Post 216 – by Gautam Shah
Hearth and Kitchen
Hearth in the Kitchen has been the most important entity of kitchen formation. All functions of kitchen, such as the food preparation, cooking, consumption, arranging water, fuel and other resources, smoke, effluents, and solid waste management, cleaning (of foods and vessels), washing (laundry), bathing (family members and staff), storage systems, and food consumption must be resolved for the convenience of hearth usage.
Hearth form, size and location inside or outside the dwelling enclosure are decided by climate and social taboos. Hearth and its fuel, together determined the time spent for cooking, proximity of dining, nature of cooking, and social interactions within the family. Some strong dilemmas have always existed ‘as to what could and should remain with the hearth, and what must be placed away from it or outside the kitchen’
Kitchen is a place where means and methods continuously evolve. Activities of kitchen are strongly affected quality of fuel, foods and condiments available, urbanization, mobility of family (migrant, nomadic, ethnic), climate (seasons’ cycles), geography and heritage. Foreign influences such as new condiments, foods, vegetables, and recipes affect the kitchen form very readily. Vanquished and victorious civilizations, both are affected, if not by each others’ culture, and surely by foods and cooking. Societies that were geographically secluded, or not in war, stayed frozen in the time section, but with maturing their ethnicity.
When new foods arrive, new kitchen planning ideology also sets in. The stew in the cauldron on fire place like hearths, and open fire baked breads; were replaced with frying pans and closed chamber baking. This change also entailed platform-based cooking. Sink attached or connected with the platform and its drainage facility encouraged piped plumbing. The heat, smoke and soot of a hearth were vented through stacks or properly sited and adequately sized windows. The bathing tub of the family went out of the kitchen, into a separate chamber, called bathroom or toilet. Openly stacked stores were chambered into specific rooms.
In the middle ages, urban centers like Venice, London, Paris, etc. redefined dwellings emerged for urban family depending on urban supply system. Many of these urban dwellings were shared structures and located away from the ground (upper floor houses). A major change came with the charcoal and mineral coal replacing the wood. The new fuels were less massive, and had better heat output. The emissions were lesser and manageable. The kitchen now became exclusively a food preparation zone. It remained women’s domain. She spent substantial part of time overlooking cooking, but in the intermittent period busied herself with crafts.