Bee Wilson stood transfixed in the fridge aisle; so many choices, so little time. 

Almost too good to cook in. Almost… Pic: renomart.com.au.

Did she want the ice and water combo or the stainless steel double door? And would either one go better with the splashback they’d chosen?

If that scenario sounds familiar, you are not alone. The British food blogger who fell in love with her fridge, is just a product of a new generation.

The Greeks dragged their oxen to roast in communal outdoor areas; the medieval Europeans strung clay pots of stew over a roaring flame. But there’s never been a people more obsessed with their kitchens than us.

Why? Because a good kitchen is worth fighting for, dammit.

The world’s most influential kitchen design was thanks to a woman. After centuries of awkward, badly designed rooms usually banished to the back of the house, in 1926 Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, gave us the “Frankfurt kitchen”. That’s a type of design, by the way.

An Austrian architect who came highly recommended by artist Gustav Klimt, Schütte-Lihotzky was an amazing woman and political activist in her own right.

Her Frankfurt kitchen, inspired by a ship’s galley was an efficient space designed to prevent spills and waste and most importantly, reduce the amount of time you spent in them. Now, you’d have trouble getting us out.

Some say it’s the MasterChef effect. Can you hear the television networks cheering? All those fancy Alessi lemon squeezers and stainless steel bench tops have inspired a new kind of a social status – “the well-equipped foodie”.

Nothing says I’m serious about food like a seriously well-equipped kitchen. And hey you don’t even actually have to cook there!

Builders interviewed for this Courier Mail article about the benefits of kitchen renovations said the past ten years have seen clients become much more vocal about how they want their kitchen to look. Especially brands that have been promoted by celebrities cooking on television.

We’re also spending a heap of money doing it. The average kitchen renovation costs between $25, 000 and $100, 000.

Others say we’re investing more in our existing houses because we can’t afford new ones, with house prices being what they are.

Freestanding houses in Sydney’s inner Eastern suburbs don’t go for anything less than $2 million. So it’s no wonder so many people spend their weekend doing their best impression of Tara Dennis from Better Homes and Gardens. Kitchens are one of the cheapest ways to add value to an existing property.

Blogger Bee Wilson says our obsession with the modern kitchen and all its accoutrements is just like the comfort our ancestors drew from the “household” hearth.

It’s hard to disagree. In these uncertain times what’s not to like about getting home and cutting up stuff on the bench top of your dreams?

Most commented

47 comments

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    • iansand says:

      07:15am | 18/08/11

      I think a kitchen just to cook frankfurts is excessive. 

      Sorry.

      I’ll go quietly.

      Really.

    • adam says:

      07:55am | 18/08/11

      no stay, we need more like you

    • Chris_D says:

      07:41am | 18/08/11

      It’s the foodies version of the well stocked backyard shed.  Some can honestly say they need all those shiny toys, but most of us could squeeze the oranges manually or get by with just one set of manually operated hegde clippers.

    • Jack says:

      02:22pm | 18/08/11

      Except most of these self-proclaimed Masterchef-watching ‘foodies’ struggle to cook anything beyond water. But hey, they can *totally* buy a stainless steel croquembouche tower and talk about Adriano Zumbo.

    • Fiddler says:

      08:09am | 18/08/11

      Where does the chain to hold your wife go and is it included in the hundred grand or do you have to buy it yourself?

    • egg says:

      04:59pm | 18/08/11

      the chain’s been replaced by a nut-cracker, due to overwhelming demand from women.

      and that cracker ain’t for cashews, if you get my meaning. wink

    • fairsfair says:

      08:25am | 18/08/11

      LOL @ Iansand.

      I think it is just a symptom of our consumptive and wasteful society. A functional kitchen is by all means required, but do a professional couple really need a double oven, convection microwave and all the bells and whistles? Does anyone realise just how much power it takes to have all these appliances hard wired in and then sit dormant for 22 or the 24 hours in every day? Oh and if I hear one more time about the kitchen being the “heart and soul” of a house… Most people barely wash up, let alone spend family time in their kitchen.

      I am all for spending money on appliances if you are a hardcore cook, but all these stupid small appliances like waffle makers, hot dog stands, slushie machines, Cadbury hot chocolate makers, pofertjes plates, rice cookers etc etc are not really paramount to survival. They are gimmicky yes - but we are seeing more and more of them released in “cafe series” and pretty looking stainless steel (which matches the internet fridge) so people think that they have to have them.

      Without politicising it, we are being told to reduce our consumption and then people are dropping $50k on a kitchen because they needed a coffee machine built in the cabinets. Or a zip tap so they dont’ have to boil the jug. Imagine the power it takes to generate boiling water on demand all day every day. Seriously.

      On another note. I keep everything barring my kettle in the cupboard. I can’t stand peeps who put their toaster, mixmaster, utensits, knife block, slushie machine out on the bench! Oh and teatowels go in the linen cupboard - not in a kitchen draw (ooh thems fightin words)....

    • Tubesteak says:

      09:06am | 18/08/11

      I found a blog last night called “catalog[ue] living” which takes pictures like the above and satirises the vacuity of the fictional occupants of the house.

      Looks like some funny stuff: http://catalogliving.net/

    • marley says:

      09:08am | 18/08/11

      I’ve done a lot of house-hunting of late, and it’s amazing how many houses have beautiful, top of the line kitchens - and nary a spice rack or a spoon holder in sight.  Check in the pantry, and there are a few cans, a box of cereal, and not much else. No one cooks in these kitchens, they’re just there for show.

      A decent, functional kitchen with a good basic design ought to be enough for most people.  And I agree, some of the gadgets are just nonsense - do we really need electric can openers and carving knives?

      That said, we absolutely had to have an espresso machine in our own kitchen - not one of these built in ones - but then we use it every day. Nothing like a good cappuccino in the morning!  And I have a Chinese friend who swears by her rice cooker - but again, she uses it every day. 

      Utensils and knife block on the counter?  Have to differ on that one.  Sorry.  But at least they don’t have to be plugged in.

    • adam says:

      09:34am | 18/08/11

      agree about the teatowels fairs, but I leave the “stuff” I use regularly out. By regular I ean every day or second day, but I live alone so don’t need to answer to anyone but the dog about my messy surfaces

    • Tubesteak says:

      10:17am | 18/08/11

      I just saw your last paragraph.

      My cutlery is hanging on a credenza type thing on the kitchen bench because that’s how it was bought and that’s how they’ll stay.

      My teatowels are in the second drawer for easy access when I need a new one.

      I agree I could probably put the coffee maker and blender in a cupboard because I never use them. I’m just too lazy and forgetful to put them away.

    • Mahhrat says:

      10:35am | 18/08/11

      I agree with it all except the rice cooker - hell of a great thing at $15.

    • iansand says:

      11:10am | 18/08/11

      marley - If you are selling a house agents tell you that it is a good idea to have a “clean” kitchen.  That means nothing on the bench tops.  I bet the cupboards are chock full of stuff that has been shoved away.

    • marley says:

      12:40pm | 18/08/11

      @Ian - might be true in some cases, but in a lot of places, a check of the pantry reveals otherwise!

    • Kassandra says:

      12:41pm | 18/08/11

      “....rice cookers etc etc are not really paramount to survival.”

      My rice cooker is paramount to survival as is the coffee grinder and espresso machine. And the gas BBQ on the stove.

    • Jack says:

      02:25pm | 18/08/11

      Exactly how much power do you think an oven or a microwave consumes while not turned on?

      Uh…

    • fairsfair says:

      03:06pm | 18/08/11

      Well when they are running digital clocks for the benefit of timers etc, I would assume it would at least be the same as standby. Plus hard wired appliances like ovens and airconditioners “leak”. It may only be a minor amount, but it ads up Jack. Over summer just gone, I got into the habit of turning everything bar my oven and fridge (so microwave, jug, lamps, telly, dvd, computer) off at the wall when not in use. Even though I used my airconditioner for perhaps five nights over the three month period I reduced my quarterly power bill from $178 to $152.

    • Knemon says:

      03:49pm | 18/08/11

      Well said fairsfair except for your last paragraph, why keep everything hidden? I used to until I realised it was easier to have everything I needed set up and ready to go, yes lazy me. Mind you, I don’t even have a conventional oven - I have a plug in mini oven (with two hot plates), a bread maker, a kettle, a mini deep fryer (good for the waist line) and a micro-wave, that’s it, and there’s nothing I can’t cook with these few items. and my kitchen resembles a yachts galley in size. Each to their own I suppose.

    • fairsfair says:

      05:01pm | 18/08/11

      Knemon my friend, I guess it is just tidiness factor. I am a bit of a neat freak in my own home. I think my use of “I can’t stand” is probably a bit harsh. I can’t stand it in my own house, but I don’t actually attend other people’s houses with a clipboard and white glove tut tutting my way about wink

      I am a firm believer of each to their own and if a fantastical kitchen with every appliance gets used all the time - yep I say go for it. If you can get by with one pot and a can opener I say good luck to you too, I just object to the waste of it all. The masterchef kichen that gets dusty is just a waste of resources. I used to be able “well if they want to waste their money” but now not so much. Apparently we need a carbon tax because we are ruining with environment. Well I am not personally, and if there were less wasteful arseholes in this world things would be alright… anyway.. I digress!

