Link to Profile Semperoper, Dresden Sieg (auf dem Siegesäule), Berlin Brandenburg Tor, Berlin Skyline, Frankfurt am Main

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Happiness is a Warm Oven

"I'm warming to the thought of a new oven," said the Partnerin this morning as we were baking rolls. I tried to ignore the obvious pun, which she blithely tossed out there without realizing it, a hazard of living life in a second or third language, but I couldn't let it pass without congratulating her on her brilliance, which drew a puzzled look since the pun was indeed unintended, as perhaps the best of them are.

We spent a few hours at Ikea yesterday looking at big sinks. We have decided to downsize our living requirements and move back into the big city, which does very little for my commute but at least puts me closer to city life, which she knows I crave, and which is why I keep making motions towards a new life in London or New York.

Yes, a new apartment in the city means a new kitchen. This time around I don't want any compromises. First of all, I finally have a big Ami-Fridge, a feat that took three years but was finally accomplished the summer before last. Even the Partnerin has been amazed at how much simpler life has become now that we have a real fridge. There is a huge difference between simply existing and living, and so it is with europeans and refrigerators ... most of them exist with the kinds of dorm-room boxes that Amis grow out of when they leave college.

But the next feat to pull off is a big sink. The Partnerin drives me crazy by stacking everying into the sink and thereby making it very difficult to actually clean and clear the kitchen without a great deal of hassle. I can't "train" her to resist the impulse to move it all from the stove or counter to the sink (she feels like she needs to do something to help the cleanup process), and she refuses to be banned from the kitchen during cleanup ... she has been doing the cooking, so cleanup is on me, just to make it clear that I am not a saint or a martyr ... so the next solution is to have a huge sink ... either one giant basin in which you can stack dishes and still have room to maneuver, or one of those two-basin models. In either case, twice the capacity that most europeans are accustomed to. I have not seen big sinks at the local Baumarkets, but I have seen them at Ikea.

So off to Ikea we go. And we pick up the Ikea kitchen catalog, which they now seem to be giving away at the door. It used to be that if you wanted an Ikea catalog, kitchen or otherwise, you had to ask for one. I think they even had the gall to try to charge you for it if you wanted one at the store. Then a summer or so ago you could borrow a catalog at the door with the proviso that you had to leave it behind when you left. Yesterday you could simply pick one up and take it with you, just like in America. And now, at least in Hessen, Ikea is open to 10 pm, so you can shop in relative calm ... Gee, there is hope for Germany.

And for the first time in a decade we have walked out of an Ikea without having spent a cent, not even on the swedish cookies. But we have walked out with a catalog, which is dangerous because we can now plan how to drop a lot more money into some Swede's pocket. Impulse shopping is good for making them rich a few cents at a time, but planned shopping for big ticket items fits the bill equally well.

Ikea has made planning a kitchen fairly easy, with brochures that include grid layouts and paper cutouts to scale of cabinets and appliances. They even give out little cd's with recipes and what I think is a kitchen planner softward, although I am hesitant to load it for fear that my laptop will become an Ikea zombie.

While designing the new layout I siezed upon the opportunity to correct another issue I have been having, which is the lack of oven space. This one is harder to rectify ... Ikea has one giant oven as part of a professional cookset for a thousand euros or so. The price doesn't scare me, but the lack of a gas hookup does stop me from going in that direction. If I had a gas range and oven, I would probably do more of the dinner cooking, which would mean that cleaning is on the partnerin, thereby saving the need for a big sink ;) No luck there.

Oh, and the Partnerin, now lying beside me and hearing me go on like this says that that is nothing more than a canard, a cheap excuse, and that I have become too lazy to cook, full stop. To my own defense, I still bake bread once or twice a week ... mostly twice or three times, she says. So my efforts do go noticed after all.

So the next solution, if I wish to be able to cook turkey and baked sweet potatoes and stuffing at the same time will probably be to have two ovens. Even for me that seems extreme. But then again, we saw a US-produced home improvement show yesterday where the family had not two, but four ovens. I've been out of the US for some time, but I find it hard to believe that four ovens in the same family kitchen is what people are aspiring to these days. Perhaps I've been existing in Europe too long and need to reconsider going back to the US, where I can "live" ....

"Oh, God, how dramatic," chimes in the Partnerin. This time she has a point.


Anonymous Maribeth said...

I did find he fridge situation difficult when I lived in Berlin. But then, I was there such a short time.

12:56 AM, January 29, 2007  
Blogger PapaScott said...

An advantage of being a home owner is that we can keep an extra fridge in the basement. In fact, we have two extra refrigerators, plus the normal dorm-sized fridge in the kitchen. Life is good, except for the frequent trips down the stairs.

(My apologies if this gets posted twice. Damn Blogger!)

7:47 AM, January 29, 2007  
Blogger Scott said...

Welcome back! Maybe there's something wrong with my RSS feeds, but I haven't seen a post from you in ages.

As I read this, the words from one of the songs on one of my daughter's CDs came to mind:

"We're all different, but we're all the same..."

Lilliputian kitchen...check.
Piling dirty dishes in sink...check.
Single-handedly supporting Ikea...check.

As far as multiple appliances go, I hear the latest fad among the well-to-do is to have two dishwashers: one for (currently) dirty dishes and one for (currently) clean dishes. That way, you don't need to empty the dishwasher of clean dishes before loading dirty dishes -- just switch back and forth. Solves the "small sink" problem, too.

Regarding Ikea's "better" hours, we noticed at Christmas time that the Ikea in Erfurt was not only open much later, but also on Sundays(!). We actually considered (for about 30 seconds) making the 4-hour round trip when we were bored one Sunday (then, we remembered that it costs about $100 to fill our car's gas tank). My (German) wife thinks it's because Erfurt is in a state that doesn't have the ancient labor laws that the western German states have. After having lived in the US for a decade or so, the customer-unfriendly business environment here has been the toughest thing for her to (re)adjust to (well, that and the seemingly irrational dislike of "Malls").

9:53 AM, January 29, 2007  
Blogger Maria said...

My house in the US has double ovens... and I am about to die without them! I could bake cookies in half the time-- or better yet, make cookies and dinner at the same time! :)

5:08 PM, January 29, 2007  
Blogger Mike B said...

Maribeth: Yes, it gets old after a few months.

Papascott: I wanted to build a house, but I have one foot in London so I'm feeling kind of transitory. Maybe next go round.

Scott: Separated at birth? Hmmm. You know, when you factor in time, gas, your own labor, etc., I'm not sure there are really any savings to Ikea. Seems they have us all fooled.

Oddly enough, my condo in New York had a double oven ... I went along with the euro-minimalist kitchen thing for a couple of years, but my American decadence has been surfacing. I dared to boil an egg in a pot full of water, much to the horror of the Partnerin's mother. A double oven might kill her.

11:19 PM, January 29, 2007  
Blogger christina said...

Great willpower on the cookies! As you know, we already have the supersize fridge, which makes a double oven impossible since there'd be no place to put it in our small kitchen. We eyed the IKEA kitchens some time ago but I didn't find anything I really liked so we went elsewhere and will hopefully be sastisfied. Only 9 more days!

2:04 PM, January 31, 2007  

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