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Thursday, 19 September 2019

Kitchens Old and New

New Kitchen 2019

New Kitchen 2019 New Kitchen 2019

The new kitchen; not quite finished. Still awaiting new blinds and flooring. I also have bits of painting left to do such as the skirting board, ceiling and around the windows. At least the two weeks of takeaways, eating out, ready meals and washing up in the bathroom are over. Zoomers can get to work on the pictures and scrutinize our minutiae: Who is Katharine? Who takes max strength congestion relief? Who’s the Big Mug? (it’s me) Good job we haven’t hung up the calendar and notice board yet. It all feels much lighter and roomier than the worn-out, twenty-five-year-old configuration it replaced, although even that was luxury compared to kitchens of old.

Grandma's kitchen 1964

Here is my grandma in her kitchen in 1964; in fact, it was not just the kitchen, it was the bathroom and the laundry room as well. The (what is now known as a) Belfast sink was the only place in the house with running water. It was not so many years since they had to fetch water from the village pump. The tall screen on the left was unfolded and placed across the alcove for privacy when washing. It would be mostly in cold water: the electric geyser was a relatively recent addition. Previously, water had to be heated on a large, black and silver, cast-iron, coal-fired range to the left of the camera and carried across the room. Look at the damp on the wall behind her.

For many years there was no flushing toilet. She had one outside by this time, but originally there was only an earth closet, the contents of which would be shovelled through an opening in the wall into the adjacent open-roofed ‘ash midden’ and burnt with the household rubbish.

She brought up a family of four there.

Mum's kitchen 1963

My mum’s kitchen around the same time is better equipped but not dissimilar. There is a top-loading washing machine on the right, a gas cooker on the left, and gosh, is that a mixer tap? By this time water was heated by an electric immersion heater in the bathroom water cylinder. There was also a Baxi back boiler behind the front room fireplace.

The sink and draining board are enamelled and mounted on formica/melamine cupboards. Above is a high wooden shelf for pans, and behind were floor-to-ceiling drawers and cupboards which were built-in new with the house in the nineteen-twenties; the other houses in the row had the same. The plastic bag hanging on the wall contains ‘silver paper’ (aluminium foil) and milk bottle tops for charity. Like her mother, she has a mirror hanging above the sink. The walls are tiled and free of damp and we have a separate bathroom, but by today’s expectations, it’s still quite basic.

Mum's kitchen 1972

Later in the sixties, we moved to a house with a serving hatch and an Aga cooker: real ‘Abigail’s Party’ stuff. But it still had the same kind of laminate drawers, cupboards and worktops. My mum now has a food mixer and there is a stand-alone spin dryer beneath the work surface in the corner. We also now had a fridge. I have no recollection of what the dispenser-like gadget screwed to the wall of the serving hatch could have been. It was a nuisance keeping the Aga going all summer, but in winter the house was always warm despite a vague but persistent sulphurous smell from the smokeless fuel. Mum didn’t like it. It was too like cooking on her mother’s coal-fired range. She eventually replaced it with a gas cooker.

Leeds kitchen 1973-74

On to the pigsty of the shared house in Leeds where I lived in the nineteen-seventies: if anything a step back. Along with 40% of other households, we had no fridge or washing machine, and domestic freezers were almost unknown in the U.K. I think the black and white picture was taken to prove Brendan did sometimes do the washing up.

The room is populated by a chip pan, dirty cups and beer glasses. The black and white picture contains a ubiquitous Russell Hobbs K2 electric kettle, although I think we lost that when someone moved out because the later colour picture has one that heats on the gas cooker.

Look in the other direction and you see what I mean by ‘pigsty’. No one ever did any cleaning. The formica/melamine unit with its gathering of nineteen-seventies tins and packets is simply disgusting. No wonder we had mice. The medieval toy soldiers above the cellar door, shields glinting in the flashbulb, came free inside breakfast cereal packets.

Leeds kitchen 1974

My kitchen standards have clearly come a long way in fifty years. No doubt, commenters such as arty Rosemary from her ex-gamekeeper’s cottage in the South-West of England with it's beautiful grounds and one hundred elegant objects will say of the new one (going by what she so woundingly said of our garden because she’s Northern and has to say it straight): “It’s not much of a kitchen is it?” She will explain it simply follows the humdrum nineteen-fifties American form originating in Benita Otte’s nineteen-twenties Bauhaus design: the seamless look of built-in worktops and cabinets with integrated appliances. She might even go so far as to say the flat panels in the cabinet doors clash with the raised panels of the room door.