      My Grandma had one of those little mini ovens with the two hot plates and a frying pan with one of those dome lids. She could cook the most beautiful spreads out of that combo. Pot roast, sponge cakes, you name it. As someone said below - the kitchen does not maketh the cook and that applies to both extremes. The best spagetti I have ever cooked was on a BBQ during Cyclone Larry - you do what you gotta do!

    • xyz says:

      08:06pm | 18/08/11

      It’s an unwritten law… teatowels go in the 3rd drawer from the top!

    • Fairsnotfair says:

      08:34am | 18/08/11

      I think this is a sign we are too wealthy. Surely the obsession with gratifying our wants rather than our needs should start to turn the other way?

      Especially since we don’t have any friends we consider good enough to lean on our gleaming unmarked counter tops?

      I agree iansand, way over the bench top to have such a dedicated kitchen…

    • ibast says:

      10:18am | 18/08/11

      It’s a sign Australia is doing better than the whingers would have us believe.  When things like creape makers and pop-corn machines are actually selling, people are bloody well off.

    • John the Zombie says:

      09:32am | 18/08/11

      Most important thing when you love to cook is a good kitchen. Just wondering your stove top a six burner a five burner the 5th been for fish cooking.

    • Al Chunk says:

      09:32am | 18/08/11

      Modern kitchen showrooms are very seductive but they are for real estate sales photos only.  Cupboards and ovens that you have to bend down on your knees to get anything out of, fancy porous worktops that need regular special maintenance with a list of items not to be put on them, benches you cannot get your legs under, fridge spaces that do not fit modern fridges, and don’t start me off on those ridiculous stools that no one ever sits on.  Old fashioned kitchens had it all worked out years ago, until designers interfered, and are far more practical.  Being a codger I have gone back to their practicality and have found they are a dream to work in.  The most important part of an old kitchen is a large pantry that you can walk around in, here you store everything, no doors to open and everything seen easily.  If you cannot store everything in it, it is too small because tidying a kitchen should be a matter of just closing the pantry door.  No multitude of expensively finished cupboards that need maintenance, regular cleaning with only a 5-8 year lifespan, a pantry has one door and good doors can last hundreds of years. 
      After a large pantry all you need is a large clear work surface and a large family table in the middle is fine,  a large two sink unit,  cooker and hood (heat proof side surface if you’re feeling extravagant) and a large fridge. 
      Anything else and you’re just a fashion victim with access to way to much credit. 


      Do you want to cook or make some sort of fashion statement.

    • marley says:

      09:55am | 18/08/11

      I want my espresso machine.  It’s not a fashion statement.  I’m an addict.

      Other than that, I pretty much agree with you.

    • Al Chunk says:

      11:08am | 18/08/11

      @Marley - Coffee machine exclusion granted but only because I have sympathy for addicts.

    • Wilma J Craig says:

      09:34am | 18/08/11

      If that is a real kitchen how ghastly kitchens have become! Cold, impersonal, unwelcomimg. This may be required in restaurants, cafés etc if only for hygeine purposes but in a Private home? Never!
      Is this the reason those riots took place in the UK?
      The “Heart of the Home” has now become an unfeeling, cold, boring, inhumane, sterile steel box. It is no wonder the children would rather mess around on the streets.
      Fall in love with a fridge? You’ve got to be joking! No, maybe not! The destruction of the home, clean but a bit untidy & it’s replacement with this sort of obscenity is the root cause of the problems families & society are facing today!

    • Anna C says:

      10:05am | 18/08/11

      I find it very interesting that new kitchens increasingly resemble morgues in the way that they look. Has anyone else noticed this? It’s all clean lines and stainless steel. 

      I agree that society’s obsession with kitchens is a sad indictment of modern life and our obsession with conspicuous consumption. Most people I know who own flash kitchens with 6 gas burner stoves and double ovens couldn’t boil an egg to save their lives. What’s the point in wasting all that money on flash kitchens and top of the line appliances a part from showing off.

    • Paul says:

      10:12am | 18/08/11

      In my not very long lifetime basic necessities have been turned into commodity items whose worth has become divorced from their function in favour of their form -  houses and the rooms therein are the worst examples (phones are not far behind) - the result being they have become both more expensive and less useful at the same time.  Well done everyone.

    • Shifter says:

      01:03pm | 18/08/11

      Some things are very useful, just not so much for their original purpose. Mobile phones, for example, are very good portable media devices these days. Generally they suck at good old voice calls though.

      It’s almost better to have very good single purpose devices, than ones packed with features. A good knife is still a knife. It cuts things and doesn’t want me to update my facebook status at the same time.

    • jack says:

      10:55am | 18/08/11

      amusingly, the kitchen in the photos is swish with gadgets and expensive finishes, but very, very badly designed.

