To be honest, I really wanted to write this post just so that people could complain, "Fer chrissakes, Bats, you've blogged about everything but the kitchen si... oh fuck you!" The again, looking at my archives, it appears that I already have. Ah well.
I recently had the landlord replace the crappy kitchen faucet: it leaked at the tap, both hot and cold, even after replacing the washers; the valve stem packing was shot (i.e., water weeped out from the handles whenever it was on); the entire assembly wobbled freely due to nuts that had corroded off; and it leaked water into the cabinet. I asked him to replace it with a basic single-handle design, and that's what I got. I don't understand why anyone would want a two handle unit--slapping open the faucet with back of your hand when your fingers are covered with chicken goop or other unpleasantness is the way to go.
I realized that the sink setup is as good as it will get in a rental apartment like this, so I wanted to take the opportunity to geek out about kitchen design. The "wet zone" that I refer to comes from Kitchens for Cooks (Deborah Krasner)
. Instead of talking about the "work triangle" (fridge/sink/stove), more current kitchen designers think of sections that are wet/dry/hot/or cold work stations.
I have talked about my overall kitchen design philosophy in the past--the "power area" kitchen work station
, with everything within arm's reach--i.e., comparable to a cockpit or air trafffic control workstation. As a result, I wince when I see kitchens with purely decorative/non-functional elements that inhibit efficiency, smack dab in the main work space. To continue the analogy I used above, "...yes, that's a very nice jar of colored pasta on display, but I CAN'T SEE MY GODDAMN ALTIMETER!
. Alternately, you can call me a "counter space fascist." I believe that there is a lot of ergonomic/functional similarity between a kitchen and a woodworking shop--it's just that the medium is different.
But back to the wet zone. I installed a drain rack above the sink on a whim--it was something being tossed in the trash. It has turned out to be a big help for organization: I can store washing implements that will drain into the sink, as shown. Also, it is useful if I'm scrubbing potatoes or other vegetables--it gives me a place to stage them out of. If I was doing it again in a fancy kitchen, I might see if I could find stainless steel perforated stock
It reminds me a bit of the drainrack shown in that book I mentioned: it is a vertically oriented dish drainage/storage rack that drains into the sink. Seems like a pretty slick space-saving design, as long as cleaning out the collected crud is not too painful.
I'm very happy with the replacement strainer basket that I bought at an Asian food store--I asked, "why the heck haven't I used these before?!" Specifically, normal sink strainer baskets do two jobs badly (strain out solids, and block the sink for filling). I have found that they often slip out of place and unintentionally block off the sink at the worst times possible. Instead, I leave this strainer basket in place (which fits cleanly over the opening), and periodically knock out the collected bits into the compost bin.
You might ask, "well, how about a disposal instead?" Well, the more I understand garbage disposals, the less I favor them. For instance, there was a great story on Marketplace, on how Thanksgiving is the single most busy day for plumbers
, due to disposal abuse. As a plumber describes it:People think the garbage disposals are wood chippers and they overfeed 'em. Drains clog. You wind up cutting out sections of drains just to get through to what has gone wrong. ... In short, think of how you feel after the typical Thanksgiving dinner. Now think of your plumbing trying to digest 10 times as much turkey, bones included, potato peels, stuffing .... And what's really nice is the mix of smells and colors and tastes as you're pulling it out. So, you can get, oh, I don't know, Ajax mixed with turkey and then a little bit of Drano to stir that up. Then some pumpkin pie mashed in.
Also, I know I had this discussion on one blog or LJ, but there was the debate on which is less environmentally damaging: putting food scraps in the trash (and then landfilling them), or putting them down the garbage disposal (in both cases, best solution is composting for vegetable scraps; see tales of my compost bin
). Based on what I researched, landfilling is the less damaging option
--putting solids down the drain add tremendously to the sewage treatment loading and boosts the nitrogen content of the effluent. This has been verified by a colleague who did his undergrad Civil degree concentrating on water resources.
Note that I have lived in places with garbage disposals and even installed them; I think my worst offense was back at Pemberton Street, when I took the remains from making stock (chicken bones/carcass, mushified vegetables), and funneled it all down the InSinkerator. So I think I will probably minimize their use from now on--I'll have one, but no more 'dump the pot and hit the switch.'
To wrap up, here's the ideal "wet zone" design in my future kitchen. I would try to set up two sinks: one small one near the "power area" station, for hand washing, food prep, pot filling, and cleanup near that space; and one larger one further away for dish and pot washing. The pot wash sink should be a large single bowl--I don't know anyone who fills one sink for soap and the other for rinse in this day and age: two smaller basins are a lot less useful than a single larger one. This pot wash sink should be large enough to hold my largest pans lying flat, and have fairly large "landing"/staging and drainboard areas. I am also a huge fan of integrated drainboards
I love undermount sinks (no lip on the countertop; you can just sweep drips and crap down into the sink)--see this site on sink mounting options
. Of course, that mounting system requires a compatible counter material, such as stainless steel, stone (including FireSlate
), solid surface (i.e., Corian or similar) or concrete.
As for the "supply" end of things, a single handle, single hole faucet
is the cleanest and most effective, in my opinion. I can't decide on whether or not I like built-in sprayers--I've found them useful, but I've also dealt with some that were utterly anemic. Also, I like built-in soap dispensers: they are relatively trendy, but I am a huge fan of de-crapifying the counter area as much as possible--fewer things to wipe up around. Probably also a filtered water tap. I'd consider installing a commercial kitchen pre-rinse sprayer
, like in the tEp downstairs kitchen, at the dish/pot sink. The price is a lot more competitive if you're just buying it from a plumbing supply store and installing it yourself. Perhaps cobbling together a wall-mounted single-handle shower valve with a hose and sprayer/valve assembly
and a a wall hook connection