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The Kitchen is a Fickle Mistress - Essay Example

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In a 2006 article titled "Are We Worthy of Our Kitchens", author Christine Rosen takes us on a 200-year tour of housewife drudgery, appliances, and gadgets. The author contends that the trip through history has at times been blessed by labor saving conveniences, while at other times it has been sabotaged by the lure of ease and temptation…
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The Kitchen is a Fickle Mistress
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The Kitchen is a Fickle Mistress In a 2006 article d "Are We Worthy of Our Kitchens", Christine Rosen takes us on a 200-year tour of housewife drudgery, appliances, and gadgets. The author contends that the trip through history has at times been blessed by labor saving conveniences, while at other times it has been sabotaged by the lure of ease and temptation. Rosen points to the 1920s and the rise in popularity of new inventions, new devices known as "electric servants". The human craving for labor saving devices had begun, and with it came the promotion of an endless stream of gizmos, gadgets, and God only knows what it does.
The author is quick to remind us of the housewife's complaints of centuries past, and the difficulty in maintaining an elegant domesticity. She tells of the American pioneer woman, carrying wood, heating water, and toiling over the laundry in an all day undertaking. The washing machine, one of the most laudable household helpers, has changed little since its inception. The wood stove was introduced to be sold to women, but actually saved the man from having to cut as much wood. Still, it is the vacuum cleaner that Rosen uses to illustrate our love of cleanliness and how it has become possible to remain immaculate without the aid of servants.
It was these devices that gave the housewife the illusion of being a little more royal than maybe she actually was. The article agrees that while all the modern miracles of housework may not save time, and certainly not money, they have made our society better organized. We are cleaner, we have more options for storing and cooking food, and by all such measures we should be happier. Yet, the author argues that the modern housewife is actually doing the work of several servants and, "electric servants did not easily translate into spending less time on housework". Marketers have simply made the experience seem a little more aristocratic.
We have every kitchen appliance available to make our cooking experience quick, clean, and enjoyable. We can keep food in a freezer just as deep as our pockets will allow. However, it seems to the rational mind that many of the appliances Rosen describes are purchased in a psychological fit of temporary trauma. Spending six figures for a stove that may not be necessary, and probably not be useful, is more than a little insane. The flood of celebrity chefs, magazines, and advertising, has given us all a case of kitchen envy.
In the upper hills of society where money is no object, the functional warmth of the kitchen has been replaced by the dinner table bickering of "my stove is bigger than your stove". The tragedy in the scene is the middle class housewife, hurried and unprepared, and still believing that a larger refrigerator might be the device that can deliver the satisfaction she needs. Still, with each additional gadget that she adds to her arsenal she has one more item to store away, and one more forgotten disappointment.
Though we may have a fondness for these luxury items, the expense of our appliances may have exceeded their value. With bigger and better equipment come bigger and more frequent repair bills. Keeping our food cold in a refrigerator is a necessity that most of us can't dream of being without. Rosen puts forward the notion that much of house-life revolves around the kitchen, and most of our efforts have been centered on improving our kitchen processes. However, what is the value of a $20,000 stove when we can't depend on it to function, perfectly, all the time There is no place in any kitchen for a part-time refrigerator. The appliances that spend their life hidden under the lower pantry shelf may actually have no purpose, no life, and no love.
The perfect kitchen is the kitchen that works. The stove is useful for cooking with controls we understand. The washing machine sits out of sight grinding out the dirt just as it did in 1950. The refrigerator is stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables. It has a shelf for juice boxes right at kid level where they are kept constantly cold. The microwave starts every time a teenager pops a frozen pizza into it and even dad can figure out how it works. The kitchen is a fickle mistress that must be pampered, used, and shared. The ideal kitchen has no appliance left idle. The aroma from the oven warms the kitchen with the smell of fresh cinnamon rolls while a simple coffeepot perks lightly in the background. There are no granite counter-tops, only clean ones. In the perfect kitchen, there is no one concerned about the size of the stove, only the size of the appetite.
Works Cited
Rosen, Christine. "Are We Worthy of Our Kitchens" The New Atlantis 11 (2006): 75-86. 17 Oct. 2006 . Read More
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