Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Sally In My Galley

The first kitchen I ever knew about was in our apartment and it was a galley kitchen, named of course after the little narrow kitchen on a ship. They were typical of apartments back then, still are. The building was new in 1960-61 and except for the refrigerator (which has been replaced a couple of times), it has remained exactly the same.

It was about halfway between Alice Kramden's kitchen and Lucy Ricardo's. Alice as you will recall had a corner of the main room in the Bensonhurst apartment on "The Honeymooners." She had an icebox with a drip pan, a little sink and a stove.

Lucy on the other hand had a sort of suburban, spacious place with lots of room and even a back door. She didn't have a dishwasher or a freezer (unless you count the huge one she and Ethel set up in the basement once that she got locked in) but it was pretty nice.

Ours was in the middle of the Alice-Lucy spectrum, I suppose. Functional but not much more than that.

It was essentially a hallway between the back of the apartment and the L-shaped living-dining room, with fridge, tiny counter and sink on one side facing gas burner-over-cabinets and tiny wall-oven on the other. There was a white metal dispenser for wax paper, plastic wrap and paper towels located over the gas burners, which was inconvenient. The oven was tiny and dark and shaped like a railway tunnel about as wide as a coffee table book and only a little taller than that.. It really was small. There was a broiler underneath with a separate door.

The gas burners were temperamental and sometimes you had to hold a match to them. There were two drawers and two cabinets directly underneath the burners. The oven was powered by gas too, and that was really scary to try and relight.

There was a tiny dishwasher under the countertop but my mother used it exactly one time. There is photographic evidence otherwise I would have said quite confidently that she had never opened the thing. I think she felt that the dishes did not get really clean unless you had at them with a sponge and dish soap.

The tiny countertop between the fridge and the single-bowl, white porcelain sink, was gold-speckled white melamine, and when the finish wore off sometimes during the 1970s, it became a handy notepad for my mother. You could erase pencil from it quite easily so she always jotted things down right on the countertop. It wasn't really big enough for much else. You could put the plastic dishrack out on it at dish-washing time (that lived under the sink usually) or a bowl, but that was it. You were not going to be making a five-course dinner in this kitchen, unless it came from the local Chinese takeout.

Even then you would have to unpack on the dining room table. Not enough room back there in the galley.

A lady named Carolyn Coggins wrote a book about Successful Entertaining At Home in 1952 and apparently she had even less room than we did. She writes of her kitchen set-up that:

A pullman kitchen measuring exactly six by two and a half feet is tucked away in one wall; it can also be tucked out of sight by lowering Venetian blinds. When these are down, the kitchen looks exactly like one of the windows. For those of you who may not know what a pullman kitchen is, it is a metal unit containing a small stove, a tiny refrigerator, with a sink and shelves above them for storage.

She goes on to describe how she manages to throw cocktail parties, which sound rather nice. Only my mother was not the cocktail-party-throwing type. We had relatives over once in a while, and we had takeout from the local deli when we did. One time we had takeout oyster stew, which I thought was the most delicious thing I had ever had. And she always made icebox cake, which is the perfect dessert for those with limited kitchen space and/or limited kitchen patience. Here it is:

Chocolate Icebox Cake

1-2 boxes of Christie's plain chocolate wafer cookies
some whipping cream or Cool Whip if you are really short on space/patience
some vanilla and icing sugar, if using the whipping cream

Whip cream and add a little icing sugar and vanilla to taste. A pint and a half is about right for 2 boxes but I usually have Cool Whip on hand to extend the cream if necessary - even people who hate Cool Whip will never know (trust me, I know - and it stabilizes the cream too).

Start making stacks of 5-6 wafers sandwiched with cream. When you have a bunch of them put them on a rectangular plate (a relish tray sort of thing is good, but anything with shallow sides will do) in two adjacent rows that are touching each other. Ice with remaining cream/Cool Whip. If you feel like you can stick raspberries in or on top but I like it plain. Stick it in the fridge for at least a few hours, 6-8 is best. Overnight is OK as long as you don't have lots of oniony things in there too.

Slice it on the diagonal. The wafers are cakey and it is so delicious, everyone will be very happy. And so will you, because you didn't spend too much time on it!

Image is from the NYPL Digital Gallery of a tenement kitchen circa 1910. No cocktail parties emanating from there, I reckon.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I loved that chocolate cake thing..still do