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Change in the Kitchen

When Vice President (ial candidate*) Tim Kaine announced that “Humans don’t like change” he overlooked the fact that actually we introduce, create and endorse change all the time. In the political sphere, the Ancient Greeks created democracy but the right to vote was limited to a very select and limited group. In the nineteenth century, democracy in Britain began to include a wider range of voters but still only half of men were eligible to vote.

By 1918, all men were enfranchised and the size of the electorate grew from 7 to 12 million. Women were included for the first time but only if they were over 30 years old. By 1928 , women’s rights had changed again and came in line with their male counterparts: both could now vote if 21 or over. This changed yet again in 1960 when the age was lowered to 18. Even today, convicted serving prisoners are not allowed to vote and there is a movement to lower the age limit to 16 so the meaning of “universal” suffrage is constantly changing.

In France, it was not until 1945 that laws were changed and women were permitted to vote but only if they were literate and this was fifteen years after Turkey had endorsed universal suffrage. Eventually in 1965 all French women were granted the right to vote.

Whilst these changes may well be called “progress,” the new voters certainly fought for and like the changes. In our homes, the kitchen has gone through a similar development. Until the early nineteenth century, the kitchen was the cooking room and therefore often the only room in a house with heating and very much the centre of a family’s activities. With industrialisation and urban growth, some houses began to have a dedicated kitchen just for preparing and cooking food which was a trend that persisted between the two world wars. Kitchens became smaller an, ironically, often colder than the rest of the house as ovens began to be installed instead of fires and ranges and there was no other source of heating.

Today the kitchen has again become the focal point of our homes and increasingly the kitchen is being integrated into our living space without being tucked away at the back in a separate room. Kitchens have become the most expensive room to fit out. Not only are they full of cupboards and drawers, units that are in turn full of crockery, china, glassware, tools, pots and pans but the range of appliances is growing all the time. In addition to our hobs and ovens, we now can have grills, griddles and wok burners, deep fat fryers, steamers, fridges, freezers, washers, dryers and dish washers, espresso makers, mixers, blenders, kettles, toasters, microwaves and more. Kitchens can now include breakfast bars and stools, tables and chairs, televisions and computer screens and once again they have become the centre of home life.

At the same time, however, more and more people are eating out. One in four of us eat out at least once a week and 16-20 year olds eat fast food take aways between 4 and 5 times each week and a staggering 1 in 6 do so twice a day. In the 21 to 34 age group this latter figure drops to 1 in 8. The most popular meals are pizzas and Chinese food and burgers but the variety of food on offer is escalating all the time and total sales now exceed £28 billion per annum.  If this trend continues there may be little incentive for homes to have kitchens at all or if theory do, most of the appliances will never be used.

So, we humans not only pioneer change all the time but whether or not we like it is a separate question. But if we don’t like it, one thing is for sure, we’ll change again!