Saturday, April 27, 2013

Meet the Jetsons

I wonder what my mom could do with the kind of kitchen found in today's modern home? Lots of  space filled with granite counters, cooking islands, wondrous appliances and all the technology builders can cram in. Our kitchen in Brooklyn in the 1950's, was a far more modest affair that also doubled as our dining room thanks to a "kitchenette set" of table and chairs. Appliances consisted of the refrigerator, stove and a toaster with folding-down dishwasher, coffee maker, microwave, blender, or mixer. Our one and only bathroom was located off the kitchen, a room arrangement that, as you can imagine, was not the most convenient.

The kitchen was at the rear of the house and connected to the back yard through a kind of pantry room that was unheated and therefore freezing cold in the winter. The kitchen was small by today's standards, especially since it served as the main focal point for family gatherings, including meals. When company came, they sat at the kitchen table for coffee and cake. As kids we did our homework at the Formica kitchen table since there was really no place else to do it. The table had a leaf stored under it that could stretch the seating capacity to maybe 8 people. In spite of the shortcomings of this "Little House on the Prairie" kitchen, mom managed to crank out three meals a day and knockout holiday dinners.

The fridge was the old type that had to be painstakingly defrosted. Ice would build up in the tiny freezer that held only ice cube trays. If you ever needed a couple of cubes, it meant running the tray under hot water until the thick arctic ice melted sufficiently to pry them out. Frozen foods were not yet a big deal in the Fifties, so there was very little stored in freezers; most people bought fresh food every few days. Our gas stove was a certifiable antique; four burners that had to be lit with a wooden match, and a small oven with no light or timer. Whatever was cooking in the oven had to be watched lest it incinerate. Our toaster had doors that opened so the bread could be exposed to a heating element. There was no timer or pop-up feature so it too had to be watched or you'd be scraping off the charred toast in the sink.

My mother, incredibly, always washed clothes by hand and dried them outside in the back yard. When my younger brother was born in 1953 my father broke down and bought a washing machine. Mom was ecstatic, and carefully read the directions for this, her one and only labor-saving device. Tight quarters meant the washing machine had to be located in the kitchen. (With the bathroom, naturally.) I think mom actually had to run hoses from the sink for her water supply. We had no dryer, which was fine with me. I used to bury my head in the laundry basket because clean clothes that dried on the clothesline in the sun had the most wonderful smell. It's hard to imagine a simple convenience like a washing machine making a difference in anyone's life, but it did, giving mom more time for the 50 other things she did for us every day. 

Maybe one day our grandchildren will reminisce about grandma's old microwave and the tacky refrigerator that didn't even have a frozen Margarita dispenser. There will be no grocery stores or the need to cook; meals will be ordered online and teleported to the dinner table on command. I'm glad I won't be around to see it since I am already regressing technologically. My smart phone mocks me to other smart phones behind my back. 



Children's Craniofacial Association