3 November 2010

The new normal in the kitchen

As you probably know, Hanno arrived home from Germany with a cold, and, of course, I've got it now. I was going to report on the organisation of my work room today but my head is fuzzy, and the new camera still confuses me, so I'll carry on with the new normal posts. This time we're in the kitchen.

When we moved here 13 years ago:
  • We removed the old kitchen and put in one that was better for working in.
  • Installed a range hood to take stale air from the kitchen into the roof space where the whirlybirds we installed would remove it and all hot air from the roof space.
  • Installed a sink top water purifier so we could drink filtered water and fill our stainless steel bottles to take when we went out.
  • Removed the carpet from all areas except the bedrooms.
  • Skylight installed in the kitchen roof to avoid electric light being used on overcast days.

In the following years we:
  • Completely reorganised the kitchen to support the work being done there. Tea, coffee and tea kettle were placed near the tea and coffee cup cupboard, baking supplies were all in one space to make bread baking as easy as possible, a pantry and separate stockpile cupboard were established.
  • The dishwasher was removed and given away. I'm washing up by hand now and prefer it to having to use the harsh caustic chemicals used in dishwashers which eventually flow into our waterways. I now store recycled and canning jars in the space that used to hold the dishwasher.
  • Bought a Coolgardie safe to hold food that doesn't need to be refrigerated but is safely away from flies and other insects.
  • Cook several things at the same time in the oven. For instance, cooking a roast in the oven, you also cook the vegetables in the pan around the meat and in the last 15 minutes, add your greens in an oven-proof dish with a foil lid. Or cakes or biscuits baking at the same time bread is in the oven.
  • Wash vegetables in bowls, not under running water.
  • Use vegetable and fruit peelings and scraps in the compost or worm bin.
  • Gave away our Teflon cookware and use only stainless steel and cast iron now.
  • Fell in love with slow cooking and now cook from scratch exclusively.
  • Taught myself to develop flavour in cooked food with various cooking methods, spices and herbs instead of adding soup or packets of flavourings.
  • Make stocks.
  • Bake bread almost everyday.
  • Taught myself ways to combine garden produce with stockpile items to produce delicious meals.
  • Make yoghurt and fresh cheese.
  • Buy local unhomogenised jersey milk and skim the cream to make butter.
  • Make ice cream.
  • Clean using home-made cleaners.
  • Make and use knitted cotton dishcloths.
  • Make ginger beer and fruit cordials.
  • Make jams, sauces and chutneys and preserve them.
  • Realised the difference between quantity and quality.
  • Make sure we eat food in season and grown as close to home as possible.
  • Loose tea instead of tea bags.
  • Went from being vegetarian to a meat eater and got to know my butcher.
This list could be longer but I'll finish with this instead. Being as sustainable as we can be isn't easy or quick. It makes us slow down and be mindful of what we're doing. It makes us more selective and if there is a choice between local strawberries at $4 and strawberries from interstate at $3, we choose the local ones. We aren't perfect. We slip back and have to recover again, we want to be better at this than we are. But this is our lifelong journey now - it's always changing and we're always trying to do our best. There are two things I know I'll never buy again, one is bottled water, the other coffee in a takeaway cup. I see people walking along with coffee and plastic water bottles in there hands and it makes me cringe. All that waste is not sustainable. We have turned our backs on all things disposable, we've returned to china cups, setting the table, sitting down and eating with knives and forks. It's a beautiful thing to do and it beats coffee in a cardboard cup anytime.


  1. I'm right with you. We've done away with disposables, we compost, we make, we reuse - we don't have global finite resources, we have to make what we have last.

  2. I just LOVE to visit your blog. It always reaffirms our choices in what works for us that our extended family thinks we are NUTS about doing. Thanks for sharing your life with all of us and PLEASE feel better soon.

  3. I've bee trying to do many of the same things. I often lament the lack of space in my kitchen and wish for a bit more counter space, but we're working on clearing it up and setting it up as efficiently as possible and in a way that helps us live more sustainably. I've replaced all teflon with cast iron, clay, and stainless steel (from the thrift store), and I buy as much local and organic as I can, preferably directly from farmers. I cook almost everything from scratch, and look for ways to reduce waste. There's a lot left to do, but the progress feels good.

  4. Enjoyed reading this post and seeing all that you have accomplished over the years! I am at the very beginning of trying to find a new normal:)

  5. I've fallen in love with my kitchen and dining at home all over again in recent weeks after discovering 'The Free Range Cook'. Have you seen this cooking show Rhonda? It's on Saturdays at 6pm just before Gardening Australia .. I think you would love it as she ( kiwi cook Annabel Langbein) cooks with fresh, seasonal produce much of it straight out of her abundant garden and orchard or sourced from local farmers and suppliers. Her kitchen is quite rustic and the show has a very non-commercial feel, no big chain supermarket sponsorship such as you see on Masterchef. I have bought the cook book and it is the best one I have ever owned, I have been inspired me to get into my garden, try new recipes and to make even more of our food from scratch. I have recently done a review of the book and show at my blog for anyone who is interested. It is on the same time as the news here so is easily missed. It is the highest rating tv show in NZ and the book is already on its first reprint - selling faster than Harry Potter apparently!
    Loved how you have made this list to show it is a journey... doesn't happen overnight but each step taken is one in the right direction.

