Kitchen of the Future: Time-saving Technologies
Andrea Bergstol, Cynthia Grynspan & Meredith Parker
Since the concept of cooking our food took hold, humankind has been seeking out techniques to make eating more pleasurable, convenient, easy, and in more recent times, FAST! Nevertheless, even since the earliest of times, speed has been a factor. Cooking in of itself is a time saving technique. By ingesting cooked food, our human ancestors did not have to spend as much time chewing and swallowing raw food and they could absorb calories more quickly.
Our time saving advances in kitchen science have only accelerated and multiplied into the present. 9000 to 10,500 years ago the new cutting edge technology was the use of hot stones for cooking instead of an open flame that needed constant tending- freeing up time for other pursuits. It wasn’t until not very long ago, relatively speaking, that the first stove was built in Alsace, France in 1490. Here in the U.S., even by the 1840’s, getting enough food to survive was our main concern- if you couldn’t hunt for it, trade for it, grow it or gather it- you didn’t get it and cooking over a fire was extremely labor intensive. Finally, by the 1880’s women were acquiring cook stoves and their skirts were catching on fire less.
By the 1920’s most people had running water and electricity. New products and appliances that aided in efficiency were hitting the market with increasing momentum. With the invention of the icebox, people didn’t have to shop as frequently and could be more flexible about mealtimes. Most of the appliances typically associated with a ‘modern kitchen’ developed in the 20th century. It was also during the 20th century in the U.S. that speediness and convenience became an increasing and perhaps, overriding priority. Shifting of cultural norms and women’s entry into the workplace meant that time spent preparing food in the kitchen was taking a backseat to other activities.
It was in the earlier part of the first half of the 20th century that we saw the invention of the refrigerator, dishwasher, electric toaster and garbage disposal. Americans were rather quick to embrace new products- especially devices that allowed for less time spent laboring in the kitchen. The 1950’s brought forth a new era of frozen TV dinners, processed and fast foods. By the second half of the 20th century we had automatic coffee pots, self-cleaning and microwave ovens. Americans were well on their way to becoming overweight couch potatoes. By the 1970’s we had become culturally and irrevocably entangled with processed foods since they we easy, quick, tasty and affordable.
As a country we embraced McDonalds and eating in front of the television to an unhealthy degree and today the debate about whether Americans went too far with time-saving is hotly contested. Our ‘Fast Food Nation’ is now straining under the weight of wide-scale problems with diabetes, childhood obesity and a plethora of other health issues related to an addiction to junk food. Our over-loaded healthcare system and lack of family unity has also led us to question whether the goal of time-saving should continue to be such a key priority in our eating habits.
Presently, new technologies are still focusing on saving us time since our schedules have only become busier- yet there is also a new emphasis on sustainability, energy efficiency and the goal of providing us with healthy, fresh, whole foods that are also local and seasonal. There is much evidence that points to a culinary renaissance happening in the U.S.- folks are earnestly taking an interest in where their food comes from and how it is prepared before scarfing it down. Average Americans are rediscovering their kitchens as a focal point in the home and a safe, relaxing place for experimentation. Demand for gadgetry that assists a ‘home gourmet’ has skyrocketed. Breadmakers, espresso machines and sous vide devices offer more elaborate but still convenient options. The trendy new chemistry-lab approach to cooking that has taken the fine dining world by storm: ‘molecular gastronomy’ embraces cutting edge technologies but utilizes them for everything but saving time.
Using technology in order to bring forth new and strange culinary concoctions is probably not going to catch on in average American kitchens. Its hard to digest the idea that liquid nitrogen and agar-agar powder will become common residential kitchen features, yet there are many new products on the market that seem likely to be adopted as they become increasingly affordable.
After the widely popular development of the built-in icemaker, Americans are showing enthusiasm for all kinds of built in devices- i.e.: built-in coffee makers, modular refrigerators and freezers, interchangeable ‘Combisets,’ built-in blast chillers, etc. Smartphone technology allows for the remote operation of appliances. Smartpanels on refrigerators keep track of its contents, when you must buy more, how much of each item is needed and when it expires.
Which of the kitchen gadgets newly in vogue today will persist into the future is uncertain. Like the passé fondue pots of the 70’s, some items that seem essential and modern today may soon fall out of favor- which ones seem the most viable? Since Roomba vacuum robots have had proven success, we hope for further developments in robotics in the near future. 3-D food printing is a fascinating innovation that most folks are currently skeptical of. Will the move be toward synthesized food or home prepared organic meals? Will our food come from local urban or rooftop farms within big cities? Will our agriculture be actually incorporated into our city architecture? All is food for thought.
-Bacon, Katie. “The All-American Kitchen”. The Atlantic.
-Carlisle, Nancy. “America’s Kitchens.” Tilbury House, Publishers, Gardiner, MN.
-Hipstomp. “A Brief History of Kitchen Design, Part 8: American Gagetry and ‘Kitchen Modernization Programs.’”
-Pandolfi, Keith. “The American Kitchen Through the Ages.” This Old House Online.
From the movie Wall-e
Clip: The sad future of human kind
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