Kitchen History Fun Facts
By Elli Davis, November 3, 2011
Family Kitchen by Meaduva
The kitchen is a space that is commonly used by all members of the family. It serves not only as a work room, but it is also one of the main social spaces within our homes. Describing the history of the kitchen in all its complexity would take up a whole book (and some have attempted to do so — check out the Encyclopedia of Kitchen History by Snodgrass). I will voluntarily give up on such ambitions and provide you with a couple of fun facts connected to kitchen history.
Wall of Microwaves by Wikimedia Commons
Microwave technology was invented in 1946 by Dr. Percy L. Spencer while working on a different project of a rather peculiar nature. Mr. Spencer discovered this more efficient way of magnetrons manufacture while he was employed as an engineer at Raytheon Corporation, working on a radar-related research project. No wonder that the first commercial microwave introduced to the market was called “Radarange.”
Cooking and baking is always a daunting unless you have had some practice or spent hours and hours preparing food under your parents’ guidance, but it is commonly considered to be a manageable process as long as you have a precise recipe at hand. Now, imagine that you were cooking prior to 1845, when cookbooks preferred using instructions such as “some flour” or “enough oil” to provide you with exact measurements. It is only thanks to Eliza Acton, hopeless poet cook, who introduced ingredients measurement in her Modern Cookery book that we now have detailed instructions.
Electric Stove Hits Kitchens
Electric Stove by Diana House
It took a while for stoves to look and function the way they do now. The first electric stoves that appeared just before the end of the 19th century reminded many people of a piece of factory machinery rather than of a household appliance. Most prototypes were made of wood, mostly oak, and lined with some protective material like zinc. The funniest thing is that the knobs to regulate temperature weren’t located on the top as they are today, but on the ground level, and it took about an hour to preheat the oven.
Refrigerators in the North
In the past, people had no refrigerators to keep their food fresh and mostly used so-called icehouses throughout the year. These were located underground, near lakes and other freshwater sources, and packed with snow and ice all year long. However, it was a rather costly process. Ice collection was performed manually with axes. Actually, ice harvesting became a huge business in the 19th century. Frederic Tudor (nicknamed the Boston Ice-King) based his world-famous company on exporting ice from New England. His ice business reached as far as the Carribean, Europe, and even India!
After fridges became widespread, there was no need to continue using the icehouses around the world. But one thing is not clear: why do people in the north use fridges if their climate is cold enough during every season and they never had troubles with deep-freezing? The answer is simple: to keep their food warm enough and ready to use any time!