. KITCHEN, from Page 26
Still, even the small, old-fashioned kitchen was a long remove from kitchens up to the 18th century, when food was cooked over an open fire.
During the Roman Empire, as excavations in Pompeii have shown, cooking was often done in a common area — among the “common” people, anyway — in a public venue.
In the European Middle Ages, the introduction of the chimney allowed the open fire to be moved from beneath the highest point in a structure to one wall. It was none other than Leonardo da Vinci who came up with a kind of rotating spit.
The iron stove appeared in this country in the 1740s, but that was mainly for heating, not cooking. By the late 19th century, gas was common for lighting and cooking in big cities; more modular, overall designs followed as the refrigerator replaced the icebox.
Kitchen appliances — toasters, microwaves and blenders — hit the market big following World War II. In the 1980s, the odor-sucking, hooded stove led to the integration of the kitchen into the house as a whole.
The surge in creative cooking has expanded the kitchen’s horizons. Chefs are stars. Open kitchens let domestic chefs show off their chops and have even paved the way for what one wag has called “trophy kitchens” — kitchens more for show than actual cooking.
Several new trends in the kitchen can be spotted:
• Sharp corners and right angles are passé. Cooking, like love, moves in a circle. In some worlds, rounded corners, even on cabinetry doors, are in.
• Steam ovens are also in — either full-size and less-pricy countertop models.
“I have an increasing number of consumers who are purchasing steam ovens,” Albert Lee’s Maltase said. “You can maintain the nutrients in vegetables.”
He noted, among other virtues, the steam oven is somewhat foolproof: Menu options tell you how to cook what.
“You can run down to the Pike Place Market and pick up a fish and cook a great meal,” he said.
For some, the steam oven may mark the end of over-or underdone fish angst.
• Countertops — Composites are challenging granite and faux granite countertops with more color choices and more sophisticated details.
• Customized storage for the kitchen, and appliances that fit into drawers, including dishwasher drawers and under-the-counter refrigerators.
• The sun has set on the kitchen table in favor of the large island.
In the meantime, stainless steel appliances are holding their own.
Additionally, Northwest home-design professionals cite other must-haves for today’s kitchen:
• Good knives — ideally three, with a sharpener for two of them. They should be sturdy and able to mince, chop and cut everything from bread to filets to hunks of mozzarella cheese.
• Reliable pots and pans — Depending on how one cooks, one would need at least one medium-sized, nonstick skillet for day-to-day cooking. Also essential are small or larger-sized metal saucepan, a pasta-sized pot with a lid and one 12-to 14-inch steel pan, with steep sides for stir-frys and bigger meat meals.
•An instant-read thermometer — It’s crucial to buy a quality one, which will cost approximately $15. Cheap thermometers may produce unreadable LCD screens, melted plastic and slow updates that can leave food overcooked.
• A reliable, small kitchen scale, especially useful for new stovetop cooks. — Precise scales are needed for meat, vegetable and starch measurements, to ensure everything stays flavored in proportion.
Also, scales are a must-have for bakers. Ingredients in need of measuring include flour, eggs and fruit.
The scale should hold up to 10 pounds.
However, despite the buzz of kitchen remodeling, few Americans actually cook.
According to a 2011 survey posted by The Huffington Post, 28 percent of Americans don’t know how to cook. Ignorance was the second-most-cited reason for not cooking regularly. The most cited reason, with 51 percent, was that the surveyed party had a spouse or partner who did most of the cooking.
The other major excuses were “not having enough time,” with 21 percent, and “not wanting to clean up afterward,” with 25 percent. Many also indicated it took too much time to shop for groceries.
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