Eating Small: How to Cook in a Tiny House Kitchen

Photos by Heather Morgan

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On Downsizing and New Kitchen Essentials

Initially, Heather and Zach though that their favorite kitchen gadgets—a standing mixer, a coffee maker, an espresso maker, a blender—were essentials that they would have to make room for in their new, down-sized kitchen. However, when you’re tight on space, you have to reassess what is actually essential.

Easy answer: coffee.

“Zach learned that to roast his own coffee beans; he only needed a small-batch, dedicated cast-iron skillet, a handheld grinder, and a two-cup French press,” Heather said. “We just upgraded, after a year, to a four-cup press because we have visitors and often like to make them coffee without having to do it in batches.”

All this takes up less than the space that one small espresso maker might take up, requires no electricity and is easier to keep clean. Now, instead of the heavy, electric standing mixer and the blender, the family has an egg beater and a small hand-powered food chopper.

On Adjusting Family Meals

Since going tiny, Heather has been able to use a lot more fresh herbs and nuts in the family’s daily repertoire, since they take up less space. These have been used to make fresh sauces and dressings for vegetables and whole grains, rather than dairy and meat-based dishes, which spoil sooner.

Isa Does It is a vegan cookbook that has taken us on a real adventure, and we love eating less meat and dairy as part of a healthy diet, while still eating things we enjoy and that satisfy,” Heather said. “I have started keeping new staples on hand: couscous, quinoa, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds, which we have gained a newfound respect for.”

Before the family moved in, Heather downsized most of her baking stuff because she realized that, despite being enjoyable, it wasn’t even on her top-five list of favorite hobbies, so it wasn’t a great use of spare time or cabinet space.

“This was a relief to the competition for that space: books, fabric and sewing machine, and our board games, which we kept,” Heather said. “We bake socially at grandma’s, and support our local bakery when we need items we can’t make.”

On Adjusting to ‘Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen’

“Especially with little ones, it doesn’t matter how large the house is: I am magnet for other humans in our house. In our large site-built homes, we used to all end up in the same square-meter during peak times, such as morning and bedtime, making meals, and cleaning up,” Heather said. “When it bothers me, I am reminded that these times and places in our routine draw us together: everyone wants to be in the kitchen because it smells so good, or what’s going on in so interesting.”

Heather thinks that the family’s smaller space has helped them to differentiate chores a bit better, and there are fewer unmet and unspoken expectations. Zach enjoys cooking, so she cleans up afterwards. Heather also believes that being in a smaller space drives a greater appreciation of all the hard work that goes into preparing a meal for a family; you are in the same space where it is being created and see the effort put forth to create something meant to share.

“It builds our anticipation—and appetite!—before eating together, and people also have to work together and appreciate the act of clearing and cleaning up, because you can’t move on to something else until it happens,” Heather said.

In planning the home, Zach and Heather requested a long, functional counters pace and collapsible stepping stools so that, if needed, their entire family can participate in making a meal or cleaning up together.

“There are still anxious moments where I have a child on each leg while washing dishes, or where we have to wait for each other to step aside in order to put something away, but what we do with that moment of frustration makes a difference—humor goes a long way,” Heather said. “We think it cultivates mindfulness and gratitude for each other and the process.”

Ashlie Stevens is a freelance writer pursuing an MFA in Creative Nonfiction at the University of Kentucky. Her work has been featured at Slate, Salon The Guardian, and National Geographic’s The Plate.

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