Writing The Tiny Mess got us all thinking about the evolution of our own little kitchens. We haven’t always lived in teeny, tiny, unconventional homes, so adapting to a life of less space has most certainly been an evolution for the three of us. We have come a long way from our big, old, cluttered spaces full of useless junk to our small, cluttered spaces full of wonderfully useful junk.
Perhaps you and your living space have had a similar journey into the abyss of extreme downsizing. Perhaps it went something like this:
You started with about eight plates, a dozen mugs, pots and pans in every size, and a plethora of tools and gadgets. You thought you would really need that apple corer, egg slicer, and avocado keeper. There’d be room for them, you said. You had already gotten rid of so much stuff, you said. But then you spent that first month in your new home— navigating your way around your new microsized kitchen, organizing Tupperware like Tetris blocks, and realizing all over again, every single day, that you still have too . . . much . . . shit.
So for your next move, you gutted the kitchen and tossed everything that doesn’t fold, stack, stow, or nest. You knocked out some built-ins or ripped out a wall and added some extra countertop. You reanalyzed your inventory and decided to keep only two of everything you eat on or with. Nothing more. You decided you’ll be making cowboy coffee from now on. No need for that electric coffeemaker, pointless! Cowboy coffee it is.
Finally, you have space. Real room to breathe. Unfortunately, your kitchen now looks like the inside of a camping store. You want to have friends over, but they’d have to eat with sporks, so you get a couple more plate settings, ditch the enamel mugs that burn your lips, and buy a pour-over coffeemaker because good coffee is something you are unwilling to sacrifice. You acquire a cast-iron skillet because it does nearly everything you could ever ask a pan to do, and like a well-seasoned pair of old Levi’s, it doesn’t really need washing. That sleek multitool utility knife contraption goes back into your camping kit and instead you find yourself one decent, sharp knife that cuts anything. You part with the color-coded cutting boards and replace them with a lone burly wood board, one that will get funkier and funkier with each meal and fits perfectly over your sink.
Substance over style. Function as a part of form. Simpler. Slower. You are getting the hang of it now.
Perhaps the hardest thing of all during this process is learning how to accept various gifts from well-meaning parents, family, and friends. You know—those completely incompetent small versions of normal tools or some gimmicky ceramic measuring cups that don’t even say the damn measurements on them. The people in your life are so excited for you and want to support you, so in the end, you wind up with a special place somewhere in your tiny home for all these mostly pointless gifts because you love the folks who gifted them to you. Sound familiar?
Well, that’s because we have been there, too. The three of us have all gone mad with the work of trying to live smaller so that we can lead bigger, more enriching lives. We’ve plotted and planned, reworked, reconfigured, and redone things a thousand times in our pursuit of a better kitchen, easier cooking, and tastier food. It hasn’t been easy, but it has made us wildly more efficient, creative cooks who continue to grow with every obstacle.
Our pantries are filled with food, not appliances. Our cupboards are full of spices and sketchy condiments that most everyone else refrigerates. Our fridges might technically be coolers, but they are packed exclusively with perishables because that’s all we have room for. Our counters are stained with stories of meals gone by and roads long since traveled.
And you know what? These are good things. These are things that we are proud of. These are things we continue to work on every day. What we lack in physical space we can gain in peace of mind. At some point, the passing on of unwanted or unneeded goods becomes almost spiritual in feeling. The evolution is endless, as the effort becomes part of the fun. The challenges become part of your charm.
Make no mistake, this book is gritty, grimy, and grubby. It is the real deal from the front lines of the tiny home realization. Other than a few minimally styled food photos, T he T iny Mess is a raw account of all the blissful and chaotic cooking currently going on in small kitchens everywhere. Inside you will find stained linens, dirty dishes, works-in-progress, and cheap beer, but with them come soulful meals, tender moments, and deeply nourishing traditions. Sure, elbow room may be hard to come by, but tasty and healthy food most definitely is not.
This book is as much about food as it is about kitchens, and it is as much about kitchens as it is about people. It is those people, their homes, and their favorite recipes that you will meet in the pages ahead. They are but the tiniest selection of all the resourceful and talented cooks out there doing big and delicious things with humble means.
Copyright © 2019 by Maddie Gordon, Mary Gonzalez, and Trevor Gordon. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.