The Warmest Room in the House: How the Kitchen Became the Heart of the Twentieth-Century American Home

The Warmest Room in the House: How the Kitchen Became the Heart of the Twentieth-Century American Home

by Steven Gdula
     
 

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The first book that puts the hearth of the American home-its many unique challenges and innovations-in its proper place in contemporary history.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote that if you really want to understand the workings of a society, you have to "look into their pots" and "eat their bread." Steven Gdula gives us a view of American culture from the most popular…  See more details below

Overview

The first book that puts the hearth of the American home-its many unique challenges and innovations-in its proper place in contemporary history.
Thomas Jefferson once wrote that if you really want to understand the workings of a society, you have to "look into their pots" and "eat their bread." Steven Gdula gives us a view of American culture from the most popular room in the house: the kitchen. Examining the relationship between trends and innovations in the kitchen and the cultural attitudes beyond its four walls, Gdula creates a lively portrait of the last hundred years of American domestic life. The Warmest Room in the House explores food trends and technology, kitchen design, appliances and furniture, china and flatware, cookery bookery, food lit, and much more.
Gdula traces the evolution of the kitchen from the back room where the work of the home happened to its place at the center of family life and entertainment today. Filled with fun facts about food trends, from Hamburger Helper to The Moosewood Cookbook, and food personalities, from Julia Child to Rachael Ray, The Warmest Room in the House is the perfect addition to any well-rounded kitchen larder.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Superficial, research-skimpy overview of middle-class American innovations in the 20th-century kitchen. Freelance journalist Gdula's warm-and-fuzzy chronological narrative of America's industry-driven tastes barely takes into account the history of cooking before 1900 and largely neglects this country's staggering regional and class differences. Frequently settling for such lazy summaries as, "changes were occurring so quickly in American society," he always means middle-class, white society. Suddenly, by 1900, the "down-hearth fireplace" of prairie living was replaced by the freestanding cook stove, transforming the kitchen from a hot, dangerous place into a welcoming center of the house to which even guests were invited. The new century's lady of the house saw herself as a domestic scientist, thanks to cooking primers by Sarah Tyson Rorer and Fannie Farmer. Guesswork was eschewed in favor of measurement, and public awareness of food contamination spread thanks to Upton Sinclair (The Jungle) and others. The U.S. government passed the Pure Food Act of 1907, and sanitary measures became de rigueur, as evidenced by the advent of better lighting, linoleum and the Hoosier cabinet. The consolidation of industry during World War I ushered innovations into the kitchen: canning, calorie counting, Borden's condensed milk and Pyrex. Boxed cold cereal and sliced bread miraculously appeared in the 1920s, the Waring Blender, SPAM and Fiestaware in the Depression. Victory gardens and vitamins helped Americans stay healthy during World War II, and wartime experiments such as Teflon and aluminum foil ended up in the kitchen. Access to refrigeration, plastics and frozen French fries promised to make thekitchen less of a scullery in the 1950s. From the '60s onward, Julia Childs and others familiarized Americans with the preparation of international cuisine. From dieting to genetically modified foods, Gdula skates through a century of America's eating habits, regurgitating articles from magazines and offering few fresh ideas.
From the Publisher

“A worthy candidate for the kitchen shelf.” —Star Tribune

“A wealth of information on how the kitchen, and the food Americans prepared there, has changed since 1900..Gdula's scholarly approach will have you amazed at just how far we have come in easing the drudgery of cooking...a worthy candidate for the kitchen shelf.” —Chicago Tribune

“Steven Gdula's The Warmest Room in the House will warm you right up. This whirlwind tour of the past hundred years or so sheds light on how the kitchen was often a reflection of our society at any given time...You'll emerge armed with a wealth of kitchen-related tidbits..From Typhoid Mary to Martha Stewart, Gdula paints a portrait of America's culinary characters and how they fit into our changing sense of how to cook and eat.” —Gothamist

“Forget heart and hearth, argues the author of this inviting study of domiciliary evolution - home is where the stove is. Tracing the American kitchen's century-long rise from lowly back room to glowing center of domestic life, Gdula scours the historical pantry, illuminating the development of food preparation, scullery technology, gastronomic design, and culinary celebrity. The decade-by- decade survey he serves up is a delight, rich but restrained.” —Atlantic Monthly

“[Gdula] demonstrates in ample and fascinating detail. ''The Warmest Room'' traces the evolution of the kitchen decade by decade through the 20th century.” —New York Times

“Yes, of course, you are what you eat, but you may well have to cook whatever it is you are eating, and the tools and techniques for doing so can say as much about you as the food itself...[Gdula] is interesting when he outlines the rise of Julia Child, the abiding tension between diet books and cookbooks, and the appearance of appliances as faddish as the fondue pot and as durable as the microwave...[He] does an especially good job on the food-related double consciousness of Americans in recent decades.” —Wall Street Journal

“In a more than 100-year odyssey, writer Gdula documents more than 10 decades of progress (or not) by American manufacturers, food producers, food experts, the government, and, yes, the consumer in the effort to transform the kitchen into the heart of the home...Gdula makes a strong case for the constant and continuing role of food and its associated topics…Fascinating.” —Booklist

“Well-researched and entertaining...Gdula successfully personifies the American kitchen.” —Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781596917873
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
12/04/2008
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
File size:
773 KB

Meet the Author

Steve Gdulas writing has appeared in Details, the Washington Post, the Advocate, and Cooking Light magazine. He lives in Washington, D.C.
Steve Gdulas writing has appeared in Details, the Washington Post, the Advocate, and Cooking Light magazine. He lives in Washington, D.C.

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