A year measured in kitchen destruction

• ~900 words • 4 minute read

Previously I reflected on my travels in 2013 measured in buses. Today I measure it in kitchens. Or, perhaps more accurately, in the size of the wake of wanton kitchen destruction I unleashed on the world.

"Now I am become George, the destroyer of kitchens."

This may negatively affect my otherwise sterling Airbnb reviews. So be it. The truth must be known!

I lived something of a double-life last year. For all the things that went right for me on my trip — in which I traveled through 18 countries over the course of one year, working and living life as (un)usual — there is one thing that seemed to go wrong for me with remarkable consistency.

The kitchen.

Oh, where to begin. Perhaps a summary of quantities:

  • 2 broken plates
  • 1 broken bowl
  • 1 jar of strawberry preserves (shattered, full, unopened)
  • 1 cabinet hinge (later repaired by the destructor)
  • 1  side of the legs of a wobbly stove (bent when standing on said stove to repair previous hinges)
  • 1 bar of chocolate, stolen and shamefully eaten (but replaced)
  • 1 electric kettle (shorted)
  • 1 cushion on a kitchen stool (stained, with coffee)
  • 1 airborne, exploding coffee percolator
  • 1 linoleum floor tile (gouged), in same kitchen when previous percolator came in for a landing

And while I hope to write about all of the events surrounding the items on this list, a summary of my time in Argentina is probably adequate for now. In another installment I hope to write more on the practicalities of cooking and traveling for such an extended period.

Enjoy this stupid summary of a stupid thing I did in Argentina:

The day after I arrived in Argentina I was quite pleased to find better coffee-making facilities than I'd seen in my previous month in Peru. In fact, the kitchen here had a lot of things I hadn't had there. A refrigerator! An oven! Cabinets! Most excitingly to me the morning after arriving — a percolator! I'm a bigger fan of the french press, but any kind of non-instant coffee was a welcome sight after the shocking dearth of good, non-instant coffee where I'd been staying.

So I used assembled the percolator. The only problem was I seldom made coffee in percolators and left out an important piece in assembling it. The grounds managed to find their way into unintended parts of the percolator, clogging things up. A solid ten minutes passed by and I started to wonder what was taking so long. I could hear what sounded like boiling water and steam, but without any of the expected percolation.

I rounded the corner and stepped into the kitchen not two steps when the percolator exploded in a brown mist. It jumped off the burner and proceeded to do two backflips in the air, spreading grounds, water and chaos on the floor, the walls, the fridge, the cabinets and the ceiling. When it hit the ground with a heavy thud there was a noticeable dent in the linoleum, nearly an inch-long and a quarter-inch deep.

When my screaming and jumping subsided I took in the scene. Grounds were sprayed across the ceiling; dozens of clipping son the front of the refrigerator were now illegible and permanently stained; every nook and cranny of between the cabinets and the arcane water heating system it sat right next to were caked in coffee crud.

I settled on drinking some maté instead that morning while I pondered the best way to clean this mess. I decided to eat while I pondered and grabbed the metal nutcracker and the basket of walnuts. The first two nuts broke open just fine, but on the third one of the metal hinges snapped in half like a twig. At this point I was unsure whether to start looking for the kitchen cleaner or an exorcist.

Eventually, after several days scrubbing, washing, scraping, making poor decisions ((

During the days after coffee vesuvius  I'd also managed to eat all of a secret Aguila chocolate stash. Later that week I would go on a quest to find the exact same chocolates (difficult when your Spanish is passable at best and the rarity and packaging of said chocolates is an unknown quantity) and break them apart so that one grouping of four and one grouping of two were left — exactly as I'd found them.)) and thinking the cleaning was done only to find some new corner or hidden stain to clean, it looked satisfactory. Provided you didn't look at the ceiling, which was permanently stained, or wonder where all the newspaper clippings had gone (Hint: la basura).

The dent in the floor was a little more complicated. You see, I was sharing this apartment with someone, but that someone happened to not be there during this ordeal. In fact, as I would come to realize, this person wasn't an official tenant, but rather renting it from the real renter, who was constantly traveling. He himself had just returned after a full month at the coast and had entrusted the guest signing-in duties to another friend.

Essentially, so many people were coming and going in this place nobody was around often enough to say the dent hadn't always been there, or that some other guest hadn't made it before.

I never brought it up.