Monday, August 7, 2017


Welcome to Around the Kitchen Table, our monthly chinwag!  We look forward to the conversation with you today (and always).  Be sure to leave a comment today and you may win this terrific Mystery Lovers Kitchen tote bag.  Be lucky and have fun!

VICTORIA ABBOTT aka Mary Jane Maffini: My husband mentioned recently (in the kindest possible way) that when I cook, it's as though there's been an explosion in the kitchen. I would have taken great offense if a) it wasn't true some of the time and b) he didn't always volunteer to do the clean up.  He added, "It's mostly when you bake."

The evidence was clear.

I do my best to be neat, line up the ingredients in the order of use and put each one away when it's been added.  But all it takes it a few extra visiting dogs or hot and cold running relatives or (shudder) CNN blaring in the background and all is lost.  Until the clean-up crew, that is.  Except for the time there was tea on the ceiling.

For some reason, my hubby and my brother are both creative but neat cooks.  Me, not so much.

Of course, we're almost always happy with the results and the kitchen does recover whether I do it or he does.  Still, I dream of a neater future.

So what about you? Or you precise and disciplined? Or more like these exploding stars? Do you pick some dishes because they don't make a mess?  Pull up a chair and share your tips and your foibles. That's what we do around the kitchen table.

Leave  a comment and you may be the winner of TOO HOT TO HANDLE: a Fiona Silk mystery in which there's lots of chaos in the kitchen.  Be very afraid! 


From DarylMy kitchen is often a mess when I cook.  I do my best to keep it tidy but I simply can't. I stack things
The BEFORE picture!  HA!
up. I set them in the right order. And still I feel crowded. I've got the cutting board here, the mixing bowl there. I recall a lovely disaster at Thanksgiving--our first year in our new house in Los Angeles--and I wasn't comfortable with the oven and stove and the layout. It takes time to do the dance, you know?  Anyway, my stepdaughter wanted to learn to make mashed potatoes. With all 14 of the family hovering in the kitchen!!!  I got distracted. The pot of boiling milk and potatoes boiled over. What a mess! Plus I dropped a tray of stuffing on the floor. My nephew laughed his head off!  Rarely do they see me flustered, but that night - oy!


Linda here:
 I like to think of myself as being neat, tidy and well-organized. Okay, I like to think a lot of things about myself but a lot of it isn't true--sexy, svelte, super get the picture. So, this question that Victoria poses is very disturbing. I have to 'fess up and come clean, because it's a sure thing my kitchen counters won't be after a cooking session. And don't get me started on baking because that's when the flour settles like that fine coating of dust when drywall is being erected. I actually start out on the right track. I try to pre-measure or slice and dice everything possible so those dishes can be stacked out of sight in the sink or maybe even washed and dried. It's when the nitty-gritty starts and the clock is ticking that my cleaning karma disappears. I like to believe that my problem is not enough counter space but that's not going to change, so I better change me. Start with all un-essentials cleared away; stick to the allotted space; do only one thing at a time (a biggy for me to change); and, then proceed in an orderly progression through the directions. Easy, right? So what goes wrong?


From SheilaI'm just back from Ireland, where my kitchen is about the same size as the one I had in my first apartment a very long time ago. A stove (or cooker) and a shiny new stainless steel sink eat up about half the counter space, and a microwave claimed the corner. So I have to think very strategically about what needs to be chopped and ready to go into a dish, and I definitely have to clean up as I work, and put things away (in the teeny-tiny refrigerator). The stovetop has flat electric burners, so I have to be careful about putting anything down on them because you can't tell if they're still hot. And I still haven't figured out how recycling works over there. Yes, there is recycling--that's the good news--but in which categories? And I swear my handyman said something about tossing the biological (food) by-products out into the back yard for the local animals. I'm not sure whether he was kidding. I did make an effort to hang up as many cooking items as possible, but it's still a challenge.


the compost pile last night after soup-making

LUCY BURDETTE: Hmmm, I bet my hub would disagree on this, as he's usually the clean-up batter--but I try to be neat! But cooking can be a lot of work, right? Especially if you're using a food processor and a chopping board and more than one pan at a time, which is usually the case. And tasting and photographing...good heavens, that's what sous-chefs are for, isn't it MJ?


PEG COCHRAN:  I find that my mess tends to expand depending on the space available to me. In my first house, the kitchen was small and the counter space limited. But then we moved and I had a much bigger kitchen and more counter space and my mess expanded like my stomach after Thanksgiving dinner. Speaking of Thanksgiving dinner...that one meal creates more mess than anything else I cook all year. Pots, pots, pots absolutely everywhere. Every single serving dish soaking in the sink, every kitchen utensil spread around the counter. It makes me shudder just to think about it!


LESLIE BUDEWITZ: I'm definitely a clean-as-you-go cook. Fortunately, so is Mr. Right, since we often cook together in a small kitchen with one sink. No doubt my tendency toward kitchen tidiness came from my mother, a woman with a strong innate desire for order! Since I've been part of MLK, photographing recipes as I cook, I've returned to her habit of getting out all the ingredients before any chopping or mixing. And with the exception of the lovely farmhouse I lived in for 8 years, remodeling as I went along, I've always had a small kitchen. 

But I will admit one foible that leads to extra dishes: When a salad, a vegetable dish, or a casserole involves a lot of ingredients to be mixed together, I consistently fail to properly estimate the size of bowl needed. I might switch bowls, or pots, twice to get the right one. Happily, we share the dishwashing, too!

CLEO COYLE: We have a New York City kitchen (yep, tiny!) but we love to cook, so Marc and I learned the hard way to clean as we go. Not that a mountain of mess isn't possible on a busy day, it just leaves us with zero counter space and pots and pans piled high as the Empire State building. 

Coffeehouse Mystery #1
Click here to learn more.
Truth is, our situation inspired us to write a similar one for our characters in our first Coffeehouse Mystery, On What Grounds. Our amateur sleuth, Clare, also has a compact New York kitchen. When she attempts to fix a special dinner for her young adult daughter and the girl's new boyfriend, her ex-husband insists on "helping." The result is a little crazy and a little comical. But you have to have a sense of humor when you measure counter space by inches instead of feet. Happy cooking, everyone. May your servings be big and your mess be small! Love, Cleo


KRISTA DAVIS: I'm so glad that I'm not the only one. But Mary Jane, I truly can't recall anything landing on the ceiling! I have a bad habit of forgetting about rice, which means it boils over. It's not so much that I forget, but I walk away to write and my mind is elsewhere. I now keep a timer on my desk to remind me that I need to check on it.

You never know who might be in the kitchen sink!
I try to be organized but somehow everything spreads. And countless other items land on my kitchen island adding to the clutter. All the vitamins and jars of dog cookies, for instance. Right now there are seven giant yellow squashes taking up a lot of real estate on the counter.

Unless it's something that needs to be rolled out (let's not even mention huge quantities of Christmas cookies—oy!), I'm least messy when baking. I learned a long time ago to put out an old dinner plate, a large spoon and a knife. That gives me a place for the paper that wraps the butter, eggshells, and all kinds of utensils that need to be washed, and keeps me from running around the kitchen for every little thing.

One of my very favorite cakes is Dobostorte. It's seven layers and a labor of love, so I don't bake it often. But those seven layers require a lot of room!

Don't forget to leave  a comment! You may be the winner of TOO HOT TO HANDLE: a Fiona Silk mystery in which there's lots of chaos in the kitchen.  Be very afraid!  
(PS remember to leave your email address so we can contact you if you win.)


  1. I'd definitely love to win Too Hot To Handle. Thank you for this fun conversation post and for hosting the giveaway!

  2. Thank you for the chance, the book sounds so good :)
    jslbrown2009 at aol dot com

  3. I am just like Leslie Budewitz on cooking. It drives my husband crazy that I clean while I cook because he's the opposite! I think his goal is to use every utensil, pot, and pan we own!

    1. Oh, too funny, Erica! I think a lot of women would say the same about their husbands!

  4. I try to be neat but it's impossible with my mixer. It likes to spew flour.

    1. Mine, too. I need one with a bigger bowl. Or I need to be more careful about speeds and what goes in when...

    2. My food processor likes to spread flour all around it when I turn it on. You'd think I would have learned to lean on it by now before I turn it on.

    3. They learn it in mixer and food processor school!

  5. I try to clean as I cook but when I bake I tend to be messy. I usually end up wearing some of the flour. The end result is good eating so it's all good.
    My husband on the other hand is a messy cook lol. Thanks for the giveaway and fun discussion.

  6. I'm a clean up as I go person, mostly because I tend to need to reuse implements. My DSU tends to be the dishwasher once I'm done (truly a blessing) but not while I'm in the midst of things. Also, if one makes rice in a double boiler, it can't boil over.
    Just saying . . .

    1. I started making rice in my microwave years ago. Yes, it usually overflows (I put a paper towel under it now), but I've never had it burn.

  7. It was fun reading all your cooking adventures, lol. I personally didn't like cooking till daughter and I started using our silicone/glass bakeware (aka bon COOK) Makes it a game now to use interesting shapes or molds etc. I usually just pile all the prep stuff in the dishwasher and let it work then bon COOK is easy to wash by hand if needed, LOL! I would love to win anything, the bag or book whichever! barbie17(at)gmail(dot)com

  8. I would love to win! I try to have all my ingredients set out, particularly if I am baking. Then when I pop my dish in the oven, I immediately put everything back up. That helps. For Thanksgiving, I try to do as many things as possible a day or so ahead, so all I have are serving dishes.

  9. I constantly moan about the fact that my kitchen is too small. I think a bigger kitchen would help me to be more organized but I am probably kidding myself. I TRY to clean as I go, but it just doesn't happen! Email:

  10. My kitchen is a mess when I cook. Part of the problem is the recipe always seems to be on another counter and the bowl and ingredients in two other places.I have a large kitchen, but the more space I have the more space I need.

    1. I believe that things move around during cooking adventures. Especially recipes.

  11. Leslie, my grandmother wasn't much of a cook (her last kitchen had literally been a closet before she remodeled--it had a two burner stove and a sink that was about a foot square. But if she was in my mother's or my kitchen, she'd almost snatch used cookware or plates from our hands to wash them immediately. I did not inherit that gene.

    1. Me, neither! One year at Thanksgiving, my SIL had the "extra" mashed potatoes packed up and ready for those who wanted leftovers before I'd dished up any "firsts"! I always think a meal should take as long to eat as it does to cook, unless a turkey is involved!

  12. I tend to be a bit messy in the kitchen most times, but lately I've been trying to clean up as I work. Thanks for the chance to win! mcastor07(at)gmail(dot)com.

  13. I don't have a lot of counter space so I have to be organized when I cook. I usually do all the prep like chopping first. That way I can clean up from that before I cook the actual dish.

    1. A great trick. Mr. Right and I tend to be the sous chef for each other. If it's his dish, I fetch, chop, and clean, and vice versa. Of course, some dishes require two choppers!

    2. My husband and I can't work in a kitchen together--he gets too distracted. Me, I've found a kind of zen pleasure in chopping things. Anyway, he's messier than I am.