Kitchens Then and Now

The kitchen has traveled a long road through history. It has undergone many transformations, from a small outcropping attached to the home structure to the modern kitchens that we now know as the centerpiece of our homes.

Kitchens Then and Now

(Pixabay / kirkandmimi)

Ancient Egypt and Rome

What we know about ancient Egyptian kitchens was gleaned from hieroglyphics and the tools and pottery found in archaeological sites. The ancient Egyptians relied on hearths and rudimentary tools such as metal blades, mortars, urns, baskets, pans, plates, sieves, and pitchers. These tools were used to make meals (that virtually always included bread), beer, wine, and more. For common class Egyptians, the kitchen occupied a small part of the room where the family dwelt, but among the upper class, kitchens were much larger.

In ancient Rome, peasants’ kitchens resembled those in Ancient Egypt in that they occupied a small corner of a larger room for the family. Well-off Romans lived in big houses with a courtyard, and they had the luxury of cooking outside. They cooked on their brazier (portable heater with lighted coals), which they could easily move from outside to inside.

Ancient Romans cooked with clay ovens with burners heated by a charcoal fire. They stored food and dishes in wooden cupboards. They used flues inside the walls for drawing out smoke. Chimneys didn’t become part of homes until the 12th century, and only then in larger dwellings.

The Middle Ages

During the Middle Ages (roughly 500 to 1400-1500 CE), peasants cooked over an open fire in a single-room house. The cooking area was the center of activities because it was the source of heat, light, safety, and food.

Wealthy people during the Middle Ages dined in great halls with chimneys. Kitchens in medieval castles were placed outside the great hall for fire safety. The kitchens held spits for roasting meat and large cauldrons with bubbling soups and stews. Castles kept cattle, lambs, pigs, and ducks penned outside for slaughtering. Some castles maintained ponds stocked with fish. The nearby gardens were planted with vegetables and herbs.

The 18th Century to Present

The 18th and 19th centuries saw the rise of French style cooking in Europe and North America, which required sophisticated dishes, strict etiquette, and formal table settings. The period was characterized by technical advancements in the kitchen, such as the use of gas, coal, cast iron, plumbing, and electricity. With these developments, the kitchen became a more pleasant area in which to work.

In the early 1900s, gas became the preferred heat source in the kitchen. Kitchens featured efficiency and practicality. Cabinets were added to kitchens as an upgrade.

The concept of the fitted kitchen became popular in the 1930s and 1940s, with cupboards, shelves, and appliances master-planned into the kitchen design. This made for a more attractive kitchen with better workflow.

Kitchens today blend beauty, elegance, and function. They make imaginative use of colors, woods, metal hardware, and countertop material. Islands often break up open space, adding style and functionality to kitchens. Appliances are seamlessly integrated into the overall design.