Essential Tools

How My Husband & I Merged Our Kitchen Styles After Moving in Together

August 13, 2018

When two people move in together, there’s a lot to consider and a lot to be excited about. There are the practical questions: How will the chores be divided? Will the cost of groceries be shared, or will everything be kept separate? Who will be responsible for paying the utility bills and will there be cable television? These are important conversations to be had, for sure, but when I first moved in with my boyfriend, now husband, Graham, I was most excited to figure out how we would merge our two kitchens.

We both loved to cook and had collected various kitchen items over the years. He had his stuff. I had mine. We carried our boxes into the newly rented apartment and set them on the kitchen floor. Neither of us was brave enough to make the first move and do something brash like claim space in the central cabinet. There was a lot of nervous grinning.

We now had two copies of some of the same kitchen tools, so the first order of business was sorting through the duplicates. Nobody needs two sets of certain things like blenders, rice cookers, toasters, and can openers. In those cases, it’s easy to just keep the better one and donate the spare. This step was fun because it felt like my own kitchen collection grew and improved. Graham had an immersion blender, a tool I’d always wanted, and I was already dreaming about the puréed butternut squash soup I was going to make.

For some tools, it seemed advantageous to hold on to multiples. Two large knives, for example, means the two of you can chop at the same time and cook together. Having more than one cutting board can also be useful because you can reserve one board for exclusively prepping ingredients like onions, garlic, and other foods that leave fragrant traces of their presence. That way you don’t end up rolling out sweet dough for cinnamon sticky buns and inadvertently seasoning them with garlic.

Both Graham and I owned 12-inch cast-iron skillets. Identical twins, except that years of unique use and care had made their surfaces slightly different. My skillet was just a tiny bit smoother, probably because I love cooking with copious amounts of butter. Despite the skillets being so darn heavy and not exactly small, we decided to keep them both, cooking in them together but always remembering which skillet belonged to whom. I knew it was illogical—we lived together, after all. Nevertheless, my skillet was still mine and Graham’s was still his.

It definitely didn’t help matters when, one night, we were having dinner with Graham’s cousin Harper and he mentioned to us that his roommate had cooked fish in his cast-iron skillet. The fishy smell lingered for months, Harper said, laughing. But I was not laughing; I was worrying about Graham fish-bombing my own cast-iron skillet that I had inherited from my dad and meticulously washed and seasoned for years. Surely, he wouldn’t do that, right?

I should mention that, at the time, Graham was on what you might call a squid kick. He had discovered how quickly squid cooks and how affordable it is, and I swear he made it for dinner at least once a week. He sautéed squid tentacles over high heat with crumbled pork sausage, he mixed sliced squid ringlets with brothy cooked beans, he stirred them into tomato sauce for pasta. I’m not sure if the squid phase ended or if cast-iron is just super resilient, but my worries turned out to be unfounded.

Life went on. Blueberry pancakes were made on lazy weekends, and thankfully they didn’t taste like the ocean. We did our best to figure out which kitchen items should stay and which should go. Mostly, though, we just cooked—together and on our own—and over time it became clear what we needed. Glasses broke accidentally, chipped plates were replaced, new mixing bowls came into our lives from a photo shoot I worked on, birthdays and holidays brought with them gifts for our kitchen.

At some point, I lost track of which skillet was Graham’s and which was mine. They became indistinguishable. It wasn’t like one day I purposely reached for his. Instead, it must have been a series of regular, everyday moments that led to this greater realization: We no longer had his and hers skillets. In the process of merging our kitchens, what we had really done was learned to trust each other and to share. So, if you are about to merge your kitchen with someone else’s, don’t worry too much, it will happen naturally—all you have to do is cook.

A Pancake for Your Cast Iron

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Maria Zizka is a cookbook writer and recipe developer who has collaborated with leading chefs, including Elisabeth Prueitt, Jessica Koslow, and Suzanne Goin. She has co-authored numerous award-winning cookbooks, most recently Tartine All Day, Everything I Want to Eat, and This Is Camino. Her first solo cookbook, THE NEWLYWED TABLE, will be published on April 2, 2019.