The kitchen used to be, more than it is today, a part of the home, the place where people lived. Especially in older homes, the kitchen was large, with a table in the middle. At that table not only the kitchen work, cleaning meat and vegetables was done, but also the homework of the school going children was made on it. Mom and dad would write up their accounts, calculating how to make ends meet, at that same table. It was part of the kitchen and part of family life.
A real hearth
The real hearth was a large square, steel box on four sturdy legs, topped with a thick, cast iron plate that had four or more holes. Those holes could be opened or closed with rings and a round plate in the center.
The heat of the fire in the hearth-fed with wood or coal- was controlled by those rings. The bigger the hole the hotter the fire. So when the Dutch thick pea soup had to be cooked, all the rings were taken off, the soup had to cook for a long time. The soup then went on with little heat, most of the rings in place. This could take days and made the house smell lovely.
Two hot spots
There was a fireplace or stove, in the living room, or salon, and in the kitchen. Only two places in the house were heated, even in the dead of winter. You never found any heating in the bedrooms; you were supposed to keep yourself warm. Or you slept together with a brother or sister in an almost double bed and kept each other warm.
The living room, salon was actually used only for visitors, when the pastor came to see the family, or the local priest.
Therefore, the kitchen was the central place of the house where almost all life took place. On Saturdays, a large kettle was set on the hearth, filled with water. A big tub was placed in front of the stove. Filled with water that mummy kept warm with the water on the stove, and the kitchen served as bathroom for the whole family, one by one of course!
Daddies most loved chair was right next to the hearth, a stretched Smoking Chair. The back was adjustable and had the same size as the seat. The two armrests were not meant to sit on when talking to daddy! (We all did of course).
Before the TV took over that was the place to be in a home, the kitchen. Both objects, the hearth and the smoking chair, as well as the central table, can be used in a modern kitchen, provided it has the right size. The central working area is back in full force, a modern kitchen cannot do without. But I do miss children making homework there. So please reserve a place for the four chairs or stools, so your kids can enjoy the kitchen too.
A smoking chair may never win again, as smoking is banned in many places, out of fashion in others and the kitchen is not a good place to smoke anyway. But a nice, comfortable chair, where the cook can take a break without leaving the kitchen, is it such a bad idea? I for one do hope to see it again.
The oven and the cooking area are now part of the complete design, together with fridge, freezer, microwave oven and other kitchen appliances. But to put those appliances in a central position again, also is not a bad idea, I think. It would give the kitchen its life back and make it the center of the household once again. I would also love to see a fire again. That was after all why we lived in the kitchen, there was always a fire burning in the kitchen of our parents home.