Reminiscing the Kitchen Table
By: J. Marlando
When I was a small boy my favorite place in the entire world was my grandmother’s kitchen. There was the icebox in the corner, the old coal stove in the center of the room and the kitchen table next to the window; a little oblong table covered with a red and white plastic table cloth. There were two advanced electronics that pretty much remained on the table in the kitchen—the radio and my grandmother’s toaster. Most of my breakfast-time-memories are country songs sung on a radio like this one and my grandmother standing at the table toasting one side of the bread and then the next on a toaster that looked much like this one.
Today just about every kitchen is an electronic amusement park—electric mixers, electric timers, electric knives, electric juicers, electric openers; the microwave and in many homes the electric range. And, in addition to all these conveniences, most modern kitchens are architecturally beautiful:
While there are exceptions what is missing from a great many of today’s kitchens is the kitchen table and so the people living in the house. Here are some examples of kitchens prior to the 1960s.
Early American 1920s/30s Kitchen
1940s Kitchen 1950s Kitchen
There are a number of reasons for this. #1 is todays demand for the two income family. Working moms do not have the desire or the energy to cook family-size meals after a day of working outside the home. #2 is television and other electronics that occupy the mind while eating. Historically television moved the family out of the kitchen into the living room for
Since the early 1950s Traditional family/meal time
meals. Indeed, how many small children eat their morning cereal “glued” to morning cartoons and #3 a national loss of traditional family ties that were once called the cornerstone of the very strength of the nation.
It isn’t breakfast or lunch that is so important to family togetherness, however. It is dinnertime! Not too many decades ago dinnertime (mostly served at the kitchen table although some people ate the dinner meal in their dining rooms) was a time that the entire family sat down together to share good food and good conversation.
Dinnertime, in fact, was a time for each member of the family to share his or her day’s experiences, thoughts, feelings, buildups, letdowns and so forth. Dinnertime, if you will, was an important ritual of family unity; a cohesiveness of love, caring and trust.
Before television the kitchen table also served as a meeting place or conference room for the family; it was also the table where the resident crayon artist did his or her masterpieces and where model cars and model airplanes were built. The kitchen table is also where more homework was done than anywhere else in the house. More family laughter was heard at the table in the kitchen than anyplace else and yes, there were more tears shed there as well but, after all, the kitchen table was the center of the home and so for the people living there; it was a place where people took their joys but also their sorrows; their happiness but also their upsets.
The kitchen table is also where neighbors got together for a “quick” morning or afternoon cup of coffee (or tea) to catch up on the news or just to relax from the daily routine and do a little chatting. Also, there was no place else in the world where more games were played—chess, checkers, cards, Monopoly…Well, the table in the kitchen was also the home’s recreation center.
There were more Sunday newspapers read at the kitchen table than just about anywhere else and more letters written and read than anywhere else in the house. Indeed, for most families the kitchen itself became the favorite place to retreat to from a world of chaos and challenge with the table in the kitchen a special place to sit for a few minutes after school, work or shopping just to relax in the security of being at home.
This is perhaps another reason why so many families made the kitchen table a place for saying grace and for holding hands to create a circle of appreciation and thanksgiving not only for the meal but for the togetherness; the blessings of family ties.
Today there are most virtually countless children who have never known the joy of the mind of family togetherness I’ve attempted to describe; have never even sat at a kitchen table in the practical sense much less in the traditional sense.
Home, for far too many moms and dads has become (mostly) a place to hang one’s hat and try and relax after the work day; the noise, the traffic and the very demands that the high cost of living deposits into most everyone’s lives. As a result, a great many children are raised with caretakers as opposed to loving parents and so many kids are challenged to fend for themselves in a lonely home life. Symbolically, early snacks may be bread, peanut butter and potato chips in front of the TV set or computer. And later, Mom’s home cooking unfolds with frozen food tossed in the microwave or from a box or bag of chicken or some other fast-food delight called dinner.
Thankfully there are exceptions to the grim picture I’ve just painted but for far too many families this is normalcy; this is modern home life!
For far too many people, home life has become a chamber of silence between the inhabitants except to discuss bills or other problems—talking simply to share has gone the way of my grandmother’s old, kitchen toaster. Today home life, by and large, is sitting in one’s own reality before the television set or computer often referred to as family time. Buttoday there is an apparent isolation between family members at least in many households—a place, so to speak, where text messages have taken the place of communicating in family togetherness; of the kind of sharing that was, not too many years ago, experienced every night at the kitchen table.
In any case, the more that I reminisce the kitchen table, the more I desire to see it returned to the center of our lives but…I would also like to see 50 cents per gallon gasoline again and drinkable water pouring out of the faucet in the kitchen. How about you?