It’s been almost two months since I moved into my tiny apartment in St. Helena. I’ve been struggling with finding space for things, wrestling with what to give away so I have less to move next time I move (and more room to put things), figuring out how to wash dishes without splashing water all over the counter, and living without a garbage disposal and decent Internet.
The biggest struggle (and the one I avoid the most) is cooking.
When I first moved in, I was very excited about the prospect of having my own kitchen, albeit how tiny it is. I have a half-size refrigerator, a microwave, a rice cooker, a toaster oven, and a two-element hot plate. I figured that would be enough to be able to live on until I can afford a bigger place with an actual oven and stove.
The first problem I’ve faced is counter space. I put my hot plate on the small cabinet that sits next to my refrigerator because it’s away from the sink and there’s little possibility of spilling water on it. This leaves most of my counter space to the area around the sink, where one side is occupied by my toaster oven and sometimes my dish rack. This leaves little room for cutting boards, mixing bowls, or other handy tools for cooking that I enjoy and often have to find random solutions for. Not to mention being able to serve up food onto plates.
The second problem has been the hot plate itself. I’ve spent a few evenings waiting almost a half an hour for the element to heat up enough to boil water for pasta or mac and cheese or vegetables. It’s gotten bad enough that I now just avoid it and have started buying “steam in the bag” vegetables with the seasonings already in that I can enjoy without having to wait so long to be able to eat what I want. To my luck, Safeway has an abundance of these. Peas, brussels sprouts, corn, broccoli, you name it. And with the new app, although I live nearest to the most expensive Safeway in the nation (or so I’m told) I can still make it out with awhile’s worth of groceries at under $100.
The third problem, and perhaps the most annoying, is the toaster oven, which can also be called the smoke alarm. The smoke alarm is above my bathroom door, which is right next to the counters where my toaster oven sits. Every time I have tried to bake (or preheat for) Texas Toast or anything in the oven part, the smoke alarm goes off, and I end up waving a pillow at it frantically while trying to not let the entire house know that I’ve burnt my bread again. Thinking maybe putting the toaster oven on the other side where it’s not directly under the smoke alarm, I plugged it in on the other side and tried unplugging it after use. The light in my kitchen went out when I tried pulling the plug. I quickly pulled it out and it hasn’t been plugged in on that side since. I’m mildly frustrated with it and not sure whether to just switch it with the hot plate and call it good or just bring my food to Josh’s to cook it on his gas stove.
In the meantime, I’m sure I’ll think up some tips and tricks for working around the equipment I have. However, when I do have a full kitchen, with a full refrigerator, stove, and oven, I will be that much more grateful for it and will not take it for granted for a moment.