The charm of the little 1896 row house I had been renting in San Francisco for the past 10 years went a long way in making up for its old, inefficient kitchen. The cabinets were rusty, the sink leaked, the lighting was dim. I couldn't calibrate the stove. So when I finally was able to buy the house last year, the idea of remodeling the kitchen made my heart pound. Modernizing the kitchen while staying true to the spirit of the 19th-century house became my raison d'être.
But one question plagued me: How would I feed myself during the renovation? That old kitchen, lacking as it was, produced some awfully good meals and dinner parties as well as four cookbooks. And so, with the determination of a field marshal, I set up a makeshift kitchen in my dining room. I would keep my social life alive by devising ways to cook for myself and my friends on the odd nights when I could not wangle an invitation to one of their houses.
I moved my old monolith of a refrigerator into the dining room and positioned a microwave on top. I placed an electric kettle on a work table (I planned to switch my coffee addiction to one for very good English breakfast tea). My indispensable toaster oven went alongside, as did my mortar and pestle. I set out a huge bowl of satsuma oranges for sustenance and decoration, and filled the room with orchids to distract from the mess.