4. The Kitchen

Posted by Carolyn on June 6, 2008 at 10:48 am

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Chapter Four looks at the way cooking affects urban space, particularly in the home. Cooking is a messy, dirty business; one that in most societies has been considered low-status – something to be done by women or servants. It was only in the 15th century, when Italian courtly chefs began to publish their recipes, that professional cookery in Europe began to acquire a higher status of the sort enjoyed today by celebrity chefs.

Yet, however famous chefs become, cooking remains a backstage art, shrouded in mystery and secrecy. Cooks have to power to delight, but they can also poison us, which makes the question of what they get up to in their kitchens a highly sensitive one, and the kitchens in which they cook highly ambiguous spaces.

The fact that so few of us in Britain know how to cook has widespread implications all along the food chain. People who don’t cook don’t support local markets and food shops, don’t invite their friends around for dinner, don’t control what they and their families are putting in their bodies, don’t understand the impact of their diet on the planet. Yet, alarmingly, the one space that might encourage more of us to cook – the domestic kitchen – is under threat. Two hundred years ago, only the wealthiest homes had kitchens, but now that we’ve all got them, we don’t seem to know what to do with them. Are kitchens the true heart of the home, a place to socialise and entertain, or semi-redundant service spaces in which to heat up ready meals?

Christine Frederick's Kitchen plans

As fewer of us cook from scratch and we eat out more and more, domestic kitchens in Britain are shrinking. Yet the way we build homes today could determine whether or not our children even have the choice of whether to cook for themselves – whether, in effect, they will have the choice to take control of what they eat.

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