The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook by Justin Spring – A book review

I was sitting there, in my recliner, minding my own business, when a little package arrived with my name on it. I didn’t remember ordering anything, but it had my name on it. So, I opened it. Made sense, since it did have my name on it. I turned it over a few times, looking for the word Nikon or All-clad on it, somewhere, anywhere.
Nope, it was a book. “Oh great.” I thought, “a book.” Hmmm, says Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook. Well, our kitchen is pretty darned small, let’s see what Mr. Justin Spring has to say.

Turns out a very thoughtful person from Doubleday Broadway Publishing considers Meathenge a viable avenue for reviewing a recently published book. Kinda funny considering I don’t read. I’ve been carrying it to and from work for the last few weeks, turning to pages and reading paragraphs. A few evenings found me at the sofa reading chapters and taking notes. To be honest, I think it creeped Mama out, she’s not used to me reading. Okay, well that’s not exactly true. I read when I find something of interest such as, Valiants, cookbooks or camera gear.
My first impression of the book was it was one of those books you find as you’re coming or going from a bookstore, something handy as a quick gift for that special someone. The layout and colors are striking, with some handwritten looking fonts and monochromatic prints of dogs with large ears within the text. The lead in paragraph or two are all done in capital letters, I suppose it works.
It was after I made it through chapter 4, Equipping the Itty Bitty Kitchen (IBK), that Justin knew what he was talking about. He’s apparently spent a lot of time in IBK’s, such as on boats and teeny apartments. I figured I had a small kitchen, about 1 to 2 steps from anything, nope. Justin is talking about a small board for a counter and 1 burner stove of some kind. Now that is small.
Even so, his guidance is solid and he gives you the points of interest that you need. Such as how to measure the height between your new kitchen shelving so your ingredients and supplies all fit nicely. Actually, one of my favorite section is about lighting. Most people with traditional kitchens have the 1 light in the center of the ceiling and 1 over the sink. This isn’t enough, not nearly. A little bit of well placed lighting can go a long way. One of the first things I did in ours when we moved in was to remove the large flourescent fixture and replace it with an incandescent setup. Next, some inexpensive halogen lights under the cabinets, over the counters. Then I bypassed the over-the-sink light with a little track lighting, very directional. Finally I got a few clamp-on flood lights and affixed them to the chrome, commerical shelving and pointed them at the ceiling. Why? Soft diffused lighting bathes the kitchen, that’s why. I can light up the kitchen entirely and never turn the main light on! It’s nice.
Another point in which I’m please about is my use of 2 paper towel holders. While this may seem a bit much in such a small kitchen, it’s so darned nice to be using the stove and just reach over for a towel. Or if you’re turned the other way, using the sink, you can just reach up and get a towel. I’m very proud of that, it’s my nature.
Eeek, where was I? Oh yeah, once you have your kitchen cleaned, set up and well stocked, it’s time to get cooking. Justin offers up 100 recipies to get you started. I read through many of them, checking ingredients and procdures and times. While I can’t agree for his choice in temperatures and times for pot roast, these are good recipes. He uses real ingredients, no cans of this and jars of that. He’s not afraid of eggs or butter or meat. He even uses shallots and heavy cream, how nice.
He relies heavily on the toaster oven, so get used to that. I figure he’s really talking about these IB Kitchens, not my small kitchen. I figure if I have a standard kitchen gas or electric range, I’m going to use it. Even so, this isn’t a deal breaker. I do have a decent toaster oven and it’s in daily use, just not for pot roast.
To sum it all up, Justin’s hard work shows in his writing. He kept good notes and laid it down nice. I also believe his techniques and thoughts could be applied to nearly any sized kitchen. So, if you have someone that is willing to read, improve their quality of living and has a kitchen, this book will be well received. And thank you to Doubleday for the fun read. Happy reading!

7 thoughts on “The Itty Bitty Kitchen Handbook by Justin Spring – A book review

  1. Um, Doc?
    For someone who doesn’t read, you do a darned good book report. 😉
    Lighting in kitchens–oh, yes. It is ever so necessary. When we redid the kitchen, both Zak and I agreed heartily that we wanted a metric buttload of light in that space.
    We’ve got under-counter halogens, halogens in the hood, and about a zillion can lights in the ceiling.
    Light, light, light, everywhere you look, light.
    It is awesome.
    Light instantly makes a small space look bigger, and it cheers you up. It really does. Dark rooms are depressing.
    Okay, I will quit going on about it, but I wanted you to know, I was so with you on putting a thousand lights in a kitchen.

  2. Hey Barbara,
    YES, it’s all about lighting. Not too long ago I was attempting to work out a ceiling suspended photographic light box or two. You know, up and out of the way, kinda smallish, yet intense enough to bathe my food in glory.
    And then I woke up.

  3. Hey, I’m about to yank the massive GM corporate office flourescent lamp from my kitchen ceiling, too. Was thinking of replacing it with something kinda big, but now you’ve got me thinkin’ otherwise with all your other lighting get-up. Dem’s some good ideas. My kitchen ain’t huge, either, but it’s old with a 10-foot ceiling, with one wall that’s brick, so it soaks up a lotta light. Hmmmmm…

  4. Hey Lewis,
    As crazy with colors as I can get, I really enjoy keeping some fixtures period for the house. Ours was built in 1947, so I found a nice old round one that accepts 2 bulbs. Looks as though it could have been there the whole time.
    See, you could install a HUGE center lighting kiosk. But the problem is the light will all basically be coming from 1 point, usually the center. Or at least close anyways. What kind of light will you get? Well, when at any counter in your kitchen you’ll generally get a shadow directly in front of you. No good.
    So, don’t go hogwild on one fixture. Spend some time at your local hardware store or lighting store and take a look at underthecounter lighting and whatever else. Take yer time.