  6. We wash up by hand, because we don't have a dishwasher in our rental and although sometimes I would like one, I'm quite happy most of the time without it. If I buy my own house, I would consider not having a dishwasher now, but would never have thought of it previously.

  7. Oh no Rhonda!! My favourite thing if I was out was a cappachino and often in a cardboard cup. Not that it is a regular occurance as I stick pretty close to home, but it did happen, I confess .Sometimes we don't think about the things we do until someone points it out. I think maybe in the back of my mind I was thinking cardboard was biodegradable , but I should have been thinking about how many trees made the cups in the first place.
    I think I will take my own coffee cup with me if I am out somewhere now .
    There you go, you saved a tree this morning. I have got a long way to go yet on my sustainable journey and little things like this are so doable!!
    best wishes,

  8. Looks like someone on the right track

    Coffee is on.

  9. So many changes are so common in the life style now. My favorite is cloth napkins at supper. Just LOVE IT!
    Hope you both get to feeling better.

  10. As always, your blog is such a pleasure to read! It's so great for getting me back into a correct state of mind :)
    Anyway, I wanted to stop by and tell you about ginger baths. I don't know if you already know this, but an old herbalist's trick is to put some regular, powdered ginger (start with about 1/3 cup to see how sensitive you are) in the bathtub like you would bath salts. The ginger, since it can get into your open pores, stimulates your blood and lymph circulatory systems, so you more easily flush that bug out. If you try it, do so before bed, because you'll likely feel woozy afterwards (all those toxins in the bloodstream, being released). By the morning you'll feel a lot better. I swear by this when I have a cold, the flu, muscle aches, or just the yucks that you can get after a trip, etc.
    Hope this helps :) feel better soon!

  11. I hope you and Hanno feel better quickly.

    Have you tried ginger, honey and lemon with hot water (and a touch of brandy at bedtime)?

    I agree with you - will never understand the fixation, especially in the US, with all the take-away coffee they drink. Have they never seen a kettle / coffee percolator for their homes / offices, or a coffee shop, if they're desperate and not near home work?

    We have made it a rule, since our children were born 29 odd years ago, that EVERY evening we would all sit round a table and share our evening meal, at a table appropriately set with china plates and proper cutlery. I cannot imagine having dinner any other way.

  12. Rhonda one of my life mantras is to watch what people do and not what they say. I love the way you lead by example and show how you implement change in your life!

  13. Interesting Rhonda: went from being a vegetarian to eating meat and got to know the butcher! Most people do it the opposite way round. Any particular reasons for this?

  14. Reading through this list was so encouraging, since it helped me to take stock of the changes we've made, too-and there are many! It's good to do that kind of inventory now and again.
    Donetta- I agree: one of the nicest changes has been switching to using cloth napkins all the time. I really don't know why I didn't do this sooner. I've just gathered a hodge-podge of napkins from second hand stores, and they sit in a big colourful stack by the dining table. They really aren't noticed by my laundry ritual, and cost next to nothing.
    The funny thing is, how many comments we get from guests! They say things like: how we shouldn't have pulled out the dressy napkins just for them: paper would be fine! And I laugh while explaining: This is what we use every day-- isn't it luxurious!?
    I think I'll blog about this, soon, at my own site.

  15. Ann, yes I have seen that program. It's delightful. I love her choice of food and that she uses a combination of fresh, local and preserved (by her) food.

    Claudia, I went back to meat after reading Nourishing Traditions and the value of slow cooked gelatinous meats.

    Donetta, I should have added cloth napkins too. You probably remember the cloth napkin swap we had here a few years ago. I think you took part in it.

    Great work, Kimmy.

    Dear Charis and Dani, thanks for the ginger treatments. :- )

  16. One of the reasons it's so wonderful to read blogs like yours is that it keeps me motivated. It's hard work to be as sustainable as possible - first, because it takes time, and second, because it requires mindfully going against the cultural tide. This blog helps me "refresh" and keep going with this way of life. Or get back on track when we begin slipping. Thank you!

  17. Reading through your list makes me realise how much further we have to go! We still have many opportunities to become more sustainable in the kitchen. We (mostly) use loose leaf tea, I have begun making crocheted washcloths which we use mostly, I use bicarb and vinegar for cleaning (I'm still trying to convert my husband!), we cook many things from scratch, and try to buy organic or free range where possible. We now have a vege patch and chooks and try to utilise our own produce as much as possible but also give some away to friends. That's a good start, at least! Maybe in five years time I'll be able to double it?

  18. that's a great list, i'd love to see more. i do a lot of these, but not consistently. i aspire to have simple routines of baking bread, making cheese and yogurt, i'e just begun preserving, and i hope to have a garden this year that produces enough to feed us. perhaps we will be very ambitious and get some hens! we're just about to begin a new life where we'll be near organic farms that can get us started.


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