Well, bollocks! I apologize for not living in a listed Country Life residence. We like the rounded corners and sage green doors. Mrs D. has been saving up for four years to pay for it. The only thing is, it cost more than a whole house would have cost in the nineteen-seventies.

23 comments:

  1. Hi great to look back at old kitchens and how we used to manage, I think that descender thing on the wall by the serving hatch was a dispenser for loose leaf tea I'm sure my grandma had one like it. Heather

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    1. Probably. There is a little metal tea pot to its left which I remember being fairly black inside. I also have a later picture taken when the Aga had gone, by which time so had the dispenser.

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  2. Sorry should of read dispenser. Heather

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  3. My Mum had a tea dispenser exactly like that, It dispensed exactly one teaspoon full per push of the button into the teapot. You were someone if you had that in your kitchen. ;-)) love all your photo's, brings back many happy memories of my Grand mother and Mum's kitchens.

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    1. OK so long as you wanted an exact multiple of the regulation strength. Glad to have reminded you of it.

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  4. Nothing wrong with a 25 year old kitchen. Ours is still hanging on in there.

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    1. Now I'm feeling guilty, part of the throw-away society creating unnecessary waste and driving climate change, but it was falling apart.

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  5. I approve heartily and would have it in a minute. Look at all that light! And the glass top range! Well done, Mrs. D. Mr. D, too.

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    1. All credit to Mrs D. who took entire responsibility including finance. I only nod and paint where I'm told. It's an ordinary house but built in the nineteen-sixties when large windows were the norm. They weren't too bothered about heating bills then.You need good double glazing now.

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  6. Very unusual to have pictures of kitchens back then.
    In my family photos were only taken on holiday - which is a shame.

    Love your new kitchen - it's very big and swish

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    1. It is a fair size, long and thin, but the big windows make layout difficult. I used to have a Kodak Brownie Starmite camera with a built in flash (it used disposable flashbulbs) and like to photograph people so the locations were just fortunate. Wish at the time I had realised that some of the best photographic exhibitions would be of people going about their everyday lives.

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  7. The rounded corners and sage green doors are nice. I don't know what your kitchen looked like before, but you would not have replaced it if it had not been necessary, I guess.
    Of the pigsty kitchen, I really like the wallpaper! And a bit of cleaning every now and then would have improved the place by quantum leaps :-)

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    1. The wallpaper was one of the few cheerful elements, but you couldn't expect four lads sharing a house to do any cleaning, could you?

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  8. Great post! I enjoyed reading it. And it's made me want to dig through all my old family photos to find pictures of my mother's and grandmothers' kitchens. Your new kitchen is lovely -- it will be a pleasure to cook and bake in it, I'm sure!

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    1. I can only say it's a pleasure to do the washing up in it and use the washing machine. I'm not allowed to do anything else but Mrs D. likes it.
      I'd love to see yours and others' kitchen pictures and similar kinds of settings with stories attached.

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  9. Your new kitchen looks lovely. It is a shame that your grandma and your mum will never see it. Grandma would say, "Ee young Tasker. Tha's done reet well y'young whippersnapper!"

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    1. Thanks, it's nice to be in, and credit for not picking up on "scrutinising minutiae" Assistant Chief Inspector Pudding. It's not quite what grandma would have said - it would have been (truly) "What d'yer want a gret big kitchen like that fer?" But you can hear her for yourself by clicking the video just before the lists at the end of https://www.taskerdunham.com/2014/12/reel-to-reel-recordings.html

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    2. I loved the way your father signed off, "I Haven't Time to Be A Millionaire" - Boo-boo-boo-boo-boo-boop.

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  10. Although the subject is kitchens, I have to say that your grandmother looks to have been a woman of good-humor. I would have liked to have spent some time in her kitchen. What strikes me looking at your mother's kitchen is how much more counter space we afford ourselves these days. Your updated kitchen looks wonderful. I particularly enjoy the natural light pouring through the windows.

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    1. As regards grandma, appearances can be deceptive. "That woman was never satisfied with anything" is what another relative once said. There are large windows throughout the house, which is great, but it does make the kitchen layout difficult, especially with four doors as well.

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  11. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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    1. Only a matter of time before the ads for kitchens started to appear! Well bugger off Troy. Oh and btw, in England we call them taps not faucets.

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