E.B. White on kitchens

At a meeting of the American Society of Industrial Designers in the 1950s, one of the speakers made the assertion that “the kitchen as we know it today is a dead dodo.” In response, White offered this:

I think the kitchen, like the raccoon, is a dead dodo only if you choose to shoot it dead. Years ago, at the time I bought this house, I examined my kitchen with a wondering and skeptical eye and elected to let it live. The decision stands as one of the few sensible moves I’ve made on this place. Our kitchen today is a rich, intoxicating blend of past, present, and future; basically it belongs to the past, when it was conceived and constructed. It is a strange and implausible room, dodolike to the modern eye but dear to ours, and far from dead. In fact, it teams with life of all sorts – cookery, husbandry, horticulture, canning, planning. It is an arsenal, a greenhouse, a surgical dressing station, a doghouse, a bathhouse, a lounge, a library, a bakery, a cold storage plant, a factory, and a bar, all rolled into one gorgeous ball, or ballup. In it you can find the shotgun and shell for shooting up the whole place if it ever should become obsolete; in it you can find the molasses cookies if you decide just to sit down and leave everything the way it is. From morning till night, sounds drift from the kitchen, most of them familiar and comforting, some of them surprising and worth investigating. On days when warmth is the most important need of the human heart, the kitchen is the place you can find it; it dries the wet sock, it cools the hot little brain.

E.B. White, ‘Coon Tree’ (1956) in Essays of E. B. White (Perennial Classics), 2006.

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