Writer Charles Bukowski once said, "Show me a man who lives along and has a perpetually clean kitchen...eight times out of nine I'll show you a man with detestable spiritual qualities." A kitchen needs to be lived in and loved. Fancy gadgets come and go – or stay in drawers – but some innovations have made our kitchens what they are today…
SOME LIKE IT HOT
The oven. A huge advance from hairy people in furs huddling over fire. 33 brick ovens can still be seen in ancient Pompeii. Centuries later, in the 1920s, piping gas to households was a huge step - creating controllable fire on which to cook. But for some, it was the advent of the electric oven that shook things up. It all seemed very high tech until the microwave then made cooks feel truly space age. No flame! No heat! Vibrations! Fundamentally, it led to cooking becoming easier, faster.
CHOP IT UP AND START AGAIN
Ah the glorious food processor. Yes, people have always chopped, whittled and ground food. Prehistoric man used flint to strip meat from carcasses. But he also spent a huge amount of time catching and preparing his food. Imagine how much more time he might have had if all the slicing, blending and pulverizing was done by a machine? Le Magi-Max was invented by Frenchman Pierre Verdon in 1973 and eventually called the Cuisinart.
AN OPEN AND SHUT CASE
Cans have been around since the early 19th century. But oddly enough the can opener wasn’t invented until 50 years later. Originally cans were so thickly made that they had to be beaten open. It was still an amazing way of storing, preserving and transporting foodstuffs. A can opener patent was created in 1870 and greatly refined at the beginning of the 20th century, including an electric version. It is not only food that can be canned – who could forget beer? The can changed lives.
FLAT OUT IN THE KITCHEN
A rolling pin. The simplest design imaginable. Not a sophisticated gadget in the truest sense of the word. First used in ancient civilizations. Patented in the late 1800s, most commonly made of wood but often crafted in marble and even glass. Most kitchens have one and it a boon to bakers, or makers of pasta - as well as a classic weapon to shake at errant kitchen hands. Covered in flour, a rolling pin in your hand, it makes you feel like a creative cook…
THE COOKING EQUIVALENT OF A ONESIE
Yes the saucepan was a neat invention but there is something wonderful about the wok. Cantonese and invented possibly as early as the 10th century – the shape and design was purposely made to make it economic for fuel consumption. But it’s the throw-it-all-in, sizzling hot cooking method that makes it effective, but also showy and theatrical. Curvaceous and sexy, woks are usually made of iron but have been seen in bronze. Now that would be flashy!
Bukowski was right. The kitchen is a great place. Now cook and make it dirty!