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America's Kitchens Paperback – December 1, 2008

4.8 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"...Innovatively designed and lavishly illustrated with historic drawings, photographs, and a fascinating array of ephemera from Historic New England's diverse collections, "America's Kitchens' describes what it was like to live with and work in kitchens that had none of the conveniences we take for granted. At the same time, the book analyzes the profound place of the kitchen in our own lives today..." —Antiques Journal


"...a compelling homage to the beloved room within the home that is central to our lives in so many respects...richly embellished with paintings, photographs and historic drawings..."—Culinary History Enthusiasts of Wisconsin


"...It's the kitchen that's the most evocative room in the American household. The authors of America's Kitchens reaffirm that fact of national life in this fascinating compilation of words and images that trace the room's evolution from the "hearth way of life" in the colonies all the way to the granite-topped, open-plan kitchen extravaganzas of today...."—The Culinary Times


"......Innovatively designed and lavishly illustrated with historic drawings, photographs and a fascinating array of ephemera from Historic New England's diverse collections, America's Kitchens describes what it was like to live with and work in kitchens that had none of the conveniences we take for granted. At the same time, the book analyzes the profound place of the kitchen in our own lives today."—Kennebec Journal

Review

...The variety of illustrations in Kitchens produces an engaging panorama ranging from period photography, written documents, drawings, and advertisements to genre paintings. The span of illustrative material runs parallel to and complements the book's highly satisfactory essays on kitchens, and cooking traditions, making it an outstanding resource for house restorers...."

"...a text that delves into the social history of the space and its inhabitants....subjects such as regional foodstuffs, domestic servants, home economics, and advertising are well covered....Excerpts from household manuals and diaries, quotations from notable figures, and recipes interspersed throughout the book are a charming addition to the text...Myriad illustrations are included, mostly of paintings, prints, and archival photographs that capture very well the activity of the kitchen..."
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 198 pages
  • Publisher: Historic New England; First Edition edition (December 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0884483088
  • ISBN-13: 978-0884483083
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 0.7 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #599,724 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

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I'm a history and material culture nerd, so this topic may be more appealing to me than the average person. But I am in love with this book. It's page layout is more like a magazine than a text, which makes it easier to read than a dense history text. That alone would probably warrant 5 stars from this former History major. The writing is not too academic but not dumbed-down. I learned so much new information about a topic that I thought I knew. The pictures and sidebars are full of interesting information. My only issue is that, because I kept stopping to look at all the pictures, when the text continued to a new page, I had to keep flipping back to see what they were talking about.

If you're interested in learning about kitchens, women's studies, food history or any related topic, you should pick this book up and don't put it down until you're done.
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Format: Paperback
This is a beautifully illustrated and well researched book that will appeal to many different audiences. I think it would be a great gift for a cook with too many cookbooks, or any fan of American history, particularly women's history. I also think it would be great for a school library, since kids just love to write papers and projects on topics like these (e.g. what did the colonists really eat?). While the book is written for adults and includes scholarly citations, the writing style is accessible enough for older children.

The book has seven chapters:
1) The kitchen in American life
2) The New England hearth 1720-1840
3) Kitchens in the plantation south 1830-1860
4) Cookstoves and servants 1850-1890
5) Kitchens along the Rio Grande 1821-1912
6) Towards the modern kitchen 1890-1945
7) The Postwar kitchen 1945-present

Thus the book moves through time and place in a very engaging way. The book is fully illustrated; a picture on nearly every page. It's the kind of book you could read cover-to-cover or just flip through and read a page here and there, and enjoy it both ways.

As a food fan myself, this book made me reflect. A lot of us foodies are so enthusiastic nowadays about "slow" and authentic food, and so against processed and prepared foods. Yet this book showed how preparing, cooking, and preserving food often dominated literally every minute of women's lives. For example, "by some estimates, women may have spent as much as six to eight hours a day grinding corn and another two or three hours making tortillas" (p. 111). Wow. Even the most dedicated foodie doesn't want to spend 10 hours a day making the same thing, every single day. Made me appreciate technology in and out of the kitchen much more.
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Format: Paperback
I've written about kitchens for Taunton Press and I'm always on the lookout for books about the history of kitchen design. I checked this out from my fantastic local library, but I'm very definitely going to purchase it, as it belongs in my personal library. This book contains a nice mix of academic research and original sources. It is stuffed full of photos, illustrations and quotes from original texts from all eras. And it has an incredible, huge bibliography, including a reference to some fascinating and comprehensive online sources. History buffs, designers, and cooks of all ages should enjoy seeing what Americans have considered ideal for kitchen design over our 200-plus year history.
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