The temporary kitchen

by Brianne

Salad, steak, potatoes

A throw-together salad for moving day

We’re in the midst of moving right now, caught in “stuff” purgatory.

The movers came earlier this month, blew in with rolls of corrugated, laminated cardboard and heavy-duty packing-tape contraptions. They wrapped and boxed and piled and disassembled. They erected a lift, a sort of open-air amusement park ride, on the sidewalk in front of our apartment, and our furniture rode slowly in shifts down to the moving van.

I watched, helpless. It is nearly time to go, and our things need a two-month head-start to voyage across the ocean.

And so, there went my kitchen. My beloved pots, my Dutch oven, my good knives, my baking gear. Bye, spatulas! Tschüss, pepper grinder! See you later, pasta maker!

(The fridge, stove, and oven stayed put – thankfully. In Germany, appliances and even cabinets typically accompany a resident from apartment to apartment. The entire kitchen is considered part of your furniture. But we have an unusual American-style built-in kitchen, ready for the next expat.)

Now we’re down to loaner furniture until move-out day.

And a little loaner “kitchen kit” that’s been a god-send.

We’ve got four dinner plates, four glasses, four bowls, utensils, a cutting board, three pots with lids, a can opener, a vegetable peeler, and – my favorite; I nearly gasped when I saw it in the big black locker – a Pyrex casserole dish. A magic wand in the kitchen. You can do nearly anything with a big, rectangular glass dish. Brownies. Roasted chicken. Baked potatoes. Lasagne.

The apartment feels sparse now. Vast white walls. Blank corners that stare back at me, unblinking. Expanses of open floor dotted with loaner furniture.

We joke that we live in a dorm room. It’s college for the third time.

Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised, but the void is oddly pleasant. The freedom of life with less things. The illusion of starting over.

It feels almost like camping. We’ve been creating make-shift, disposable substitutes to replace useful items that have left us. Glass jars salvaged from our recycling bin became toothbrush holders. A liter plastic water bottle cut in half turned into a vase. A plastic lid is now a soap dish.

It feels more like an adventure than deprivation.

Last night, we made dinner in our new minimalist apartment. I roasted potatoes in the Pyrex dish and created a hodge-podge bean salad out of our cabinet leftovers. My quest now is to get through all our pantry staples before we leave. Today’s victory was finishing a soy sauce bottle, a balsamic vinegar bottle, and a jar of cocktail onions:

The Residents 3, The Pantry 40.

The bean salad came out better than I expected, so I’ll share it here. I liked the bitter notes of the arugula against the savory beans, the acidic, sweet onions, and the creamy feta.

It’s barely a recipe, and completely subject to whatever is in your pantry.

I wanted to use diced red onions, for instance, but we had none. The jar of cocktail onions was begging to be used up, and they ended up adding a lovely sweetness to the salad. I wouldn’t buy pricey cocktail onions just for a salad, though. I’d be inclined to omit them or sub caramelized onions, diced red onion, spring onions, etc.

Do you have a throw-together salad you love?

Salad close-up

Bitter, bright, acidic, creamy – this arugula-bean-feta salad hits all the notes.

Bean, Feta, Arugula Salad

  • A 15-ounce can of pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2-ounces feta, crumbled, or to taste
  • Handful of arugula
  • One yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup cocktail onions
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Olive oil

In a bowl, toss the beans with crumbled feta, diced bell pepper, onions, arugula.

Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, to taste.