Behind the Scenes

A Cook’s Tour

Slate’s You’re Doing It Wrong writer L.V. Anderson explains how—and where—she cooks.

This week we asked Slate assistant editor and You’re Doing It Wrong writer L.V. Anderson to snap a few photos of her cozy Brooklyn kitchen and take us on a tour.

Courtesy of L.V. Anderson

L.V. Anderson: I have speculated with colleagues that every youngish person in New York owns the exact same Ikea kitchen island: This one here, which, if memory serves, cost like $100. I have a wonderful enormous cutting board that lives on the island, and I chop vegetables and prep other ingredients there. The tricky part is getting food from the cutting board into a hot skillet on the stove—the cutting board is too bulky and heavy to carry, so I usually make multiple trips carrying chopped vegetables from the cutting board to the stove in my cupped palms. Sometimes I drop stray pieces of onion on the floor. I could probably come up with a better system if I thought about it more (or got a smaller cutting board). I am not sure what I would do without this coffee-stained Ikea kitchen island, which provides much-needed counter space on top and storage space below.

Overall, my kitchen is small, so a lot of what I think of as my kitchen is technically located outside my kitchen. When I first moved in four and a half years ago, I bumped into the fridge and the counter pretty frequently, but there’s a learning curve when you’re adapting to any new space. I have written about my wish that friends not offer to help me cook when I’m having a dinner party, and the main reason for that is that my kitchen just cannot accommodate multiple people. (It’s OK when there’s just one other person cooking with me, but even that requires some choreography so we’re not bumping into each other in the doorway.)

Courtesy of L.V. Anderson

I am not a handy person, which means I am always inordinately proud of myself when I manage to do something handy. Like install these shelves for my spices, oils, vinegars, and other pantry items! You’re supposed to store spices in a cool, dark place, but I like having them in my line of sight—I think it inspires me to use them more often.

What’s a spice that people should use more often—or an “underrated spice”?

Anderson:  Cumin may not be underrated—most people have cumin at home, right?—but I think it’s often overlooked or taken for granted. It conveys such a wonderful warm flavor to so many dishes. I probably use it more often than any other spice except cinnamon.

Courtesy of L.V. Anderson

Most of the counter space in the kitchen itself is taken up by my dish rack. I bought this little wheeled shelf unit to store pots and pans—there is some room in the cabinets above the sink but not enough.

I guess my main complaint is the fridge, which is too tall to use for counter space but not tall enough to comprise a legitimate freezer. Instead, there’s a small internal freezer compartment that grows large, obtrusive ice formations every few months and then needs to be defrosted. If money and space were no objects, I would want a side-by-side refrigerator that’s taller than I am.

For that reason, I don’t think it would be possible to film Do It Right videos in my apartment. In the past, we shot a batch in the home of a very mensch-y Slate sales team member. Chris Wade, a video and podcast producer for Slate, spent a fair amount of time crouching on top of the countertop with his camera so he could shoot inside the pot I was using. The thought of him crouching on top of my refrigerator is hilarious, but I wouldn’t want to put him through that.

Courtesy of L.V. Anderson

I don’t cook every day, but I cook most days. Before I started at Slate, I worked at home, and I cooked all the time: I could just get up and make lunch in the middle of the day without any advance planning. I had a full community-supported agriculture share to myself, and I used it all, because I had the flexibility to, I don’t know, sauté kale or make jam in the middle of the day. Now that I work in an office (which I love, for the most part), I have less time to cook.

I usually test my recipes for You’re Doing It Wrong on the weekend, and I also try to make a batch of something I can take to the office for lunch during the week: soup or a curry or frittata or something. (My red cabbage salad is also a good, easy lunch dish, but it can’t be made more than a few hours in advance.)