Symbols of the Past

This image below inspired this posting, an old-fashioned Greek home kitchen, still in use and modified to meet the current day use. Simplified to a water, fire, a pot, herbs and a pantry for storage. In the past, foods represented seasons, people respected their crops, the way they still do in poor countries.


Nowadays we are used to poor quality choices in the city, over-priced vegetables and meats sold in glamorous shops, high paying rents, renovations are all added to the cost of the goods sold. Those that are farm fresh actually cost more, so what does that tell you. In fifty years, manufactured foods will become more like medicines. You will take a pill, a dosage of energy and vitamins, our metabolisms will operate differently fed like machines.

Enriched by symbols, such as fire, we begin to understand the past. I suggest you take a deep breath, hold it for three seconds, relax your chest and exhale, now you are ready. Today’s symbols of the modern kitchen are over-sized pots, fancy stoves, hot water taps, over sized fridges, and open wasted spaces.

A kitchen can remain very simple, cuisine practical that captures the essence of the terroir. When I lived in Paris, we had a small kitchen that was practical, raw materials were good, in fact I could reach most what I needed from one standing position in front of the stove. I called it Leonardo kitchen, my hands reached all what I needed; fire, water, storage and the table.

You may know, Leonardo da Vinci invented an automated system for a rotating spit for spit-roasting. Those types of inventions were in part the start of the kitchen’s evolution, a way to make cooking more efficient. It has all happened very quickly, more and more city dwellers, lifestyles changed mostly to do with the way we consume energy.

It was a 20th century theme of economic efficiencies, “scientific management”, human life increasing efficiency, decreasing waste, and using empirical methods to decide what matters, rather than accepting preexisting ideas of what matters. This changed the way the kitchen evolved, with the invention of the stove in the 18th century, appliances in the 20th century, we get where we are today.

The Frankfurt kitchen was a milestone in domestic architecture, a modern fitted kitchen. It was one of the first unified concepts, designed to enable efficient work and to be built at low-cost. Designed in 1926 by Austrian architect Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky for architect Ernst May’s social housing project New Frankfurt in Frankfurt.

Frankfurt Kitchen

Nowadays,the kitchen is unified with all kinds of gadgets, many are useful, some unnecessary. In many homes in the last centuries, a kitchen was not a kitchen, it was a place where people huddled to keep warm, a fire was stoked, kitchens were more connected to the outside.

We see how the modern kitchen evolved, identified by its own space within a space, a good thing, The obvious problem is life in so many ways is still disposable, we buy more than we need, we dispose more than we need. In the old days, a kitchen was a place where productivity had little to do with the size of the kitchen, and more to do with the garden and life outside. Consumption was more, and waste less.