Downton Abbey fans (who are no doubt still watching re-runs they purchased as video sets once the final episode had aired) likely recall many of the show’s scenes taking place in the kitchen. Such kitchens of post-Edwardian era were often constructed away from the main house, connected by underground passageways. If located in the manor, the kitchen would likely be found on a lower level (think, dungeon-like) of the home. It was an area deemed quite undesirable by the lords and ladies of manors. Such rooms were placed far from the living, dining and parlor areas of the home specifically so the sights, sounds and aromas unfolding therein would not be seen, heard or smelled by “those above.”
Back in “the day,” landing a job in a wealthy family’s kitchen was considered a step up in life. If you played your cards right, you might get bumped from the galley to the servants’ staff on the upper levels of the home. Think about that one for a minute: Can you imagine your goal in life being to earn a promotion from working a 14-hour day, scrubbing pots and pans and standing near ovens so hot they could catch your clothes on fire (and often did) to “climbing the ladder” to a higher level of the home where your duties would change from food prep to emptying another person’s “chamber pot?”
In our western society, we consider “the kitchen” the heart of a home. In fact, nowadays, people entertain in their kitchens. Where once a courting mate or group of holiday guests would be “received” in a parlor, today’s visitors inevitably stroll right past the main living areas of the home and gather around the central fixture that most modern kitchens feature: the island. The kitchen island is multipurpose, often including built-in sinks, chopping boards and other essentials needed for food prep, yet also surrounded by high stools or straight-backed chairs where others can join the cook to socialize or dine.
Many modern kitchens (including my own) also come equipped with home offices. This trend swept the nation in the early 1940s. As time passed, more and more family-living activities began to be carried out in the kitchen thereby transforming it from a room that should be hidden and used only by peasant workers to a major amenity and selling point in private home real estate.
My children have grown up in our kitchen. I’d be pressed to recall a day when, at some point, there wasn’t a child (or several) by my side or across the island from me, chatting, questioning or assisting as I prepare our snacks, meals and desserts. Even on days when we do no cooking at all, we still seem to gather in our kitchen. In this room, conversations flow freely, the mood is often light and we are keenly aware of the blessings that come from having a roof over our heads, warmth in winter and fresh clean water and provisions that will become healthy, tasty foods upon our table – that is, if we ever make it to the table since we often wind up nibbling our confections at the island!
I love to visit museums that present kitchens of long ago but I’m glad kitchens have evolved from rooms where no one wants to be to places that welcome family, as well as the occasional expected and unexpected guests.
Writer Bio: Judy Dudich
Judy Dudich resides in the beautiful woods of Pennsylvania, where 24 acres of land and a home-office provide the perfect setting for her children’s home-education and her own homesteading and business ventures. Life is full of blessings (and challenges!) for Judy, as a wife, mother of 10 and Grammy to six. She is a published author, whose book, “I Surrender/A Study Guide for Women” continues to encourage and support others in Christian family lifestyles throughout the world. Judy has also previously worked in the online speaking circuit. Her passion for permaculture, re-purposing, foraging and organic gardening fills her days with learning and adventure that she loves to share.