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A short history of the modern kitchen

The history of cooking parallels the development of the human race. Our ancestors soon found out that cooking food in some way made it easier to digest or tastier. For a long time the place where food was cooked was separate from people's living quarters because of the risks posed by open fires and glowing coals and the unpleasantness of smoke, soot and cooking smells. It was only in 1735 that the first closed stove was invented. "The fascinating story of the modern kitchen demonstrates how closely progress, innovation and design have been linked through the ages," says Kirk Mangels, director of the working group Die Moderne Küche e.V. (The Modern Kitchen/AMK). Today the kitchen is the heart of the home, but it wasn't always the case.

 

Cooking was always regarded as potentially dangerous because it involved an open fire. In the past, to minimise the risk, cooking and living areas were kept separate. Only in the middle ages did the cooking area begin to be integrated in homes and castles. Historic castles like Burg Eltz on the Mosel had chimneys to draw off smoke built into their thick walls. But cooking was still a risky business until the invention of the first completely enclosed Castrol stove in 1735. Enclosed stoves still had a fire, burning wood and later coal. The first gas stove was invented in 1830 in England. An early electric stove was displayed at the World Exhibition in 1893 in Chicago. These developments began a whole new era in kitchen design. In middle- and upper-class homes, cooking was still left to the servants and the kitchen, with its smoke and smells of cooking, pickling and smoking, was planned at a distance from the owners' living rooms. Around 1900, the Weck company developed a process to preserve food by bottling at high temperatures. By around 1960, fridges and dishwashers were becoming standard equipment in kitchens and the design and layout of the kitchen changed once again.

Rational and simplified architecture and interior design dominated the Zeitgeist of the 1920s which saw the design of the "Frankfurt Kitchen" in 1926 in Frankfurt am Main. Designed by the architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky it is viewed as the prototype of the fitted kitchen. Planned for installation in social housing, the Frankfurt Kitchen featured fitted cupboards, built-in appliances and a sink all arranged in the smallest possible space for maximum efficiency and utility. Even today, it is easy to identify the then revolutionary ideas of this kitchen design in contemporary kitchens. The Frankfurt Kitchen was designed for efficiency, to accommodate functions like storage, cooling and cooking. But it was purely a working kitchen with a sterile, laboratory-like appearance, far removed from today's vision of the kitchen as the heart of the family home. In those days, kitchens were small. The housewife was usually a stay-at-home mother and cooking was one of her main jobs. For centuries women had cooked alone or with their daughters. Husbands and sons weren't expected to participate in any of the cooking processes.

In the 1960s, people were rediscovering the link between dining and cooking. Architects' plans show the kitchen gradually getting bigger. More and more women were working outside the home and they didn't want to spend their free time slaving away alone in cramped kitchens.

In the 1970s, many kitchens were designed with breakfast nooks where the family could at least eat some meals together. Dining rooms were used for Sundays, for evening meals and for entertaining. This decade saw the first impulses for kitchen styles and design trends. The kitchen was still generally a very functional place with built-in units and appliances, but colours and styles were often dictated by what was currently popular. The trend towards the contemporary open-plan "living" kitchen began in the 1990s. Eating and cooking were moved into close proximity. Multifunctionality, convenience and professionalism are the entry tickets for today's kitchen market. Men and women increasingly share the housework and both cook. Interest in cooking is waxing with more people watching cookery programmes and sales of cookbooks soaring. Livability and Gemütlichkeit are the watchwords for kitchen design; travel has awakened interest in exotic food from around the world. And interest in the health aspects of food is on the increase.

Cooking is still a key to life and living, but it's never been so easy. Technological development has meant more safety, fewer smells and energy efficiency. User-friendliness and striking design make today's open-plan kitchens more livable and comfortable. But the hob is still the central focus.

AMK Arbeitsgemeinschaft
Die Moderne Küche e.V

The AMK is the trade and service association of the German-speaking kitchen industries. Its activities address four main areas: Technology and Standardisation, Marketing & PR, Internationalisation and Trade Shows. Over 130 companies are members of AMK – from well-known manufacturers of kitchen furniture, electrical appliances/built-in appliances, sinks and accessories to component suppliers, retail cooperatives and service. AMK is the patron of the annual "Kitchen Day" which attracts many visitors with live events at kitchen exhibitions throughout the German-speaking area.
The next Kitchen Day is on 24th September, 2016.

More information at www.amk.de and www.tag-der-kueche.de.


Tips & Tricks

Are you planning on buying
a new kitchen?

Then you schould bear the
following points in mind: