Wednesday, October 27

Imagine a life without a refrigerator, dishwasher and mixer


This is what a kitchen might look like at the beginning of the 20th century.

From cooking over an open fire to today’s kitchen with built-in appliances and electronic ladles. Join a journey back in time through the history of cooking.

Today we take electrical aids in the kitchen for granted. But the kitchen has not always contained all this.

The look of the décor has also changed considerably, from stone and openwork flooring to colorful 1960s and ’70s linoleum and patterned wallpaper to today’s modern kitchen with clean surfaces and functionalist design.

Kitchen from the mid 60’s. The vintage slanted cabinets are now back in production and sold as “retro kitchens”.
Sunny yellow kitchen decor from the 70s.
Selvaag House from 1949. The woman cuts bread.

Important heat

– Heat is central to the history of cooking, says cultural historian Birte Sandvik at the Norwegian Folk Museum.

It goes without saying. Heat is needed to prepare food, and until well into the 19th century it happened in open wells. When the wood stove arrived in the late 19th century, it changed both dishes and eating habits considerably.

– It was revolutionary. Heat could be better controlled, wood consumption was reduced, and energy was much better utilized. Now, for example, you could bake bread, and not just flatbread on a grill over an open fire, says Sandvik.

The wood stove was named “the black oven”. It lasted in Norwegian homes until World War II, even though gas and electric stoves had been on the market for some time.

– The electric stove arrived in Norway in the 1930s. However, it took a while before it became common in Norwegian homes. We see that it has developed gradually with society and infrastructure, says Sandvik.

Norwegian Folk Museum cultural historian Birte Sandvik takes us on a journey through the revolutionary history of cooking.
Kitchen details from a working-class house in Vika, Oslo, 1957. The house was established in 1926, but even then the kitchen was out of date.
Ready-to-serve pasta in the 80’s.
A woman in full swing cooking in a kitchen in Fredrikstad in the late 1950s.

The entrance of the refrigerator

Heat is therefore an important factor in the history of cooking, but it is also cold. However, the refrigerator, as we know it, arrived in Norwegian homes more than 100 years after the stove.

The ice cabinet, the forerunner of the refrigerator, kept food cold using blocks of ice located on top of the cabinet. They changed once or twice a week.

The ice was cut from fjords, lakes and man-made ponds. This was a large company in Norway from the 1850s until WWII, with exports to many countries.

The history of the refrigerator as we know it today began in the United States in 1916. But it would be almost ten years before they became affordable and practical enough to become particularly widespread.

The largest manufacturer was the General Electric Company, whose “Frigidaire” model was on sale in Norway in the late 1920s. But it was still 40 years before refrigerators became common in Norwegian homes.

This was a kitchen on Holmens’s doorstep in Oslo in 1957.
A recently renovated kitchen in a tenement house in Oslo. Tables and chairs designed by Alvor Alto.
Comfort in the kitchen of the 70s.
New retro kitchen at the Stockholm Furniture Fair in 2007.

Technical revolution

Thus, two of the most important elements of the kitchen were in their place, the heat and the cold. During the 1930s, other electronic aids had also taken over the kitchen, such as blenders and water heaters.

– Norwegian homes and kitchens underwent a technical revolution in the decades leading up to World War II. Installing water and drainage, electricity and gas, and eventually a host of other electrical aids reduced the wear and tear of housework. Cooking and cleaning became easier and required less time than before, Sandvik explains.

Parallel to technical development, aesthetics have also changed. In the 1920s and 1930s, the emphasis was on the kitchen being hygienic and easy to care for.

The walls were often painted with bright, washable paint, while the floors could have linoleum coverings that were easy to keep clean. At the time, most kitchens were built-in spaces as well.

Brown kitchen from the 70’s, when appliances were brown.
Colorful kitchen decor in a newly built apartment block with laminated fabric between the shelves and the kitchen counter.
Much of the trend from the ’60s is back.

The mother of modern cuisine

But it was Austria’s first female architect, Margrete Schütte-Lihotsky, who became the mother of modern kitchens. In 1926 he designed The cuisine of Frankfurt. It was produced in more than 10,000 units, so it can be rightly called the first series-produced kitchen.

Frankfurt cuisine emphasize efficiency and utilization of space. Among other things, this kitchen had incorporated ironing boards and wall cabinets that reached up to the ceiling.

The focus was on facilitating the daily life of the housewife. A Swedish study conducted in the 1950s showed that an “average housewife” walked seven kilometers a day in the kitchen. This resulted in a well planned kitchen where work flow was in focus.

Light blue kitchen cabinet with plastic handles. The wall is painted light yellow, “mimosa”, which was very popular in the 1950s and 1960s.
This red and blue kitchen was featured at Nye Bonytt in 1979 and has been recreated in the Wessels Gate 15 apartment building at the Norwegian Folk Museum.

The warm room

But the history of the important position of the kitchen in the home is more than the history of technology, functionality and efficiency. It’s also about the psychosocial and the interpersonal.

The kitchen is the heart of the home it is called. The main reason is the element mentioned above: heat.

In the old days, the kitchen was often the only warm room. It was important to save fuel and the rest of the house was often cold. But in the kitchen there was a fire in the wood stove and therefore warm and cozy. This is where the family met. The wood stove was “the hearth of the hearth” and represents the warmth of the hearth, also in a figurative sense. Although today’s house has heating in every room, the kitchen has maintained its position as “the warm room,” says Sandvik.


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