Kitchen – A Glimpse of Evolution

The kitchen is usually a separate room or designated area in a house that is used for the storage and for the preparation of food and drinks by using various equipment present in it. The kitchen generally contains fixtures, fittings, equipment and implements for preparing, cooking and sometimes for eating snacks and meals, whether breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Historically, in the UK the kitchen as a separate entity did not exist. This came about only when the pantry and buttery areas which are present at the end of the Saxon hall house, were joined to become one area for preparing and cooking food.

The concept of a kitchen area used solely for the preparation of food continued through Elizabethan times during which it became a space that is present in large houses which might be staffed by servants for cooking and serving and was kept hidden from public view. Many middle-class Victorian kitchens were situated below or partially below ground and were typically poorly lit and ventilated. In the lower-class families, the kitchen was the center of family life and while for very poor households the idea of a separate kitchen was unknown and most of the cooking would have been done in the living room which is the only room to have a fire.

The middle-class Victorian kitchens were generally simple and functional with utensils, grill racks and pans hung at convenient places. The most important fitting however would have been the coal range which was used for cooking.

Coal rage was invented in 1770 and it reigned supreme until it was superseded by gas and electricity in the early 20th century.

Typically, the range consisted of the coal fire with inside horizontal bars and a grate. Temperature control was provided rudely by opening various dampers and bypass flues. In most of the houses on one side of the range, there was placed a tank where water could be heated and stored.

The remarkable change in the design of kitchen was occurred in the 1920 when the kitchen became the domain not of servants but also of the housewife and other family members. Gas and electric cookers become popular around the time of the First World War.

Further advances took place at the start of 1930 when fitted cupboards began to appear in the market. The sink would usually be the Belfast type and it was the centre of activity  and the other two being the table and the stove.

By the mid of 1950, the fashionable kitchen/diner came into existence. This comprised of a separate area for dining that was only sectioned off from the kitchen area by a screen comprising vertical timber panels and shelving. 

With the arrival of the larger better-equipped kitchens in later 20th century houses, pantries, butteries, larders and sculleries became virtually obsolete. Today, however, the pantry is enjoying a comeback in British and American homes. This is thought to be due to its practicality, homely charm.

In the 21st century kitchen depending on size is now a flexible space which, apart from kitchen and dining functions, may also feature a wall-mounted TV, sofa and other items that allow it to function as a family and playroom.

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