Kitchen detail

Of all the rooms in a human dwelling, the kitchen has probably metamorphosed the most over time.
First a fire out in the open or in a cave, around which everyone sat, able to catch the eye of all their friends partaking of a meal together. In the best of circumstances it was a moment of great enjoyment, collective comfort and ease, a time to connect and share in the feelings of the company.
Some stones, wood and the heat of a fire, to nourish the body and soul.
Kitchens were central to the running of houses, one kitchen usually, which prepared the food for everyone involved within the household. There was a pecking order, developing society demanded it. The best food went to the house owner, then down through the ranks to the very least, who if he was crafty, would still find a way to fill his belly to his satisfaction. Control of the kitchen meant control of the household, the ability to provide food marked a person as worthy, someone to defer to, to labour for.
Every day in Celtic households the evening meal was taken by everyone together, it was a time to exchange, through the giving and receiving of food, the usually unwritten laws of fealty to the Lord of the manor, and honour, by one’s presence, the outward expression of his power and ability to maintain his people.
For a very long time the chance of there being more than one kitchen in a building was very rare, it took a long time before the practice of communal eating, however varied its doing, was broken, and people began to shift for themselves when they wanted a meal.
The rich continued to have their private kitchens; servants prepared the food and moved it to another well-appointed place where it would be eaten. The cooks and the servants were excluded from the meal and were expected to eat from what was left of the dishes, which in the best of houses meant the best of victuals. However the connection between the lord and his people had been cut, no more could he look his household in the eye, and gauge their worthiness.
It is an interesting point, one that in this age seems rather silly, but companionship and the nurturing of good feelings between people is best achieved in groups. The big crowds at games offer the chance to cheer for the team, but also recover a sense of group solidarity, and it’s no surprise that food is doled out and eaten by all at the event. And, regardless of the result, everyone leaves strengthened by the close contact with their fellow men.
By the time of Dickens many people had begun to live on their own, small rooming houses and apartments detached from their place of employment. When it came to eating, there was the choice of going out to get a meal, or have it delivered to the home by someone who cooked in a kitchen for many people in a similar situation. The rent could include meals or not, whatever was wanted.
When did it come about that every house had its own complete kitchen and the owner took time out of every day to cook his own meals? Something gained: privacy, individuality; much lost: companionship, collective understanding, and the kitchen, which once fed many at one sitting, now fed a few at a time. There is now costly duplication of location, food, tools and furnishings, and those gadgets and fixings, fuel and water needed to make a meal, have been blown out of all proportion to the task at hand.
Kitchens in every house have become a drain on all economies; they are costly to set up and run, and while there is still the sense of it being the favourite room in the house, nevertheless its powerful original purpose has been greatly watered down. Parties are a poor substitute, the taking of meals together on a regular basis has to be much better. Restaurants are an expression of wealth or poverty; they can bring people together collectively, but that is not their main purpose, and they make their money only if the clients choose to visit.
The point I am trying to make is that individuation is potentially divisive and definitely expensive. It will be difficult to maintain the status quo, as the populations increase, costs rise, food becomes difficult to get, and fuel costs go beyond the ability of individual householders to pay for them.
Eating together again will make economic sense, which, in time, I think, will lead to better understanding between people. Problems shared have a habit of diminishing in impact, creativity is supported and there is an increase in well-being that directly reduces health costs.

This is a huge subject, I’ve only slapped at it with a thick noodle, but I hope the premise is quite clear: get in the way of sharing food and eating together as often as you can. You’ll like it!


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