Kitchen/ Food Storage
We don't mess around when it comes to food... Well, sometimes...
Having a functional kitchen in the van is a large part of what makes our journeys possible. Cooking in the van keeps our travel costs low, while allowing us the freedom to eat just about anything we want to make. There are some things we would change about the kitchen if we did it all again, but for the most part it has been great.
Key features of the kitchen that we really like:
- Origo 3000 two burner alcohol stovetop - This is where most of our cooking magic happens! We decided to use a denatured alcohol cook top because the fuel is readily available almost anywhere and is not stored in pressurized vessels. Denatured alcohol burns at a lower heat than propane, and the fuel is more expensive, but those two factors haven't bothered us much.
- Americast sink - Eva doesn't like stainless steel sinks and enameled sinks are usually both too large and heavy to be practical in a van. Americast makes plastic sinks that mimic the look of cast iron sinks. This size sink has been perfect for the size of pots and pans we have. The basin of the sink does need to be cleaned often, and the plastic does get scratched if we're not careful, but it has still been well worth it.
- Overhead storage - Right above the kitchenette we built a shelf to hold various jars of dry goods and spices. Having a secure place to put glass jars has been great! The space could probably fit more things if it were designed as a cabinet, but we think the shelf looks pretty cool.
- Pantry - David helped us build a cabinet over the driver and passenger seats. This is where we hide all of our random cooking ingredient supplies. Think salt, flours, oil, etc.
- Windows and vent - Installing the CRL T-vent window and the Maxxair fan were crucial to having a functional kitchen. We always open one of the window vents and the roof vent when cooking. When we need extra ventilation, turning the fan on creates a good flow of air form the window through the roof.
- Water system - We decided to keep the water system super simple. There is currently a 5gal cylindrical water jug directly beneath the sink drain that collects the gray water. We routed a Helio 2gal shower through the sink hole to act as our faucet.
Some not so good 'features' of our kitchen:
- Water system - Yeah... We've gone through three (maybe four) iterations of our water system. We originally had a faucet, but we never used it. We had some silly drainage routing to get the gray water into the blue jerry can we had before the 5gal cylinder. We've dealt with some 'interesting' smells from our gray water... We use so little water when washing dishes that stuff tends to stick around on its way down the drain. We tend to need to refill the shower unit every 3-5 days, and empty the gray water about half as often. Our current configuration runs pretty smoothly, but it took a while to get there. I would still rather deal with the minor inconveniences we have now than have a larger water system hooked up. Personal preferences I guess.
- Origo 6000 - Before the Origo 3000, we had a two burner stove/oven installed. The oven just didn't really do it for us. The oven took a long time to pre-heat, used lots of fuel, and generally didn't do a great job. There are many people that happily live with an Origo 6000. We just aren't those people. We switched to an Origo 3000, which is just the burners, and are very happy with it.
- Origo 3000 - The stove top just has a few minor difficulties. The configuration of the pot support topper can cause some small pots and pans to tip over if we're not careful. The burners are an open alcohol flame, so the heat is concentrated over the flame. We have thick bottomed pots, and cast iron pans, so this problem is somewhat mitigated.
- Counter Space - We are mostly happy with the current counter configuration. If we could, we would move the sink to the far left of the kitchen to have more counter space to the left of the stove top.
- Mostly 3/4 ply construction with pocket screws - There weren't any fancy tricks in the construction here. Measure. Cut. Screw. WE did add some ledgers below the stove for additional support. This greatly helped when we added the wood stove
- Paperstone countertop - Scrap material from an old Square Peg job that fit our needs perfectly. It is very difficult to cut...
- Soft close doors and drawer - The drawer beneath the stove contains all of the pots and pans. We added a latch to keep it closed while driving.
- Doors and trim were made of walnut and walnut 1/4 ply. Trim and doors are probably what took us the most time.
- The overhead storage/pantry/bulkhead was mostly David's work. We needed to have the 3/4 ply face board fit to the profile of the van as close as possible to fit some fastening screws to the structure of the van.
- The single support arm for the cabinet works perfectly! We thought about making the front of the storage open or have sliding doors, but the extra work to make the door and have it lift up is nice.
- The dry goods and spice shelf has a front board made of solid walnut, a bottom board made of 3/4 ply, and a 1/4 ply board a couple inches above the bottom board to retain the jars. We felted the top and bottom board to reduce noise, and make the jars fit nice and snug.
- Eva spent a lot of time laying out the holes to be cut on the drill press. I had a close call with a hand drill trying to cut one of the larger holes... Safety first!