Why Your Kitchen is the Heart of the Home: A History Lesson

Blog 07 05 17 (1)

If your house is a ship, then your kitchen is the engine room. For as long as people have been living in shelters, the kitchen has been a source of power, warmth, mysticism, and even sociopolitical debate. While kitchens have evolved over millennia, two things remain constant: it is a source of heat and nourishment. Everything else is a reflection of the culture. Let’s take a look at kitchens, past and present to discover the ever-changing roles of the heart of the home.

When Fire Was Life Itself

Imagine your kitchen today. Now, imagine stripping it of its sink, fridge, microwave, cabinetry, small appliances, and outlets. The only thing that is left is your oven. Now swap out your oven for a hearth. Before the advent of modern comforts like electricity and gas lighting, the only source of light and heat in most family homes was the fireplace. Because so much was demanded from the kitchen hearth, they used to take up an entire wall, and were large enough to bake, boil, and cook everything the family needed. It was crucial to keep the fire going in these houses because when it got dark outside, shutters were closed to protect the families from danger and cold. The Ancient Greeks worshipped Hestia, the Goddess of the hearth, domesticity, order, and family. Even the Greeks made the strong link between the kitchen hearth and family life. The kitchen fires were not merely a means of survival, but a symbol of family.

The Victorian Kitchen

By the Victorian period (and beyond), the role of the kitchen was strongly divided by the class structure, at least in the Western World. If the wife of the house had to step into the kitchen at all, she was probably of the middle to lower class. If she could afford a maid, then all the cooking and kitchen work was left to the staff. A popular Victorian phrase to describe the ideal woman was the “angel of the hearth,” to illustrate the wife and mother’s rightful place in the home. Although the kitchen continued to be an important source of heat and light, it became the symbol of a woman’s confining gender roles. By this era, the prelude to modern kitchen convenience began to make its way into the home, like the cooking range.

The Modern Kitchen

As gender roles changed, so did the kitchen. Doors were removed, walls were torn down, and suddenly the kitchen evolved into a beautiful, wide-open space, and the most important room in the house (again). The kitchen has turned into the one room in the house where people instinctively gather. Kids pull up to the counter to finish their homework, friends gossip around the kitchen island, and the separation between cooking and dining is slowly but surely disappearing. Sure, we no longer huddle around our “fire” to stay warm, but we still feel an inherent connection to the cooking area that provides an internal warmth like no other part of the house. If you’re interested in remodelling your kitchen, Cuisines Nuenza’s team of experienced designers will help you build the kitchen of your dreams. Request a free consultation or contact us today.