THE MID-CENTURY KITCHEN: It encapsulates so much about American culture of the time, including modern design, space-age technologies, and postwar consumerism. All this week at RetroRenovation.com, we’ll be taking a look at the mid-century kitchen and its place in the history of America’s Kitchens. Leading each day’s kitchen stories will be my good friend Erica Donnis, an independent historian and museum consultant based in Burlington, Vermont. She recently visited the America’s Kitchens exhibit and will be bringing us spotlights on design and technology — and a couple of fabulous examples of mid-century kitchens.
Reviewers generally don’t gush, but I can’t help myself! The America’s Kitchens publication and exhibition both nimbly cover a broad topic without bogging down, and they touch on important issues (think slave cooking, Irish servants, and women’s roles) along the way—without hitting you over the head with it. Both are filled with great quotes and visuals that readers of this blog will eat up (no pun intended, of course). In the exhibition, I especially enjoyed the opportunity to browse through vintage American cookbooks in a reading area set aside for that purpose. There are even recipe cards on hand in case you find something to try at home. Enjoy! — Erica Donnis
Erica Donnis is an independent historian and museum consultant based in Burlington, Vermont. This is the first installment in her week-long look at America’s Kitchens — which now encompasses both a book and a national traveling exhibition.
As part of our special America’s Kitchens week, I thought I’d try seeking out some different content – images of some historic kitchens off the beaten path. This is the west side New York City apartment kitchen of Matthew A. Henson — the first known person to reach the North pole on April 6, 1909. A black explorer, Henson was the trailblazer for the arctic expedition led by Robert E. Peary. Henson lived in this apartment from 1929-1955. What a wonderful kitchen, and piece of history. The image was captured as part the U.S. Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and is in the permanent collection of the Library of Congress. (Details: Survey number HABS NY-5697-A, National Register of Historic Places NRIS Number: 75001207)
If you are obsessed with mid-century kitchens, looking for design ideas, or interested in kitchen history, check out the book America’s Kitchens by Nancy Carlisle and Melinda Talbot Nasardinov with Jennifer Pustz, and its companion traveling exhibition, which place 20th-century cooking, eating, and entertaining within a historical context. The traveling exhibition is currently on view at the New Hampshire Historical Society until January 27, 2010. Future venues include the Long Island Museum of American Art, History, and Carriages and Heritage Museum & Gardens. For more information, see AmericasKitchens.org.
Friday night we met up with reader Cindy for the James Taylor concert at Tanglewood. It was great fun, even with the hurricane-quality rain. Hey, it makes for a better story if there are trials to be endured (just like a retro renovation project…at times). The band was the best of the best, my music-loving husband told me. He also knew that the saxophone player, Lou Marini, was the same one who popped out of the sarcophagus as King Tut in the famous Steve Martin Saturday Night Live routine. Oh, and to continue the coinkydinks, Steve Martin was the special guest at Prairie Home Companion at Tanglewood in June. “He gave his life for tourism.” Well, that night, at least.
Holy moley, this is one of the most uplifting stunts ever. Thanks to reader Megan for spotting it. Happy weekend, all.