SatGourmet: Counterspace and Food Tooling

While Elaine continues on the mend from hip surgery (we did the P/T deal Friday afternoon), the joy of coming home to good food after just can’t be beat.

The kitchen remodel project was, it goes without saying, delayed by the lack of two people to “work the project.”  I can do a lot of things, single-handed, but there are just some things in Life that take two people.

Food Tooling

Since I’ve been doing the cooking while she’s stuck in the walker for another three weeks, or so, the one gripe about the kitchen that continues to vex me is the lack of counterspace and outlets.

Like many kitchens, the design is a “U” shape with a window (and sink) at the bottom of the “U”.  On the left *(facing the window) is about 4 feet of counter.  But, since this is also an eating and nibbling bar on the other side, it doesn’t make sense to put in additional outlets and park things like the big KitchenAid mixer there.

Not that it’s unsightly:  Like my shop, there’s nothing wrong with having tools visible if they’re kept orderly.  But it just a) doesn’t fly with management and b) the power cords would be visible since outlets are not built-in  to eating bars.

The same thing is true on the right-hand side of the “U” as well.  There’s a 45-degree corner area.  Into this goes the microwave, a crockpot, and the air fryer.  Once again, though, the kitchen is more set for entertaining that actual food production.

These “eating bar” areas are great for casual nibbles and even light meals – like a sandwich at lunch.  Close to the kitchen and just slide the plate and soup over and that’s it.  If anything spills, it’s likely to be easy clean-up.

But, there are a lot of “kitchen tools” that should be set up.  And this is the vexing part.

How Much Counter?

Let’s work through some numbers:

  • Stove takes up 32-inches, roughly.
  • The sink is about 3-feet.
  • Add another 2-1/2 feet to this:  Prep on left and dish-drying on right.
  • Microwave is about 19-inches wide.
  • The Crock Pot is (call it) 15-inches.
  • Air Fryer is at least 12, but with spacing *(for heat) call it 16.

Sounds complete, but it’s not:

  • 12-inches would be ideal for the big VitaMix blender.  I love using that thing – especially for nearly instant soups – just toss in veggies and some broth and let it run on high for a bit.  There’s so much cavitation, it just rips, shreds, and heats…
  • Another 16-inch space would be great to leave the Big Mixer out.  I love to make fresh bread.  Storage under for the dough hook and pasta roller system would be nice, too.
  • Another item that would be used a lot more (if not buried on a shelf somewhere) would be the vacuum sealer (think Seal-a-Meal clone).  Which, again, comes with rolls of sealing bags material.  14-inches ought to do it.  But, lets say 16 just to be safe.
  • One more?  Food processor.  14-16 inches more counter, please.
  • And most important of all needed urgently?  A wok – for reasons we will get into…

A lot of hare-brained ideas have been washing through the old noggin.  A house-warming roll-around granite-topped island (great for rolling dough) doesn’t have power.  Trouble is, we like the “long view” and open concept feel that let’s you come in one end of the joint and see 80-feet down to the big monitor in the recording studio.

The back wall (toward center of the house) has the fridge on it.  Bar (and water heater under) to the right.  If the drinkware, kitchen air ionizer, a few bottles of hooch, a cordless phone charger, and such were to be removed then maybe one appliance could go there.  But hardly fun to waltz across the room when baking or slamming leftovers.  Doesn’t seem to feel right for the air fryer, or crock pot, either…

On the left of the fridge is about 30 inches of counter with cabinets above (cookbooks and vitamins) and pantry below.  On that counter right now are the current breads and assorted stuff.  Meds, etc.

I keep thinking about tearing everything out and making a commercial kitchen out of it. (Restaurant supply outfits have to be sitting on a ton of inventory due to the plandemic, right?)

“Method Cooking”

Remember the “Method School of Acting?”  Part of which some famous person-or-other once told me consists mainly of always asking “What’s my MOTIVATION?”

