This Sunday, we will celebrate my youngest child’s birthday, and he has requested that we recreate the meal we learned to cook in Venice with Anna, a very talented chef. (http://bit.ly/2wb1nBF) The experience, of course, will be impossible to replicate entirely. Certainly the ingredients will come from a supermarket rather than the fruttivendolo and markets of the Rialto, but the other primary difference will be the kitchen we will prepare the meal in. To be clear, we cooked a multi-course meal and dessert with Anna: octopus, pasta, braised artichokes, and tiramisu. We made pesto by hand, without a Cuisinart or even a mortar and pestle. Eggs and sugar were whisked without a mixer, and we used a sturdy dining room table to prep potatoes and peaches. The kitchen in this apartment was not large, although there was room for a gas range with a clever fold out hood, a water heater, sink, dishwasher, washing machine, and refrigerator. No space was underutilized, and the efficiency was a little magical. I watched as four people stood and cleaned the octopus, chopped parsley and washed beans in that kitchen and wondered at the prevailing assumption that more kitchen equals better food.
Every inch of that tiny Venetian kitchen was used and, similarly to the apartment kitchens I had when I lived in New York, the size of the kitchen helped steer some of the lifestyle choices. Less storage and no car meant more frequent market trips, which helped encourage us to buy only what we could carry and would need for a couple of days. It was a refreshing change from our usual routine of once weekly store trips, buying in large quantities and having to find a place to store it all. This space held only the bare necessities, no room for excess, and efficient prep planning was the order of the day. And, despite being crammed in a little like sardines, that kitchen yielded a meal that was special enough for my son to want to make again, another gentle reminder that grand experiences aren’t always about grand spaces, and that the size of the kitchen does not dictate the quality of what comes out of it.