Kitchen Design – It’s the Little Things

By Steven V. Philips –

Plates. Think about decorated china dinnerware patterns. The ones that look as though the food is already on the plate? Low calorie diet all right. But way too fussy for me.

Bone china, the finest plateware to serve on and eat from, isn’t just a random term. It actually refers to the bone(s) in its composition. Bone china evolved in Europe in the 1750s in a porcelain factory, close to London’s slaughterhouses. Presto, a source of bones. By experimenting with blending bone-ash into a porcelain formula, English bone china came close to replicating the quality and look of prized Chinese porcelain.

About 40 years later, Josiah Spode advanced the formula by calcinating all of the ingredients that make up bone china rather than calcining only the bones. (Calcining. Go ahead. Look this one up. It means heating to about 1200-degrees centigrade. Not to be done in your microwave.) Today bone china is roughly the same formula of about 50% bone and 25% stone and 25% clay. And cattle bone is still preferred for its lower iron content. Got Moo, anyone?

Actually the “Got Moo” color is the only color dinnerware to own, I say so and I’m backed up by nearly all professional chefs in the world. Yes, white plates. Only white plates. Round or square, up to you. Just think. Here you’ve spent time and talent making this great meal. The flavors, the aroma, the texture and the garnish. Perfecto. Now you want to present your masterpiece on a blank canvas, the pristine white plate. Artists don’t paint on a patterned canvas. You’re an artist of the kitchen. Use white plates.

Good Kitchen Design Elements. I once lived in a house with the wall switches at 32 inches off the floor. Not at 42 inches, the standard. They fell at about your hand level. Easy. And the wall outlets were 8 inches off the floor and horizontal, so power cords’ lovely spaghetti patterns were minimized. No law says they can’t be. Just rise above your tradition-bound electrician. Why does the garbage disposal switch end up two cabinets away? And on your left since you’re right handed? Or behind the blender? Speak up in the design process when you are renovating or building. Things that you use everyday should be conveniently placed. It’s a luxury every cook should experience.

What not to put in a disposal. To make your plumber’s heart go pitta-pat in anticipation of a $ervice call, dump coffee grounds and/or egg shells in. Artichoke leaves and celery will mess things up admirably. And animal parts too, as the fats will stick to the sides and gum up the works. (Especially chicken skins!) My plumber prefers that you do one, or preferably all, of these things on a weekend as those are double-labor rate days.

To avoid seeing Ron on a regular basis, use cold water for the grinding process and for the 30 seconds after the grim crunching stops. Once a month, pour in a load of ice cubes to keep the blades sharper. Also monthly, a mix of baking soda and water, or squiggle in a combo of dish detergent and really hot water to keep the disposals’ walls clean and fragrant. Or don’t. Plumber Ron is on call 24/7. Just fish all of the dirty dishes out of sink before he gets there.

V-design for the fridge. The Philco “V” refrigerator was the first (and only) refrigerator with a door that can open to either side depending on which way the giant chrome V handle is pulled. The “Vee” was designed by the same designer who in 1939 first used white on a Maytag washer rather than speckled gray/green. The “Vee” was Philco’s most expensive 1953 model, but many saw it as a weird novelty. In 18 months the model was gone. (Now they fetch $1,200 from collectors, the price of a 1953 Ford!)

Design “V” returns?  What with the kitchen becoming a gathering place and the traditional “triangle between the refrigerator/sink/range” getting longer, and not so rigid any more, wonder if someone might want to revisit Philco 1953? Royalty checks to the SVP Fund.

Design energy And while talking about newer features, bottom freezers do make a lot of energy sense. Cold air sinks, so every time you open your side-by-side refrigerator/freezer, all the frozen air falls out. This chills the sleeping dog. So if you take forever to make up your mind as to whether dinner is frozen peas, goose pate or to make a dinner reservation, a bottom drawer is the way to go to save energy. Ditto for door water/ice dispensers that also save energy.

Knives & Forks. When replacing your flatware, try it out first. Maybe just buy one setting. At least hand test it for weight, balance and how it feels in your hand. The current flatware in our house is “handle heavy” so the utensils tend to fall out of the plate. In general, flatware today is bigger and heavier than a decade ago. If you want to see how much bigger, get out a sterling fork from your grandmother’s silver chest and compare it with one today. Are our hands that much bigger today to need such a fork? The “hotel” silver look is prized today and places such as Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma are in the vanguard of the trend. Which is the best stainless flatware? Chrome and nickel are added to iron to earn the name stainless. Not exactly accurate is that word but your man-servant won’t have to polish it. The metals numbered #301, 302, 304 (the old 18/8), resist bending a little better. The #316 (old 18/10) stainless steel, has a bit higher chrome and nickel percentage added, plus 2-3% molybdenum, which increases the resistance to pitting and corrosion. I say go with #316 unless you pry jar caps off with your spoons like someone I know. (And nothing will save the utensils dumped into your disposal. Nothing. Call Ron. Again.)

Now I’ve shared my domestic kitchens concerns, I’ll have a Happy New Year and I hope all you cooks and eaters will too. In spite of what my mother-in-law will tell you I do not get kickbacks from Ron the plumber.

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8 thoughts on “Kitchen Design – It’s the Little Things”

  1. Great tips! Those designs on the plate are just a little garnish 🙂 good disposal tips too, I never really knew what can and can’t go in there…I do know a good plumber Ron though just in case.

  2. I totally agree that white plates are the only way to go. They are so much more versatile. Your advice on flatware could not have come at a better time. I always learn so much from your articles.

  3. Totally agree with the white plates. I looked for a year to find square plates that would fit in my Fisher & Paykel dish washer. Not an easy task. Pottery Barn came through!
    Plumber told us to only use disposal for little crumbs. Again great advice to save on those plumber service calls. I also use lemon juice to help with those nasty food smells.

  4. Classic white…yes, Mr. Philips even Correlle is going this way so there is no excuse for everyone not to have a basic set of white dishes. I also learned about the bone china I own no wonder it is durable unike the heavy clunky stoneware tha todays young one prefer. Also enjoyed his on the mark insight on flatware…I still own and love a set of flatware that I purchased a thousand years ago in Jordan Marsh ( Boston dept store that was bought out by Macy’s)…maybe that is why my classic white dansk has lasted…the flatware doesn’t “clunk” on it.
    Thanks again for a great interesting article written with expertise, flair, and great design.

  5. My mother always advised me to imagine a fried egg on a plate. If combined with the plate’s color or pattern it would make you gag, then don’t buy the plate. That said, I still use her Royal Worcester china with the deep red and gold border. A very elegant heirloom and perfect for the Thanksgiving meal with the matching cranberry sauce.

  6. I’m beginning to agree that classic white is the way to go. You can mix and match everything with the white dinnerware depending on your theme when entertaining. Lots of choices. Luckily plumber Ron is available to me and for a discount! Great article

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