Mental Jujitsu flip:  I have been coming around to the idea that in order to live the next “x” years well, Elaine and I have to put even more emphasis on eating good food.

So, another one of “Ure’s Crackpot Theories” has emerged from his spending time on KP from the hip.

This one holds that the fresher (and fresher cooked) food is, the longer people live.  Variety and freshness.

The problem in “modern” America is we don’t enjoy just out of the oven bread as much as once upon a time (in the West).  The big basket of fresh-baked rolls, piping hot and covered with a clean dish towel and passed around the table doesn’t happen as much these days.  Meals have become drive-by’s.

Food and Anti-Aging Diet

My latest crackpot theory suggests Science has gotten a lot of things wrong.  One thing, more than likely, is the Mediterranean Diet.

When I went back and looked at the original data, the major difference wasn’t in what was being eaten.  It was how much.

And then I went off looking at countries where longevity is greatest.

Data set over here (sorted for both sexes) says Hong Kong, Japan, Macao, and Singapore are in the top five.  The odd country out (in the top five)?  Switzerland.

Yet, for some reason, there aren’t any books touting the Asian Take-Out Diet *(though if you toss in some sake, I’m all in with it…).  And the Swiss Diet?  Cheese, chocolate, sinful baked goods with fruit fillings and cream cheese?   Fondue? Nope.

So here’s the crack pot theory:  What IF the determinant is not WHAT you eat, but How Freshly Cooked it is?

Thinking runs like this:  Asian  cooking is generally fresh out of a wok and plated and eaten.  With rice…not wheat.  In the Swiss cooking, lots of slow-cooking of things (baking) because in that culture, baking has always been a “two-fer” (dinner and it keeps the house warm).  Thing is:  When done, food goes from heat source to plated to chewed while still warm.

Under this crack pot theory, we also find the Truth of the Fries:  I can’t stand cool or cold French fries.  If the they just swam ashore from the seas of boiling lard (Dick’s Burgers in Seattle used to make ’em that way, but now sizzles with a 100% High Oleic Sunflower oil).  But even scalding out of hot [whatever] oil, the hotter the fries, the better the burger.

Cold scrambled egg?  Naw…pass.  See how this “piping hot” idea has some appeal?

(Mark your calendar:  July 13th is National French Fry day…)

What About “Comfort Food?”

We come up with crack pot theories at the drop of a cork because real science sometimes does miss the boat.  Sure, calorie restricted diets might make you live longer, but if they lack the MCT and other needed fats, they just might figure into Alzheimer’s progression, as well. Making you crazy along the way.

Which then leads us to for some culinary guidance:

Comfort food may be useful if you’re highly stressed hints Chronic social stress lessens the metabolic effects induced by a high fat diet. A similar notion lurks in The effect of unhealthy food and liking on stress reactivity.

Calorie restrictions (and red wine) may work well for sedentary Italian seniors.  But, what about stressed northern European extraction people?

Crack Pot Theory Method of Action?

Might go something like this:

The fresher (and hotter) food is served (woks in Asia, ovens of the Swiss) the less time unfriendly (to the gut) bacteria has to develop.  As food cools, the bacteria count would go up.

When taken in concert like reports “Gut microbiome implicated in healthy aging and longevity”  and “Gut Microbiome Uniqueness May Predict Healthy Aging and Lifespan in Older People” seems to me that eating freshly cooked food may hold some yet-to-be-scientifically-blessed benefit.

Might even mean HOT leftovers are better for you… and it might explain the “hot French fry addiction” some people have.

