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Other people in your kitchen


Stephanie
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This occurred to me as I was reading the "Division of Labor" thread. I live alone, so of course I have to do everything myself. That means that I've created a kitchen environment that works for me.

I had a friend over for dinner on Sunday night, and she decided to bring a salad. Not an already-made salad, mind you, but the raw ingredients. I'm a bit of a neat freak and I know from her dinner parties that chaos reigns in her kitchen. So it was no surprise that she proceeded to take over a good chunk of my counterspace, flinging arugula and lettuce everywhere (and drying them in my dishrack). Cucumber peels littered the sink. I had to place the garbage can right by her and make sure she had proper bowls, utensils, etc., or who knows what my kitchen would have looked like.

So I'm wondering: anyone else protective of their kitchen space when it's invaded by those either outside one's immediate family or someone who plays Oscar to your Felix (or vice versa)?

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God yes, this may be my biggest pet peeve. I have purposely positioned my butcher block island close to my countertop work space adjacent to the range to discourage guests from coming around to "help". There are stools for them on the other side of the island, but without fail I end up with two or three over on my side while I am trying to cook. It is worse if they are attempting to cook at the same time. It drives me crazy.

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I'm familiar with this, too! On Thanksgiving, just as I was pulling everything together (in my mind, the most important 30 minutes of Thanksgiving!), my two sisters, brother, husband, and Dad decided to all stand RIGHT behind me, watching me work. I had to stop, turn, point to a line in the floor and tell them that no one but my mother was allowed beyond that line (she's in charge of gravy). They all slowly moved to the other side of the line and stood there, watching.

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I am amazed at your patience BklynEats.

I have what many say is patience of the sages, but in my kitchen, I am like an impatient artist, working to finish with sacred respect, and complete immersion something they started with great respect and hopeful affection.

While friends can bring stuff to my parties, I never encourage them to do so. If they insist, I am happy giving them that pleasure, but I am lucky that friends know they cannot come play in my kitchen, or even prepare.

It is a sacred sanctum where I entertain my own sensibilities of the moment and those of my ingredients, and with that, I hope to share with all a meal that is at once satisfying, tasty and inspiring. Through food and service of it, I always hope I can reach some greater connection with my friends.

I have what some may call a largish kitchen. I am by now means a neat freak, but still, I like my space to be in the style that I am used to seeing it.

The most friends can do is to sit around the marble top table in the kitchen, or to stand besides me and watch. It is cumbersome for me to have even my own SO try and work on something else as I am cooking.

I am never in another's work space, and hope they can give me that same respect.

Sadly, not many people understand this, and so, over the years, I have simply encouraged my friends to come to our home to enjoy a meal and not worry about creating it. It has worked well. They have fun, I do as well, and the kitchen remains sacred in the way I want it.

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I propose that there are two different situations being discussed here. One is where you are doing the cooking and guests are trying to be helpful. Blech. Eek! Get out of my way!

The second situation is when someone else comes to your kitchen to cook. That, I'm fine with. Recently, several friends came over to cook, one being a professional chef. They brought the ingredients with them. The Chef was the head cook and one of the other friends and I were the sous and prep, respectively. I peeled veggies and stayed out of the chef's way - except to say "instead of looking for stuff, just ask me where it is" when he needed a bowl or other cooking implement. At the end of the night, I was happy to clean up because I wasn't worn out from preparing the entire meal.

The other situation is when my dh is cooking. Really best for me to get completely out of the way - even though the kitchen is a disaster area when he is finished. :wink:

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A couple of years ago, my wife and I settled on a dinner party approach that has proven to work very well in practice. For each course, I invite one guest into the kitchen to assist me.

This arrangement serves two purposes. First, it ensures that guests circulate through the kitchen, rather than leaving me back there to fend for myself. Second, it reduces guests' impulse to volunteer to help at inopportune moments, as everyone knows they will get a chance.

Knowing the guests and the dishes in advance, we can usually do a pretty good job of picking the right person for the work that needs to be done for a particular course. If I know they are inexperienced, I try to give them simpler tasks, generally more oriented towards plating and presentation than actual cooking. If I know they know what they are doing, they are given more to do. For example, I'll hand them an onion and ask them to dice and sweat it.

So far, it has worked marvelously. Even total non-foodies get excited about seeing what ingredients and techniques go into their meal. The only complaint I've had was from someone I asked to whip cream by hand. But at least he worked up an appetite for dessert.

Chief Scientist / Amateur Cook

MadVal, Seattle, WA

Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code

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I don't let anyone other than my husband and son cook or "help" in my kitchen. Ever. If my friends want to cook, they can invite us over there. I'm quite happy though, to have guests come and talk to me while I'm cooking.

Marlene

cookskorner

Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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I am amazed at your patience BklynEats.

I'm normally not a patient person at all; one must make adjustments in order to keep one's friends.

