{Foreigner in Formosa} My Wee Taiwanese Kitchen

Do you live in America? Do you think you have a small kitchen?

Think again.

I have a square of exactly 21 inches x 21 inches of counter space from sink to stove in my Taiwanese kitchen. That’s it. Don’t believe me? Here’s proof:


In terms of major appliances, I have a two-burner gas stove, a sink, a refrigerator, and a convection oven (a glorified toaster oven) in my kitchen. The convection oven is an upgrade after our old one died; this one actually fits a 9 x13 baking dish! “No microwave?” you ask. Oh, the microwave sits outside the kitchen in the dining room because it’s too big to fit in the kitchen. We also keep a large trash can and large recycling can in the kitchen as well as many other smaller objects; we use every available space (including the top of the refrigerator) for storage, and we have several cabinets outside of the kitchen in which we keep our extra baking dishes, Tupperware, small appliances, etc.

I’m just trying to give you an idea of how limited our kitchen space is. Pictures don’t do it justice, but here are a few anyway.

Honestly, for a family of two (plus a little dog that is always underfoot), the kitchen size is manageable. I’m really not complaining. 

Actually, this post is meant to make light of the fact that I have so little space. You see, I’m typing this post in 8-minute increments as I wait for cookies to bake.

I’m trying to bake enough cookies for my three senior English classes to eat. That’s 55 students, 2 cookies apiece, so 110 cookies, or 3+ batches…sooo 4 batches for good measure. I want to make sure I have enough for everyone! I’m really excited because this is the first and last time I’ll get to see all of my seniors in their classes since I took my leave of absence. It’s the last day of class, and that means it’s time to celebrate!

[Interrupting thought: My husband just walked into the apartment after work and said, “The elevator door opened, and the whole 11th floor smells like cake!” (FYI, the cookies I’m making have a cake mix in each batch).]

How to Bake in a Taiwanese Kitchen (via photos)

First of all, you have to be very creative about where to put things. Please notice the hand mixer hanging out on the dish drying rack above the sink; also notice the cookie sheet, ingredients, oven mitt, and baking utensils covering all of the counter space and half the stove! (Bonus points if you can spot the recipe on the wall. :) )


Second, you only have one baking sheet that fits in your oven, and it is only big enough for twelve cookies. That means more rotations and a much longer baking time overall than if you had a bigger cookie sheet.

IMG_2233Third, your little oven timer has to be set high (don’t worry–I didn’t bake these for 61 minutes!) because otherwise the heating device shuts off. So you have to use a separate timer to know how long the cookies should bake.

IMG_2229Finally, after much streamlining of the system and about four hours of work, you’ve got four batches of cookies–or approximately 144 cookies (give or take a few that might have been “taste tested” for “quality control”)–all ready to go to school tomorrow. Students who read my blog, I hope you’re happy!

IMG_2239The Recipe

And just in case anyone’s interested in the very simple recipe for these delicious cookies, here you go:

Cream Cheese Cookies

1/4 cup margarine, softened
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/4 tsp. vanilla
1 Duncan Hines yellow cake mix

Cream butter and cheese. Blend in egg and vanilla. Add dry cake mix, 1/3 at a time, mixing well after each addition. Cover; chill 30 minutes. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Drop by scant teaspoonfuls onto un-greased baking sheet. I like to decorate with colorful sprinkles (before baking). Bake 8-10 minutes or until light brown on edges. Cool slightly before removing from baking sheet. Yield: 3 dozen cookies.

“Foreigner in Formosa” is a series of short posts about all the things I find winsome, intriguing, and delightful about Taiwan (formerly known as Formosa, meaning “beautiful island” in Portuguese). If you liked this post, take a look at some others in the series.

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