Write when you get rich,

16 thoughts on “SatGourmet: Counterspace and Food Tooling”

  1. “The problem in “modern” America is we don’t enjoy just out of the oven bread ”

    I think that is so true.. we had made the conscious decision to eat meals as a family.for close to forty years meals were behind the wheel of the carer a mad dash heading from one job to another. Eating at a fast food joint was the norm.. ( windy’ s willmake it your way.. split the burger and separate the lettuce etc..) I also carried and still do a small tailgating grill.. my french press and coffee grinder are in the cupboard.. anyway..i hate to eat in the car..i do still have the steering wheel tray .. but it isnt the same.
    So at meal times everyone sits at the table the circle of daily conversation all subjects allowed from the grandsons from and snake hunting adventures to what’s happening at school.. debating issues not allowed.. meal time is family time.
    Speaking of that.. my niece is coming to town to do a lecture ( she’s a professor.. my guess is it’s at the local college) so she requested my own personal butter. It isn’t butter though..and fresh bread. We will have smoked prime rib..
    The Margarine..
    1/2 cup of coconut oil
    Melt this in a double boiler..
    1/2 cup of olive oil
    Add this slowly to the coconut oil while wisking .. I use power wisk or hand immersion blender.. once that is whipped together take it off an place the pan or bowl in a bowl of ice water then as it cools add
    1/4 cup of sweet cream as your wisking tou can add your garlic or onion powder..a few drops of yellow food coloring..
    Scrape that out into your silicone cookie mold or bowl set it in the fridge to solidify..
    You can substitute crisco or any othe solid vegitable oil instead of coconut oil and also any standard liquid vegitable oil instead of olive oil.. make it Ure way..

    I designed kitchens and baths for a living for a few years. My call — tear it all out and turn it into a commercial kitchen. I designed way too many beautiful useless kitchens because that was what the customer wanted. ALSO, forget granite and marble – they stain and are more likely to chip and break any glass or china dropped on them.

    Counter top with Corian or laminate.

    • I totally agree CH…. I putz around our kitchen and think.. dam I wished I had…


      When the customer was very cost constrained I always tried to minimize cabinets and see if they could put in a pantry. Cabinets are very expensive. If you are doing new construction or a remodel a pantry can be a very efficient option.

      I kept this from my boss of course, but it was a big box outfit that made plenty $ anyway. Also, happy customers got me referrals.

      • We have a pantry and rotating can storage.
        For five gallon buckets simple tire shrader valve and a vacuum pump.. put oxygen absorbers zap it for a couple seconds and your good for long term storage . The in and out buckets don’t have that only long term. Freeze drying azz nd retort canning. Fermenting vegitables..
        I make pickles that are crispy not mushy.. my mother always had great pickles and I never watched her..mine were always mushy .then on the show.. how it’s made..they had pickles..dam if it wasnt like a light bulb going off… so simple and I never even thought about it..containers dill 1/4 tsp. Alum cucumbers brine dill top zap it with a vacuum chamber the combination of the boiling brine and vacuum draws the brine threw the do have to cut both ends of the cucumber off.. theres an enzyme in it that causes the cucumber to get mushy and when you’re drawing the brine through the cucumber in the vacuum it’s easier with both ends cut off

  3. “Asian Take-Out Diet”

    Western cooked ‘Chinese take-out’ won’t get you the benefits of the traditional diets in the countries you mentioned. Check out what the people actually eat rather than the restaurant food for Westerners.

  4. The Chinese figured the eating thing out about 5k years ago. Works already been done for you. You also need a good fresh fermented food daily. Keeps the gut bacteria in play. Since there’s more bacteria in you than body, keeping them harmonious is well worth while.
    I’m with the tear it all out and start over kitchen problem. Presumably after you get past the hips problem. Gives you more time to design it out that way. The added plus is by the time it’s ready to start you’ll have enough hands on experience to really know what works and what doesn’t. The boss willing, that is!
    Wishing her all the best on her reconstruction project too!

  5. Mom’s Recipe Hall of Fame v.3: Salade Niçoise

    You don’t eat this dish so much as inhale it. Practically jumps into the old pie hole on its own!

