Small changes make big differences.

Tuesdays with MOJO / Considering space

Marjorie Spitz Rento1 Comment
marjorie in kitchen.jpeg

Space.  There’s outer space, physical space, personal space, spaciousness in our bodies.  There’s closet space (or lack thereof in many of our NYC apartments).

With our lives confined to fabulous yet small living spaces, I always thought I knew what I would do if I had more space.  Put things away.  Be organized.  Have people over on a regular basis. Make good use of light.  Spread out. Make a true office for myself where I can sit in an ergonomically correct chair.  Have my own bathroom.

In our ski share this year, the house has a lot of space.   We’re talking multiple floors, bedrooms, bathrooms and closets.  My husband Bob has taken this opportunity to break out of storage some of his favorite items collected over the years that we don’t have room for, and decorate the house with them.   He has been joyfully running around to his various storage facilities and loading up things I didn’t know existed.  Beautiful rugs.  A barn table and chairs.  Big comfy chairs. 

As for me, I have brought up small things that just seem to take up too much room at home.  A block of votive candleholders that say “Montauk”.  A cutting board with a built-in slicer.  Magazines I’ve been meaning to read.  It’s amazing how just moving out those minor things has created so much room at home!

Whereas Bob has tapped the situation to bring out some of his long lost loves, I have been…cooking.   Not just warming things up, but really cooking things I’ve never considered before.  A roast.  Cod in parchment paper.  Three (yes THREE) roast chickens at once.  Truffle butternut squash mash.  Breakfast recipes to sample on the boys.  Some dishes have even received accolades!  

It seems when Bob has more space, he spreads out treasures.  When I do, I organize my life around meals – not that I don’t already of course, but never cooking all of them! 

Let me paint a fuller picture: my kitchen in NY also doubles as an office, closet (for Bob), storage facility and of course has to function as a real kitchen. Two people cannot easily and comfortably be in there at once.  When I want to use the oven, I move the pans stored within into the bathtub. The floor, I sheepishly confess, was carpeted when I moved in decades ago and remains so since the floor underneath so uneven, and the landlord unmoved by my pleas to fix and tile it.  The carpet has been replaced a few times of course, but nonetheless when minced onions make their way to the floor, it is a production to clean them up.  Hence, cooking is stressful and uncommon in our household. 

Alternatively, here in Killington, there is an 8-seat table in the kitchen.  There are state-of-the-art real size appliances (in NYC we make do with mini-sized stoves, ovens and refrigerators), so many cabinets we can’t find things, pantries (note the plural), 5 (yes FIVE) burners on the stove, a dishwasher, and an island with stools.  No carpeting here – wood floors.  There is bright light, ventilation (including an exhaust fan and light above the stove), and a large dining room off to one side (where the previously mentioned 10 seater farm table resides), and a high ceiling living room off to the other side with a large fireplace. 

I kid you not, 6+ of us have been the kitchen at once without so much as brushing elbows. 

Most people go away on vacation and want to get out of the kitchen.  With all this space, I seem to want to get into the kitchen!  This all has taken me by surprise, and made me ponder…why?  Is it because it’s the first time in many years that the four of us are away together?  Is it just that it’s novel and I never really had the opportunity to cook for my family before?   

I dug deeper -- Is it that I thought I was clear on what I would do given the option for more space, but now I’m finding that what I think I want on the surface isn’t really my core truth? 

When we experience more space (personal or physical), does it encourage us to evolve?   I think it does!

I fear we’ll go home to NYC and revert to some of our old ways, so I am considering what I can do to respect this new truth. 

Obviously my home space is not going to magically expand, so what are some small changes I could implement to create space with what I have?  

Physically, there’s not a whole lot.  I can certainly think of some tricks to make it less stressful – perhaps roll out a reusable matt to catch any chopping remnants, and put up a shelf here or there.  

Mentally, is where I can make the biggest adjustments.   When I get home, I will choose to approach my cooking space differently, to create space from within.  Instead of looking at it as complicated and cramped, I will look at it with gratitude for the tools I do have. Working appliances, granite countertops, lovely dishes, access to fabulous food and ingredients, a growing repertoire of delicious meals and of course, people like you to share it with.  

How do you approach your space, and what would having more mean for you?  What would you do with it, and how can you reinvent what exists to make your wish a reality?   

It may help to think of a time when you moved to a larger or smaller space – consider any examples of how you may have surprised yourself by how you dealt with that.  Please share!  

And in the spirit of sharing, I am sharing my favorite roast chicken recipe.  It is easy and always comes out juicy and yummy. 

Much love to you as we close out the year and move into 2015.  I look forward to our next 52 Tuesdays together, and creating the space we all desire! 

xoMarjorie, Chief MOJO Maker™ 

Roast Chicken Recipe

 Ingredients:

  • 1 (4 to 5 pound) whole chicken, neck and giblets removed from the cavity
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lemon:  cut up
  • Fresh herbs, such as parsley, rosemary, or thyme (optional) -- can use one or multiple

Instructions:

  • Heat the oven to 425°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
  • Place the chicken on a work surface or cutting board and pat it dry with paper towels. Cut off and discard any extra fat hanging around the body cavity. (I sometimes skip this step, but feel free to do it)
  • Drizzle the oil on the chicken and rub it all over the skin. Season outside (both sides) with salt and pepper. Place the lemon and herbs inside the cavity, if using. Place the chicken breast-side up in a large roasting pan
  • Roast the chicken in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 375°F and continue roasting until the juices run clear and a thermometer inserted into the inner thigh (but not touching the bone) registers 165°F, about 50 minutes to 1 hour more.
  • Remove the chicken from the oven and place on a cutting board. Let it rest about 10 to 20 minutes before carving.

Carve the chicken and store in a sealed container so you can have it for lunches and dinners.  Yum!