Early American Kitchen

Kitchen at Monticello, VA

NOT. (Emphasis on the kitsch in kitchen.)

This was my least favorite room from our visit to Monticello. The pristine surfaces, the orderly implements, the empty hearth, and especially the lack of searing heat beyond that supplied by the summer sun—it all seemed relentlessly fake fake fake to me.

I would be willing to wager that the working kitchen at Monticello never, ever actually looked like this, clean and empty. It was bustling with activity around the clock, I imagine. Someone was always baking bread, or tending to Jefferson’s bank of new-fangled ovens (like built-in crockpots, they were), gutting a fish or plucking a chicken. This kitchen would have smelled of food-in-the-making every hour of the day and night, and the cooks would have been battling entropy non-stop to bring tasty and nutritious order out of household chaos. This was a veritable sweatshop at the crossroads of slave and servant labor. There’s no way it was this pretty, this sanitary, this peaceful, this neat; there was blood in the wood and on the bricks.

Since the portrayal seemed so fundamentally unrealistic, I felt justified in breaking out the PShop filters. I like it better this way, since now it looks a little like a middle-school textbook illustration to me (and I don’t mean A People’s History of the United States). I never put much credence in those pictures, and for good reason.


A Year Ago: Torn Fishnet

Various nets and shadows.Despite having chiding myself for doing precisely this just a few days ago, I once again managed to leave the house without my camera
[read more]


2 Responses to Early American Kitchen
  1. Barry
    August 20, 2011 | 10:17 pm

    Nina, as a curator who has put together early kitchens, I find your comments 100% on target. Hard to imagine the Monticello folks couldn’t do a better job with this.

  2. [...] A Year Ago: Early American Kitchen [...]