Bear in mind that I didn't expect her to be cutting vegetables and washing lettuce in my kitchen, and she was doing it while I was still cooking. If I was bringing something for dinner, I would make sure to do all the prep work at home. Next time I will have her bring dessert.

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I had some friends over for the holidays. I wandered into the kitchen one morning to find him making scrambled eggs in my new Calphalon non-stick sauce pan. He was stirring the eggs and scraping them in the pan with a fork. Oy. Then I checked my other pans, a few more now have scratches in them. And he toasted all sorts of stuff in the oven without putting down tin foil. Etc. Etc. Etc.

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Anyone else in my kitchen when I'm there, I leave. Remember the old Anacin commercial line "Mother, I'd rather do it myself!" That's how I am. Terrible isn't it? And another thing, It seems like the minute I go into the kitchen, which in our country house is a galley with a bar facing it, everyone in the house decides to come in there too. I'm such a grinch about it.

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Vengroff: Creative solution! But I have to say that few guests would brave our kitchen when my husband is in the midst of meal-making.

"Off the purple!" is the family code. My mother has a (came with the house...not her choice!) prunely purpley kitchen floor, which is open to the breakfast room. White tile there.

When she yells "Off the purple!" we scatter. Christmas dinner she relented somewhat. "Only three people allowed on the purple at any given time!"

And when she says "Off the purple!" you had better believe she means it.

Margaret McArthur

"Take it easy, but take it."

Studs Terkel

1912-2008

A sensational tennis blog from freakyfrites

margaretmcarthur.com

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My kitchen is a maze that was designed by a non-cook (my father-in-law) for a very small cook (my mother-in-law -- yes, we bought me in-law's house). We have tons of counter space and work areas, including two large marble slabs for bread and candy preparation, a counter/bar area, and a fair amount of space next to an indoor grill. The problem is that it is indeed, a maze, that fits one person at a time. If one is in the way, another shall not pass. The most common line in our house is, "Get out of my kitchen." This is directed to children, guests, the boss's wife, etc. If I'm in the kitchen, another simply cannot be in there simultaneously.

However, when I do need help, I either put them on the other side of the bar, where they can tear lettuce, help with plating, etc. All guests know that they cannot cross over this bar area, lest they be whacked with one of these:

652174-elec_lg-resized180.jpg

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Varmint, I have the same whisk. At first I didn't like it as it was quite loud but now I'm happy with it and prefer it to the standard whisk.

As for my guests, they're all pretty smart in that they know to bring prepared items that only need to be heated or plated. If a known troublesome guest wants to bring something, we specifically mention they need to do prep work at home as "the kitchen will be quite busy."

And if a guest is in the way, it becomes very clear to them that they'll have to find a new spot as our kitchen is somewhat small. I have more problems in other people's kitchens since I don't have a clue to where anything is. And even when I'm looking for something and it's actually right in front of me, I sometimes don't even see it! :wacko:

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:angry: And don't you love the guests who:

...offer to bring some yummy dessert and bring an apple pie from Kroger or Safeway, saying they were just too tired to cook.

...yammer on about calories and fat and such over the duck and dacquoise.

..insist on doing dishes right now when you'd rather rest and enjoy their company.

...stack dishes at the table and/or with food still on them and/or stack the dirty dishes in the kitchen willy-nilly among the leftover food.

...actually help out by cleaning up the kitchen, but stash your potholders under the sink and your foil over the refrigerator where it takes you forever to find them. Hint: your chef's knife is in the dishwasher.

Ruth Dondanville aka "ruthcooks"

“Are you making a statement, or are you making dinner?” Mario Batali

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Whenever guests offer to bring something, I usually say something alcoholic, but I warn them that it may not go with what I'm preparing that evening. That way, they're not offended if it's not opened. At the worst, I'll have a bottle or two of wine to suck down or cook with some day. Occasionally, guests will bring particularly yummy selections!!

Dean McCord

VarmintBites

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Next time I will have her bring dessert.

Don't do that! She'll bring a Trifle and want to build it in your kitchen :biggrin:

Well, her dessert cooking is so far limited to baked apples, but I will have to watch out if she ventures into cakes....

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Jeez, what an effete bunch of Felix Ungers. If someone's in my way, I throw them out. If they're not, there's always something to slice, chop, clean or stir. It's a dinner PARTY not a dinner MASS, if you can't get out of the kitchen to entertain the guests, be prepared to entertain them in it -- since 90% of final prep can be done by a trained monkey (you did all the art and brain work before then, remember?) have 'em plate the green beans (sorry, haricot verts) spoon a little sauce over the venison or just haul dishes to the table. It's a great opportunity to boss your friends around, and to practice cursing in a French accent ("not lack dat weeth de fucking 'aricots!").

And keep repeating to yourself "the guests are more important than the food."

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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