After looking at numerous photos of kitchens from the early to mid 1900s, I'm trying to figure out what, exactly, has changed. Most folks now value a large kitchen with lots of counter space and even more storage. Much of our food comes prepackaged. We have lots of leftover containers. We like appliances for everything: coffeemakers, blenders, microwaves, toaster ovens, and mixers, just to name a few. The fridge stores condiments, plus the usual dairy products, meats, veggies, and leftover food. We like dishwashers, plus sinks that have at least 2 compartments. Many kitchens now have seating for at least 4 people, house computers and workstations, and sometimes even televisions.
In the 1920s, kitchens were often small, with limited built in storage, and maybe a table for a work space. Most food was made fresh, from scratch. The staples were stored in a "Hoosier" cabinet or a built-in cupboard. Most "appliances" were hand-cranked, like small mixers or meat grinders. Work space consisted of a table or maybe a small countertop. Refrigerators were smaller and stoves were larger. Sinks were wide, shallow, and had massive drainboards.
Image from Library of Congress Archives
The ony reason I can think of for kitchens to be bigger and have more storage now is for convenience. We (as a society) cook fewer meals and spend less time doing it. Why do we need more space? With prepackaged foods gaining popularity, we needed somewhere to put them. Since we don't like to do things by had any more, we need appliances in abundance. And why should we hide our pretty small appliances away when we can have them conveniently sitting on the counter waiting for use?
I don't want to kill the resale value of our house (assuming we ever move), but I also need to assess the type of cooking that we do. We don't use many prepackaged foods, but I often buy things in quantity. We keep the staples on-hand: baking basics, spices and seasoning, pastas, cereals, some canned goods, and several types of crackers. I seem to use the same few pots and pans for everything. We've been phasing out plastic leftover containers, but the glass ones don't nest as well. I have too many appliances that I don't use. We own a blender that I think we've used twice. Our food processor gets used once or twice a year to chop onions and celery. I do use the electric hand mixer a lot. The food mill is used for pasta sauce, but I only make 1 or 2 big batches per year. The toaster oven and microwave seriously hog our counter space. I have a drawer full of utensils that never get used.
I already knew that we don't want a "modern" kitchen. For one thing, we don't have the space, but we also just don't live in such a way that the kitchen is the gathering space. We don't entertain too often, and we make simple meals that don't require hours of prep. When I do cook larger meals, though, I wish I had more prep space. A work table would be wonderful. We could also get by with less storage. Eh, I need to get through the upstairs first, but after looking at kitchen pics at the Library of Congress, I just started obsessing again...!