A History of Kitchens in Western Civilisation

Is it too much to say that a history of kitchens in western civilisation is actually a history of mankind as a whole? Possibly this is a case of the overly dramatic, but if you take into consideration that all major economic and social changes had to go through our kitchens, first, then there can’t be an exaggeration with this claim. Even when we used to live in caves, we had and used something, which doesn’t look a kitchen, but you can rest assured, it did the job. Therefore, we’re going to make a small step back into the history of kitchens, which is going to be a gigantic step toward the understanding of our modern Western Civilization.

Kitchens in the the Middle Ages

The life in the Middle Age Europe was difficult and simple. The entire family and social life had no other choice than to be centered around the only reliable source of safety, light, and heat – the fire. Now, it may seem like an ordinary thing we take for granted, but back then the introduction of the chimney had revolutionized the way we live and organize our kitchens. In a certain way, we can say that the modern kitchen design began with a chimney. Thanks to chimneys we were able to create a separate room only for cooking and dining – called the kitchen. In addition, he had a chance to use the larger cooking fires and fireplaces. With more fire, there are definitely more mouths to feed, and more brainiacs to inspire. You just can’t change the world with an empty stomach, can you?

18th and 19th Century Kitchen Design

Structure, design and function of the modern Western kitchen had gone through the tremendous changes in both England and America over the period of two centuries after the end of the Middle Ages. On the one side, we had the dominant style of French cuisine, which asked for more dishes and unavoidable rigorous table etiquette. These demands influenced the new shape and improved functionality of European and Colonial America kitchens. On the other side, the unparalleled increase of trade with Asia had brought new foods and challenges for our kitchens. They had no other choice than to expand tremendously. The number of dishes and servants circulating through an average kitchen of that period would’ve definitely embarrassed even the most prestigious modern chef. We’re talking about hundreds of dishes of all shapes and sizes, including small armies of people, who were waiting to be served. The kitchens used an opportunity to claim their independence as the invaluable part of our homes, with an unquestionable status symbol, which is only to grow and improve over the time.

The Industrial Revolution Brings Kitchens to the Masses

The industrial revolution just couldn’t allow itself a luxury of leaving out the kitchens from its generous abundance of new inventions and new energy sources. The ever-growing demand for improved functionality and efficiency borrowed from the industrial halls inspired kitchen designers to come up with a revolutionary design called – the cabinet. Back in those days the busy little bees working in the kitchen used to call it the Hoosier Cabinet, which introduced the extremely useful things, such as upper- and lower-cabinetry, including the in-cabinet storage space, for the first time. A couple of decades later, right after the WWI, the popular concept of ergonomic efficiency gave birth to the unparalleled Frankfort Kitchen design. For the first time in the entire history of kitchens, we just had to add this dramatic moment, the main goal of kitchen design was to ensure that anything and everything is within your arm’s reach. Who could even dare to think that the Frankfort Kitchen design would set a foundation for the modern concept of the so-called “golden triangle”? Here’s a quick reminder about this concept. According to the modern standards, if you can draw lines between the “kitchen’s-triumvirate” consisting of cooktop, sink, and a refrigerator, and get a triangle shape as a result, then you really reached the ideal kitchen design.

Pre and Post WWII Kitchen Design

The careless moments before the WWII were marked by the overwhelming “fitted kitchen” concept of design. The catch was to ensure that all kitchen elements and appliances are properly integrated with the cabinetry. This change eventually lead to the improved, minimalistic, and more purposeful interior design. The introduction of the new time-and-labour-saving kitchen devices just sealed the “new-kitchen-deal”. The aftermath of the WWII had witnessed the unprecedented housing boom, which had to influence the kitchen design, as well. People were thrilled to discover how their kitchens had become quieter and better organized. Improved kitchen devices, such as refrigerators and dishwashers made us to feel our kitchens as the immense source of pride and joy for the entire family.

The Golden Age of Kitchen Accessories

Social changes in the 1960’s and the 1970’s had to go through our kitchens, first, and again. The shiny idea about a completely open kitchen, which has nothing to hide, but actually to be used as a place to show off your culinary skills and a genuine social activity hub finally won. We used an opportunity to reinvent the kitchen design and our social life, as well. Between two millennia’s border line our kitchen had to question its purpose and basic designs. However, we were properly rewarded with the bold and inspirational designs, which don’t allow us to neither use nor perceive kitchens in the strictly traditional sense.

Nowadays, our dear old kitchens are preparing themselves for the new wireless revolution, which will introduce us to the new smart refrigerators and intelligent dishwashers. We shouldn’t be surprised, if we’re to cook shoulder-to-shoulder with the robots in our kitchen. Our world hadn’t been built in a day, but you can rest assured that our kitchens can be completely transformed in a single day. That’s the great thing about the kitchens, and this is why we love them so much. Share kitchen history with us. We can’t wait to hear it.

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