BY LAUREN SHANNON
Some of us used to cook before we moved to Japan, some of always wanted to, but now can’t even get started… why? The culprit is those extra small, tiny kitchens that are common in all Japanese apartments and even in some of the big expat-package houses. But coming to our rescue is Justin Spring, with his adorable teeny tiny book The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook: Featuring 100 recipes.
This book is in a nutshell, tiny, perfect, fun and easy to use.
According to the author “This handbook for itty bitty kitchens attempts to close the gap between the kitchens we have and the cooking we wish we could do.” The illustrations are charming, and the organization of the book is well thought out and useful.
The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook is arranged into four parts; A fun and funny intro, then Part One: “Order in the Itty Bitty Kitchen and Part Two: “Fun in the IBK.” Followed by a useful conclusion.
Part one helps you get started and organized so cooking in your IBK is no longer painful and is almost enjoyable. Of particular interest in Part one, is a centerfold section called “Kitchen Space Hogs and how to Replace them.” It is a very honest review of some items we might have that take up too much room and what we can do instead that is more in line with the practical needs of the IBK.
But the real fun starts in Part two. This includes celebrating the upsides of an IBK and includes IBK Blessings, tips, shortcuts, ideas, and a whole lot of yummy recipes.
Stopping to count our three IBK Blessings the author tells us we can be happy that we will probably be cooking for small numbers of guests and that involves a lot less prep! And we get a chance to experiment with new foods and new recipes on a small scale, which is much less intimidating. Our third blessing is that since we have less storage space in an IBK we can market more frequently which will make our food more fresh, more healthy and we will be less tempted to stock up on bad for us, chemical laden pre-packaged foods.
But the real fun comes in the cooking part of the handbook. The recipes included are organized conveniently by food type and also by appliances including a terrific section using the IBK workhorse the Toaster Oven! My favorite recipes so far are The Stovetop Irish Stew—which is great for this time of year, and the toaster oven pork chops. But the big winner for me and my husband was the Mole Style Chili. This one will become a staple in our IBK and is great because it satisfies both in the wet cold winter and the outside picnic summer season. Like all the recipes in the IBK Handbook this one is easy and fun. We haven’t had time to try out the dessert section yet, but the Moosehead Gingerbread is in our near future.
The IBK Handbook is a process, and a meditation. It both deals honestly with the difficulties of cooking in small places and in the modern fast paced world, and it celebrates the need and benefit of cooking at home in spite of these difficulties.
In a terrific quote from the conclusion of the book Mr. Spring tells us, “The most soulful kitchens in the world are impressive not because of their luxuries or dimensions but rather because of the energy, love, and enthusiasm demonstrated on a daily basis by their caring and careful inhabitants.”
With the IBK firmly in hand I hope to do more cooking and more soul satisfying in 2007. Hope you all will give your own IBK a second look and some tender-loving-care. Your own IBK and the joy you find there might surprise you.
The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook can be purchased at www.amazon.co.jp here in Japan—they even deliver cash on delivery and have English guidance on the site. The ISBN tracking number for searching is 0767920163.