fishnetWhen one arrives at their summer rental home, the sandy carpets, wood paneling and fishnet curtains can be largely ignored. You’re there for the beach, not for the house.

But when a foodie arrives in their temporary accommodations, the heart sinks upon discovering a less-than-accommodating kitchen.

Preparing for our annual excursion to the Jersey shore, I packed the extra virgin olive oil, garlic, ginger and jars of spices. I collected basil, chives, parsley, cilantro and mint from my garden. Yet I didn’t bring my trusted chopping knife, so I’m forced to mince and julienne with a butter knife. What I wouldn’t give for a serrated edge.

The hutch stores silverware for 50 people and wine glasses for 75, but not a single can opener that works. I must remind myself to buy dried beans next year.

Paper-thin pans burn their sizzling contents even on the lowest heat, so I’ve adapted a cooking method of removing them from the stove every few seconds. On, off. On, off. The scrambled eggs cannot brown, or else the kids will deem them “dirty.”

The first few days were filled with frustration. I cursed the dull peelers, all seven of them. I laughed at the bevy of bottle openers. If two dozen people wanted to open their Coronas in unison, no problem. There’s an entire shelf of serving platters, but not a single baking dish.

But now I’ve settled into the groove of my poorly stocked summer kitchen. Forced into a culinary simplicity, I plan our meals accordingly. Grilled chicken with roasted tomatoes. Pasta with grated cheese and torn herbs. Sole with browned butter sauce (I knew those pans were good for something). Cutting shortening into flour for biscuits works just as well with two forks as a pastry blender.

When I’m forced to do without, doing with seems complicated. For instance, my cupboard at home features the fruits of a ridiculous Nordicware Bundt pan fixation. But the shape has nothing to do with taste. Baking on an island with inferior cookware feels like a greater accomplishment than serving a cake that resembles a castle. Those pans allow me to cheat. What epicurean expertise can I claim if I own every tool of convenience?

So I’m learning to love my summer kitchen and the skills of culinary compromise it’s teaching me. Now if I could just rip that fishnet off the window, this house might be perfect.

Yes, I’m on vacation and this blog is quiet. Can you guess today is rainy? I will return to kidlit upon returning home. I hope you’re having a fun and relaxing summer!