Here’s a topic we’re both very passionate about, not only because as chefs we love to cook, but for the very same reason, we despise it when people disrespect the shared kitchen. It doesn’t matter if you’re using a shared kitchen in a large hostel, or a small AirBnb with only a few other guests. The kitchen is everyones, and should be respected as such.
One time in Oaxaca, a couple of younger guests were sharing the kitchen with us, and after a day or two, I had enough. While I won’t go into full details on everything, one particular event stands out. The kitchen had only one large pot, very reasonable for a place with only a few rooms. This pot was used by these individuals to make a very large batch of pasta. Now I get it, sometimes you make a little more pasta than you need (Hell, I’m a pro and I still make that mistake). Instead of putting aside some of the pasta, they added their sauces and whatever else into said pot, and ate what they could. Now why does this bother me so much? It doesn’t. It’s what they did (didn’t do) afterwards that set me off. Rather than dealing with their leftovers, by either putting it on plates or bowls, and putting them in the fridge, they simply put the lid on and left it there.
One day later I thought maybe they were just drunk and forgot. After the second day, I knew they had cooked another meal, as I watched them do it, yet the pot still sat there. On the third day, the kitchen stank, and there were flies hovering around the pot. Whatever they cooked was turning rancid, and fast. I had enough, and brought the stinking pot to the door of their room, and left it. The next morning it was cleaned and put away.
So here are a few small “rules” to follow that will have a huge impact on how other guests perceive you while sharing a kitchen:
Do Ya Damn Dishes
Do your dishes as soon as you’re done with them; or at the very least, once you’re done eating. This depends on the time of day of course but typically in shared kitchens, the selection of pots, pans, and dishes are limited. Realize that other people may be looking to cook around the same time as yourself and will need the equipment.
It’s absolutely stunning how difficult this relatively simple concept is for some people to grasp.
Respect the fridge
Most shared kitchens only have one fridge, usually smaller than normal, so you won’t have a lot of space for your goods. So rather than buying a ton of groceries at a time and not being able to store them, just buy less more often. Also, try to keep everything together, preferably in one bag, to avoid congestion on the shelves.
Also regarding fridges. Do not take what isn’t yours. This is a widespread issue not just with travellers. I constantly hear stories from friends working in offices and other places of work where people take items the shared fridge. This is blatant theft, I cannot understand how this happens anywhere. If you didn’t buy it and put it in the fridge yourself: hands off.
A Shared Kitchen is Not a Garbage
When your stay is up, do one of two things. Take everything with you when you leave, or make it clear that whatever you leave behind is free for anyone to use. I can’t think of how many cartons of sour, chunky milk we’ve poured out from backpackers long gone. Better yet, use up whatever you have left and cook a large communal meal to share with other travellers in your hostel. Not only will it free up the fridge, but you’ll leave a really good impression on the others. Who knows, maybe they’ll return the favour one day. There’s an old African proverb that states “The best place to store leftover food, is in a friends stomach.”
You’re on the road to meet other people anyway right? You’ll probably share a few drinks, play cards, a game of pool… Next time you’re in the common area, or even passing someone in the hall, ask what they’re making for lunch or supper. Maybe you’re both thinking of pasta, perhaps rice. One of you can easily cook double of the same item rather than fighting over space and time. Same goes for coffee, if there’s a coffee maker and you’re the first one in the kitchen, just make a full pot. Everyone else will thank you for doing so. Even if it doesn’t all get used in the morning, pour it into a couple glasses and throw it in the fridge for a mid-afternoon iced coffee.
As you can see, very little effort is required to have a significant impact on how things flow in a shared kitchen. Not only can a little consideration prevent other travellers from wanting to throw you and your bags into the street, but a little extra effort can be a step towards making lifelong friends.
The kitchen is a sacred space, please treat it as such.