Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Everything...AND the kitchen sink...

A group of Dear Newbies are contemplating the kitchen today. They are bemoaning the hours the kitchen, or in military parlance "mess", takes to set up, the hours it takes to tear down, the space it takes to store and the hassle of transporting this much "stuff" to the average three day event.

Wouldn't it be nice to scale down... but how does one go about doing so?

With a few considerations, scaling down on the kitchen should be easy... if one is willing to commit to doing so and firm with their group that this is the "way to go."

Consideration 1) Refrigerated Items. Bringing fewer items that need refrigeration will eliminate the coolers, the ice, and the period justified containers to disguise the coolers.
     Practical Example: Please consult this simply wonderful article written by a friend, Elizabeth Stewart Clark. She has filled the article with common sense on why to do without refrigeration and some fabulous practical suggestions for doing so. No Refridgeration Required by Elizabeth Stewart Clark

Consideration 2) Cooked Items. Bringing fewer items that need cooking will eliminate some of the cookware and some of the firewood needed. Fewer items needing cooked will also get one away from the fire and out to enjoy the event. :-)
      Practical Example: Many items can be prepared at home... breads, baked goods, veggies, hard cheeses, hard meats like summer sausage...

Consideration 3) Ingredients. Coordinating a menu to make the most of left-overs can mean less ingredients need to be brought. Combining seasonings into pre-made packets ahead can eliminate the need for spice containers and measuring implements. Preparing chopped items ahead will eliminate the need to bring cutting surfaces and specialty knives.
     Practical Example: One meal we have ham slices... in a later meal, we have bean soup with ham pieces. One meal we have fried chicken... a later meal we have chicken salad. (think of the after-Thanksgiving parade of turkey dishes... turkey sandwich, turkey pie, turkey salad, stewed turkey, turkey broth soup... BLEH!! enough with the turkey already!!) ...and this is a period idea too, showing up in period housekeeping advice manuals. :-)

Consideration 4) Purpose. In addition to coordinating menu items to make the most of fewer ingredients, investing in cookware and serve-ware that will serve more than one purpose will allow one to scale down their kitchen. Choosing to go without dishes that require a specialty cookware piece or serve-ware piece will also scale down the kitchen.
     Practical Example: A dutch oven can be used for stews, baking, heating, and washing up... but.... much as we love ice cream, the ice cream churn can only be used for ice cream. (WAIT!!... ice cream is maybe WORTH bringing the specialty item :-p )

Consideration 4) SHARE! Coordinating meals with others means each person can bring less "stuff'" and also means the person buying the meal ingredients can buy in cheaper bulk quantity, keeping the cost down for all contributors.
     Practical Example: One family brings a skillet, one family brings a coffee kettle, one family brings wash basins... voila... your kitchen is shaping up fast and your family only had to pack one item. Same with ingredients.. one family brings an entree, one family brings potatoes, one family brings beverages... "pot luck" works!

Consideration 5) Keep it Period. Some dishes we traditionally enjoy at lunch and supper, the O.C. would have enjoyed at breakfast as left-overs. A series of small snacks throughout the day can mean the meals will be less involved. Less involved meals means less of just about everything.
     Practical Example: Left over cornbread and ham for breakfast... not as traditional as eggs, potatoes, and bacon... but it's hearty and filling, uses left-overs, didn't require extra cookware, and tides us over until apples and cheese at mid-morning, which tides us over until a more involved meal at lunch. 

     And a practical example of several considerations: Bringing dish-cloths to dry the dishes and clothesline to dry the cloths takes up less space than a bamboo dish drainer contraption.... and the dish-cloths can wrap delicate items in transport.

The "hard core" civilians go on a tactical:

Scenario: 3 people need to eat Supper on Friday, Breakfast, Lunch, Supper on Saturday, and Breakfast and Lunch on Sunday. We would be on the move the whole event, without refrigeration and limited cooking opportunities.

What we planned:
Friday Supper: Ham, Biscuits, Lemonade
Saturday Breakfast: Farina, Peaches, Tea, Sugar & Milk
Saturday Lunch: Sausage, Cheese, Biscuits, Lemonade
Saturday Supper: Ham, Sweet Biscuits, Tea, Sugar, Milk
Sunday Breakfast: Farina, Peaches,  Tea, Sugar, Milk
Sunday Lunch: Whatever is left
Snacks: Nuts, peppermint sticks, apples

How we packed:
Ham: pre-cooked and pre-sliced, wrapped in  paper
Biscuits: pre-baked, in a pasteboard box
Hard Sausage: in natural casing
Hard Cheese: wrapped in  paper
Sweet Biscuits: pre-baked, in pasteboard box
Farina: (actually instant Cream-Of-Wheat) in a "poke sack"
Peaches: tinned, with modern label replaced with period one
Tea: loose-leaf, in a "poke sack"
Sugar: in a tin container
Milk: Evaporated  Milk (not the sweetened kind) with the modern label replaced with a period reproduction
Lemonade: powdered, in single serving paper envelopes.
A Knife
A Can Punch
A Tin Tea Kettle
Matches in a Match-safe
Hatchet (for cutting firewood and fire breaks)

The boxes were placed in a pack-basket, with the sacks and tins nestled around them. We two ladies each carried a basket with bowl, ginger beer bottle, cutlery, and glass for ourselves covered with a napkin... I carried the gent's bowl, cutlery, glass, bottle and the tea kettle in a market wallet. The gent carried the pack basket on his back by the shoulder straps and the can punch and match-safe in his pocket. He used his handkerchief for a napkin. We took turns carrying the hatchet. (The other Dear Lady carried bedding for both herself and the gent; thus, she carried minimal of the kitchen things, but more than her share of "stuff.")

So... scaling down CAN be done. Perhaps you aren't quite ready to scale down as much as the "hard core" civilians yet, but you are now ready to give some serious consideration to your period kitchen at events. Soon you will have the zen of "Less really is more."