A Brief History of the “Kitchen”



  1. a room or area where food is prepared and cooked.

From a historical perspective, the kitchen makes an interesting study of how we have adapted and changed to meet the basics of living. Once we evolved from the open fire to a dedicated room for meal preparation, we set in motion the changes we enjoy today.

A time traveler would have lived with constant smoke and soot until effective ventilation systems were developed. And who needed more than one room? I’m sure pioneer living was delightfully cozy sleeping with the extended family in the same space that you slaughtered meat, baked bread, pickled vegetables, brewed ale and prepared smelly poultices. Living and working in a multi-use room must have been interesting. But by the early 1900’s, the “kitchen” was a dedicated, out of the way workroom for women. It was a warm spot to gather, sew, do laundry and cook thanks to the addition of heavy cast-iron stoves, the primary appliance of the day for cooking, heating water and heating the home.

Washing and Preserving

Imagine our current germ phobia society washing things in the nearby stream or with the pump in the yard. Thanks to marvels of indoor plumbing, running water became available to the average household by the 1930’s. Around the same time, GE rolled out their ‘monitor-top’ refrigerator eliminating the need for ice houses and other crude means of preserving food. Originally offered at $525, it was a nice to have vs. today’s, can’t imagine life without one. With modern advancements, the kitchen became more than just a women’s workroom in the back and the term “heart of the home” began to take hold.

Time-saving and Convenience

The number of women joining the workforce rose from 29 percent in 1950 to 34 percent in 1960. By 1970, 50 percent of single women and 40 percent of married women were working. Time-saving and convenient cooking and cleaning appliances became the name of the game. Dishwashers, garbage disposals, and refrigerators with freezers as well as microwaves were becoming popular because they made life easier… for the working mother.

Note: Growing up in the 70’s, I hated the gender inequality of household chores where unloading the dishwasher was my job but mowing the lawn was my brother’s. 🙂

Today’s Must Haves

Today’s kitchens are all about design, aesthetics, ergonomics, lighting, accessibility and sustainability. We’re way beyond the refrigerator, sink, cooktop, oven and dishwasher. Coffee makers, espresso machines, grinders, toasters, blenders, food processors, slow cookers, fast cookers, air fryers, warming drawers, mixers, etc… have made their way into our daily use. Personally, I’m pretty hooked on the conveniences of a coffee maker. How about you?

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