Jane’s kitchen

I’ve told you about the house where I grew up, but I don’t think I said anything about the kitchen.  When we first moved there, the kitchen was a smallish room just inside the back door, but that was a makeshift affair, and I can’t say I remember much about its set-up.  In 1960 or 1961, my parents forewent a holiday to install the kitchen they really wanted in the bigger room next door.

The layout was very practical.  My mother stood mixing an imaginary cake, stirring imaginary pots, washing-up make-believe pans.  The intention was to be as ergonomically efficient as possible, yet allowing for more than one person to work, and to reckon on a lot of cooking taking place.

So, the cooking arrangements.  There was an eye-level oven, because that was far more back-friendly than crouching down to the cooker.  It incorporated a grill of course, but that was never used because it wasn’t very convenient (awkward to look at, couldn’t use grill and oven together, it wasn’t hot enough) and another eye-level grill was put under the air extractor.  She never reckoned that four hot plates were enough, so eight were put in a purpose-built alcove, along with the grill, and an extractor fan was installed too.

Opposite them, she had a peninsula unit fitted (this was unheard-of then, she was way ahead of the times) with a sink and a work surface and cupboards underneath.  The sink included a waste disposal unit, which we used a lot and loved but I’m not sure why.  Surely a small bucket under the sink where the peelings could have been chucked to go on the compost heap would have worked just as well, and all our teaspoons wouldn’t have ended up mangled because they’d fallen down unnoticed.  It was awfully dangerous actually, there was a rubber cover but nothing to stop you putting your hand down while it was running.  None of us ever did, obv.  Anyway, into the work surface was incorporated the motor of a liquidiser – it had a cover to protect it from water, but was really convenient, you just got the liquidiser and twisted it on, nothing to plug in.  There was a socket next to it, into which you could plug the Kenwood mixer.  The peninsula and the housing of the cooker opposite was made of brick, another innovation.  No-one had ever imagined such a thing in our neck of the woods, fifty years ago.

The cupboards held pots and pans, baking tins and so on, but there was another room next door for glass and china, so cooking and eating utensils were separate.  There were two dressers in the room, a dark oak Welsh dresser which held various china cooking dishes, and the white dresser, which was a piece of built-in (at the time the house was built in 1913, I daresay) furniture which held food – packets and tins and so on, and in the drawers were herbs and spices.  In its centre was a hatchway through to the dining room.

It must have been very expensive, the oven was imported and everything was very modern, though housed in a traditional style (she was ahead of the trend there too) and all the latest gadgets were included, including a timer for the oven.  Sad to say, the first time it was used it was a disaster.  The thermostat didn’t kick in, the oven overheated and we came home to a ruined oven and a kitchen filled with smoke.  The company had to pay for the kitchen to be cleaned and redecorated, down to the carpet.

Lino wasn’t good enough for my mother, of course,  There was a pink fitted carpet except in front of the hob, where there were quarry tiles, and the room was wallpapered.  If you’ve been here, you’ll know that the only rooms in the house with wallpaper are the kitchen, bathroom and cloakroom – the least impractical ones, you’d think.  Pfft.  I like it that way, as she did.  Though she did have wallpaper in other rooms too in those days.

This wasn’t what I set out to tell you about, I’m just setting the scene.  I’ll save the rest for another day.

11 comments on “Jane’s kitchen

  1. Tim

    Moi, cynical? That was Flanders & Swann, 1956 – ‘Design for Living’. Oh, I’m resisting the temptation to quote the entire lyrics (‘we’re terribly house and garden’ etc. – remember?)at you, so might put on the LP instead, if I can find it.
    #Yes, I can.

  2. Zig

    kt’s a funny thing, i love to hear about (and see) innovative kitchens, and this one sounds a doozy, and I’m always attracted to the kitchen implements and gagets and yet cooking doesn’t interest me at all and I can’t watch a cooking programme to save my life…
    I’m looking forward to part 2!

  3. Z

    The first kitchen I designed for myself was the best for working in, it was wonderfully efficient. The present one, I’ve never been quite satisfied with.

    My kitchen wallpaper is Laura Ashley – it’s been there for 27 years, which shows it wasn’t as impractical as you might have thought. Mind you, I should redecorate, but can’t quite face the upheaval yet.

  4. Indigo Roth

    Hi Z, this is fascinating. I’ve only had one kitchen I liked, and it was sold when I divorced. My current one, all electric, I despise; I want gas! Indigo

  5. Z

    I’ve got an Aga now, but I always insisted on gas. I hate electric cookers. Another idea for a blog post, they’re stacking up.


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