickerdoodles or something baked.  I’ll also bring some deviled eggs and some potato salad probably.  It will be a big cooking day whatever I do.

More soon.



One thought on “Making the best of a tiny kitchen

  1. Maureen, it will be fun comparing cooking challenges. I have them here, too, on the little Caribbean island. Your spinach experience is similar to here. If we get lettuce within a couple of days of the barge delivery, it is okay….after that they are not good any longer. The spinach I’ve gotten here has a strong, bitter taste. We do have wonderful fresh veggies at the beach side markets (carrots, bell peppers, squash, potatoes, plantains, cassava)—the veggies here taste like “the earth” like from my grandmother’s garden back in the day; in other words they have distinct abundant flavors. We also have honey-sweet, juicy fresh fruits such as mangoes, pineapples, papayas, dragonfruit, and many more I’ve not been exposed to before.

    We have a few small grocery stores….they all have basically the same supplies. Not a lot of variety. Sometimes I find myself walking back and forth, up and down the aisle staring at the shelves as if something new and exotic will suddenly appear; some new spice or new vegetable that will spark an idea for something different for dinner. But it hasn’t happened.

    We do eat meat. Chicken here, raised on local mainland Mennonite farms, is so much better than at our US grocery stores—for one thing, a chicken breast doesn’t grow bigger when its cooking (that started to freak me out over the past couple of years). The chicken is moist and tastes like chicken. The beef here leaves much to be desired. It is probably much healthier. It has a rather gamey taste, though, from being jungle grass fed. It is tough and no amount of magical cooking or ingredients can make it tender and juicy. Only recently has the hamburgers here begun to taste “normal.”

    It is interesting seeing the prices of things there in Barrow. We rarely drink milk here (from Mennonites) because it is expensive. I have never seen a gallon jug of milk in any of the island grocery stores. When we buy it, it is by the pint ($2.75). A pound of butter has been $14 per pound; two weeks ago a brand of butter appeared at one of the stores for $9.90 per pound.

    Fish is plentiful and helps make a healthy, inexpensive meal when M catches them off the nearby dock. My favorite, which thankfully is the most abundant and popular here, is red snapper.

    Well, my reply turned into a blog posting. 🙂 I’ll try to keep comments much briefer in the future.

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