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Kitchen talk:

The Saturday Guardian has a weekly feature on Fantasy Houses. This week the focus is on kitchens: Homes with amazing kitchens – in pictures | Money | The Guardian

Now I would not feel at home in any of those massive, cold, expensive laboratories, but it did get me thinking about kitchens I know and have known.

When we think of home, the kitchen is the hub. This is where we all come and go and chat and make plans – and get to satisfy a need for food, drink, warmth and company.

Our kitchen in Woodland Crescent of the 1940s and 1950s was small: a sink, a running board, a kitchen cabinet, a gas cooker. The cabinet contained most of what we needed to prepare food and baking. A fold-down flap provided a small work surface. Saucepans, frying pan and such were under the running board with a washable curtain screening them. Additional needs were just next door in the pantry. Washing was done in the sink. The mangle was outside in the shed – and drying was on the clothes-line

Later in the 1950s the kitchen was expanded thanks to the loss of the coal house – Coal giving way to gas for heating. This doubled the space and we had more work surfaces, more storage space – and a fridge.

Working in South Manchester service for old people with dementia and other mental health problems from the 1970s – Chorlton, Didsbury, Withington, Northenden, Wythenshawe, Baguley – Kitchens like these were key to the character of every home. Some would house a grate, a few – especially in Chorlton - would have a hob – They spoke of the care and competence of the household and householder – and to an extent gave evidence of their financial situation. Pictures on the wall or mantle-shelf telling of holidays, grandchildren and pets (including those long-gone). Ornaments brought home or sent home from holidays. A book of trusted recipes.

People would be at ease in their kitchen. Interviews might be in the sitting room or dining room, but a glimpse and a scent of the kitchen added depth to understanding and confirmed mutual respect and trust.

Our kitchen now has many of the features a kitchen which would not have been out of place in the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s. Friends will exclaim: ‘It is like visiting my Aunt Ada’. Cooker only recently electric. Sink, running board, pans under the running board, screened by a curtain. Cupboards which were built into the house at birth – early 1900s. Plain pinewood table. Clock (made by a friend). Wooden chairs. Fridge/freezer is in the pantry which connects to the kitchen. Washing machine is in another room. Crockery, pots and pans hav come from earlier generations and previous homes. We have been here 40 years. Recipes from Sue’s mum and my mom – and Mrs Beeton.

Trixie’s basket is under the pine table

The thing about such kitchens is that we know them and they know us. Even when dementia takes away some competence, the routine and familiar are there to hold you safe. Tea, toast, marmalade, perhaps an egg. More tea.

Some would sit by the fire until their legs blistered – and they would not complain.

This is my home

And here you’ll find

In every room

A welcome, kind

(Especially the kitchen)


Each week we post a blog from David Jolley where he shares his personal views on relevant subjects.

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