Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Kitchens - A Place Apart

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History nerds run in our family.  My grandmother Minnie was the family archivist on the Heatherly side, keeping all manner of family memorabilia in a cedar chest.  My uncle Ben on the Stewart side loved ancient things, familial or not, and was an encyclopedia of knowledge about English and American antiques.  If you have been reading recent posts, you know that my sister Rosalind extensively researched Colonial America when building her Colonial Williamsburg dollhouse.  Because of that research, she came to the conclusion that the kitchen needed to be a separate building.  Had she chosen to build a house belonging to a tradesman, that would be a very different matter, but this house was based on the elegant gentry homes in Williamsburg and the owners of these estates could afford to keep the heat, odors, and danger of fire away from the main house.  The separate kitchens also provided housing for the servants and slaves they kept to do the work of the house and plantations.

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 Rosalind is a fabulous cook.  From a very early age, she was master of our family's kitchen.  So it is no wonder, she found the Colonial Williamsburg kitchen fun to reproduce.

Following are photos of the main room in the separate kitchen building of Rosalind's dollhouse.

The main room of the kitchen was used for food preparation.  The table would have been sturdy enough to withstand years of kneading, chopping, and pounding, but light enough to be carried outside during the stifling summer heat.  Herbs and meats would be suspended from the ceiling beams to keep them dry and away from vermin.  This kitchen's floor is bricked, but many of them were just dirt floors...no dropping food on the floor and picking it up again!

Tucked under the stairs is a typical seat with a high back to keep off the drafts.  It usually would reside right next to fireplace in the winter time for warmth.  There is storage for bedding under the seat cushion.  Most furniture for slaves, servants, farmers, and tradesmen was sturdy and served more than one function.  It is likely that several slaves slept next to the warmth of the fireplace at night when the day's work was done.  

Here you see a corner of the fireplace. with a piece of metal in the back to reflect the heat, and a hanger to suspend a cast iron kettle over the fire. Hung from a hook is a long handled pan to keep the cook's skirts from catching on fire.  A handy axe would be used inside to split larger chunks of wood into kindling.  Outside would be another for the woodpile which would need constant replenishing, usually by a young slave boy.  A breadbox, loose enough to allow airflow and keep moisture from molding the bread, and tight enough to keep out critters stands next to fireplace to receive the loaves of bread baking in the oven.

Still needed for this room is the wood for the fireplace and ashes to spread around in front of the hearthless fireplace.

Behind the bread box is the butter churn and two wooden buckets for hauling water.  The oven is on the top left and would have had a wooden or metal door to set into the opening after the bread was inside.  You can see one little loaf cooling on the shelf below the oven. 
In this photo, you can see all of the pots and pans needed to cook for the big house.
  Some foods ready to be transferred to serving platters.

 In the next post, we will take a look at the rest of the rooms in the kitchen building.

1 comment:

  1. The dollhouse has an outbuilding? And where does one get all of these period furnishings? I imagine the internet is the place you go now but not when Rosalind assembled this.


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