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Hot and Cold Kitchens


Renovating your house is a relatively pleasant way to drain your bank account. That’s relative to, say, taking out all your money and flushing it down the toilet. Then getting the toilet all clogged up and trying a plunger that doesn’t work and then having to call in a plumber who reports the destroyed money to the Treasury Department which then comes to investigate you for possible subversive activities, not to mention tax evasion, and so on and so forth. Relative to that, hey, go with that kitchen or bath do-over instead and spend three months thinking about faucet styles.
When we lived in California and I was thinking about redoing our own humble kitchen, maybe raising it from the level of dump to simply domestically challenged, I’d check out pictures of hot (as in hottie, not hot from cooking) kitchens for whatever tips could be scaled down. All the dream kitchens in magazines were roughly the size of a football field with yards and yards and yards of counter and a clear understanding that the only appliance getting any use was the tucked-away microwave to make popcorn for the home theater in the other wing of the house. Well, maybe some weekend recreational cooking takes place, but the main question is what kind of granite looks good with the chopstick set for the take-out Thai.
Yeah, there’s a lot of not-cooking going on in kitchens. Look how popular Trader Joe’s is, a grocery whose success is based on having a whole store full of food you assemble rather than cook. Or, as I like to think of it, Joe and his house brands are like Betty Crocker for the Ikea set. I am exaggerating of course; there are many people who do cook real stuff, and I think that’s great, especially if they’re inviting me to dinner.
Here in Spain we’ve been house-hunting and thinking about kitchens. One trend that’s been around for quite a while in U.S. kitchens is having them open to the living space, with maybe the family dining area and family room and whatever else all merging together with the kitchen. That open kitchen look is popular in Spanish magazines – they usually reference it as loft style – but the traditional look is what I still see in most homes here; the kitchen may be eat-in size but it’s still in a separate, closed room.
So almost universally when I mention to a Spaniard that I like open kitchens, I get one response. Gee, they say (actually the Spanish equivalent, whatever that is), I’d worry about the smells. The cooking smells, they mean. I can’t remember that concern ever coming up in all my kitchen conversations in the U.S. (Yeah, I know, I need a new topic to talk about.) Not that Spanish cooking is particularly stinky, although here they do cook more fish and do more deep frying than Americans. Nor do I think Spaniards are necessarily more sensitive to cooking smells in their homes, although they might be. And they do seem to have extractors that work equally well.
What I think the real difference is, is that people here still think of a kitchen as a place to actually cook. Shocking, I know.
That’s not quite the full story of course. Plenty of American cooks do think of their kitchens as a place for serious, regular cooking but also like to have them open, for entertaining or to keep an eagle eye on the kids trolling the Internet or whatever.
But you’ve got less restaurant going, less take-out and fast food, and more people here (and not just women) do still think of a kitchen as a place to go into regularly and come out with a meal to feed themselves and their families. One thing’s clear: I’ve got to wangle a few dinner invitations.

Share  Posted by Deborah Klosky at 12:31 AM | Permalink

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