Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May: Kitchen renovations

We are in the throes of kitchen renovations.  The living room is full of cardboard boxes that contain our kitchen “stuff,” piled high and covered with dusty plastic.  All the other rooms have refugee plants and furniture crowded in, and no matter how careful we or the workmen are, everything is coated with fine white plaster dust.  The dog is a nervous wreck.  Among all this chaos, we have almost completely lost sight of the gorgeous kitchen that we envisaged when we were in the planning stages about five months ago… and we have at least a month to go before we move into the result.
However, we have to cling to the promise of a wonderful new space for our cooking and entertaining or we’ll lose our minds.  It will be a wonderful new space… it will be a wonderful new space… it will….  Among the things we look forward to in our wonderful new space is a new cook top. 
I have always wanted a gas cook top for its instant heat and easy adjustment; it just seems like a more pleasing and efficient cook surface than electric elements for someone who is serious about good cooking.  Then, I was having a coffee with Michael and Anna Olson in their spectacular kitchen at their home in Welland and noticed the cook top was not gas; in fact, it looked like that electrical element under a glass ceramic surface that I find both difficult and inefficient.  I was shocked.  However, Michael reassured me that the stove top was induction, and his enthusiasm for the thing was infectious.
Induction works by producing a magnetic field that “induces” an electric current in the pot, creating heat from the pot’s resistance.  This means that only steel pots can be used on an induction stove top, but the effect is impressive.  We watched a demonstration where a large pot was filled with ice cubes and put on the induction “burner”; within seconds the ice cubes had liquefied and the water was boiling.  Further, the pot was removed from the “burner” and a paper towel put down on the cooking surface and the pot returned, on top of the towel.  The water continued to boil, and the paper towel wasn’t so much as singed.  As neat as this trick is, the real value of induction heat is that it is infinitely regulate-able, just like gas, but has none of gas’s odours or residue… and it is much faster and more fuel efficient. 
I haven’t entirely given up on gas cooking; I think the flame up the sides of a wok makes for a better heat in that application, and we have a small collection of ceramic cookware that wouldn’t work on the induction surface, so we are getting two induction burners and two gas burners side by side.  That’s certainly something to look forward to.
Then there’s the soapstone counter top, a smooth, warm-feeling stone without the glossy shine of granite or quartz.  And the combination microwave-toaster oven called a “speed oven” that I look forward to experimenting with… though I must admit, with some trepidation.
By mid-summer we’ll have mostly forgotten the trauma and disruption of the renovations, the meals in the basement, the dust and noise, the invasion of workmen in and out every day, and the ongoing detail decisions that keep cropping up.  Maybe our dog will have forgotten and forgiven, too, as unlikely as that seems right now.  Anyway, by then we’ll be able to comfort ourselves by cooking some lovely slow food meals in our wonderful new surroundings.