    1 lb red potatoes sliced and pan fried until browned in olive oil with a dash of pepper and dill
    1 lb green beans steamed 10 min
    4 oz grilled tuna per person
    1 hard boiled egg per person
    1 cup bite size pieces butter lettuce
    2 roma tomatoes sliced per person
    1 small avocado sliced per person

    artfully arrange these ingredients on plates in a circular fashion with tuna in the middle.
    It’s best if cooked ingredients are still warm.
    serve with this fabulous dressing on the side:

    1/4 cup olive oil
    1 cup lemon juice
    1 small red onion finely chopped
    3 tb plochman’s stone ground mustard
    1 tb capers
    4 anchovy fillets diced
    3 cloves garlic minced
    1/4 tsp dill weed
    1/8 tsp pepper

    whisk until thoroughly blended.
    a nice piece of sourdough garlic bread
    completes this masterpiece!

  6. “So here’s the crack pot theory: What IF the determinant is not WHAT you eat, but How Freshly Cooked it is?” Perhaps?!

    However, the determining factor for a “long and healthy life” is to listen to your appetites. Your body knows well what it needs — and, of course, in moderation. It surprised me all my long life how little ” good food” we actually do need ;-).

    P.s. Drinks are a separate chapter of living well.

  7. I’d do this if my wife would let me: Install a couple of rack mount cabinets (same as in data center server farms), with slide out shelves. Each cabinet has at least two 20 amp circuits. Each slide out shelf has its own individual outlet installed on the shelf. On the shelves: toaster oven (or rotisserie oven), microwave, coffee pot, blender, crock pot, etc. Install each shelf according to any required minimum clearances.
    Want to make coffee in the morning? Slide out the coffee shelf, add water and grounds, slide shelf back into the cabinet, press the on button.
    Using a crock pot or other cooking appliance? Slide shelf out to check/stir foods, slide shelf back and out of the way for remainder of cooking.
    Sorry, I used to build out server farms (remember MCI Worldcom?).

    • Only way to improve on this would be a couple of linear actuators (think hidden tv stand raising devices) so that each of the desired appliances is at perfect use level…

  8. I used drawer slides to make a “sliding shelf,” to make my Vita-Mix accessible over the same space as the microwave. I also used them to utilize the “dead space” in the corners of my under-counter storage. There’s no rule which states that sliding drawer tracks must be used on drawers. In the corners you sacrifice an inch or two of vertical, to gain easy access to a 24″x24″ dead space. In the cabinets nearest the corners I built slide-out shelves — In the corners themselves I installed sliding shelves (actually almost “drawers,” because I built them with a “lip” on 3-sides, to keep stuff from falling off) with their rails mounted to 2×2 spacers. The cabinet shelf slides out, then the corner (dead space) shelf slides OVER that shelf’s tracks. Easy access, and it creates a (roughly) 18x24x1.3 inch space under the corner slide, which can be used as a hidey-hole (mine just holds the grilles for my Jenn-Air…)

    Should you decide to utilize this somewhere, “overengineering” is the watchword for a successful build. get 90 pound or 140 pound drawer rails, not the cheapo 10 or 30 pounders the box stores sell so mama can build herself a drawer for her acrylics and artists’ brushes. THEN MAKE SURE THE CABINET FLOOR CAN TAKE THE LOAD! I bought my Vita-Mix 35 years ago. I dunno how the new ones are, but mine is made from a LOT of copper and stainless, and weighs a friggin’ ton. To draw it out of a 12″ cabinet and have it essentially cantilevered at work-height and over my microwave, puts a tremendous load on the BACK of the cabinet bottom. To load ‘er up and hit the switch, multiplies the load, especially on “take-off.” My house is old, my cabinets are real wood, but I took that cabinet bottom apart and replaced the lower back rail (probably SYP or poplar — can’t remember) with hickory, installed a second hickory rail @ 4.75″ (40%, not the middle of the cabinet), and (steel) bracketed them into the bottom rail of the adjoining cabinet.

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