    • Kricket says:

      11:49am | 18/08/11

      I like having a fancy kitchen. But I actually cook. I love nothing better than trying a new recipe and impressing my boyfriend and his mates with my culinary skills. (Although, they get excited over sausage rolls so perhaps I need a more refined audience.)

      I’ve just moved into a new house, and the oven is 6000 times better than my old one, but the stovetop is worse because it’s electric and takes 10mins to heat up.

      I own a rice cooker because I can’t for the life of me cook rice without making it gluggy. Plus I think it was only $25.
      I don’t understand why people need pasta machines or 3 slightly different blenders though, but that’s just me.
      When I eventually buy a house I want a HUGE oven, even though there’s only 2 of us, so when friends and family come around I can cook for them.

    • Bug says:

      12:49pm | 18/08/11

      @Kricket,
      absolutely agree re the electric stove top….hopeless.
      We are moving house next month, and thank God it’s got a gas stovetop.
      As for rice cookers, essential!

    • Mr Pastry says:

      01:00pm | 18/08/11

      It may seem a little cruel but, if you can’t cook rice, your boyfriend and his mates excitement when sausage rolls are on the menu could mean you need more practice rattling those pots and pans. 
      “Fancy kitchens maketh not the cook.    ”

    • Kricket says:

      06:01pm | 18/08/11

      Mr Pastry, I probably can’t cook rice because my parents never cooked it growing up. Heck, I didnt even try chinese food until I was 16!

      But I know I’m great at cooking other things, pasta sauces, casseroles, fancy roasts etc. Next w/e I’m going to make my own tomato chilli chutney. Yum yum!

      Oh, and don’t even get me started on desserts. I rock at desserts.

    • Max, of Rocky says:

      12:54pm | 18/08/11

      Ah the McMansions, sleeping idly in the sun while the slaves to it are off toiling to pay for it.  Give me an old fashioned kitchen - but throw in a $200 microwave and a nice BBQ.

    • Babe in the Woods says:

      01:28pm | 18/08/11

      I want a new kitchen.  Mine sucks!

    • jasperjen says:

      02:18pm | 18/08/11

      I had the $30k kitchen renovation in my City house before I moved to a rural property. Now I live in my old little Miners cottage with its small kitchen complete with an old “Canberra” Wood stove which I look forward to lighting in the winters for its warmth and comfort, the kettle always on the boil, the homemade soups and baking treats constantly made so as not to waste the energy.All those appliances the slushie and ice cream maker, the breadmaker, the fairyfloss machine, the blenders, spagetti cooker,ice crusher etc that never see the light of day as I am usually too lazy to take them out and then put them back in the cupboards no bench space in my little kitchen, lucky I don’t drink coffee. All my shelves crammed with my old tins and tea caddies collection, my collection of mugs , Pearsons and Willow Pottery sadly had to part with my teapot collection due to space and I have to spend a bit of time dusting the constant country dust especially during droughts but i love my old kitchen and its character, I dont miss my city kitchen at all and guess what the food tastes just the same my family thinks woodfire roasts are so much better and is their first request when planning a visit.

    • Kika says:

      02:21pm | 18/08/11

      Kitchen Schmitchens… though I’d love a better kitchen. My 2 bedroom unit has the kitchen space of a small toilet and the preparation space is the space for the microwave and there is only one electrical socket so if you want to a) put the rice cooker on b) use the wok and c) use the kettle at the same time you have to a) move the microwave b) plug the kettle into the socket in the lounge…

      (@*#(@*#(*@#

    • stephen says:

      02:46pm | 18/08/11

      Adventures with strudel ?
      I don’t think so.
      Ladies, drop tools, undo apron, wipe brow then ring up hubby and tell him that tonight it’s take-away, (‘take-out’ if you live in Mosman) and tell him you’ve had enough of scones and midday movies and gonna get on your bicycle and sit on the Spit-bridge and talk to the fishermen.
      And tell him that all next week he’s cooking, so’s He can start bitchin in the kitchen.
      (The only good thing about that fancy kitchen up there is yer can lay a corpse on it when the little lady dies of boredom. I don’t pity gals in childbirth, but only stove-work.)

    • Robert S McCormick says:

      02:56pm | 18/08/11

      Give me a real kitchen any day! One with, in addition to a gas stove, an old-fashioned wood-stove like the old Raeburn ( in rich homes they had an AGA or ESSE) & no damned exhaust fans!! Warm & cosy in the winter, great smell of freshly cooked roasts, baked bread & cakes & all those things which used to make a house a Home. A sink you are not afraid to put anything in in case it scratches the stainless steel & better still one designed so that if it is rectangular the long sides run East-West instead of the inane North-South ones we are stuck with today. Don’t the idiots who design sinks realise that water will take the path of least resistance so with the long-sided N-S ones today the water sloshes over the edge, onto your clothes & down those Designer Mock Timber doors you pay so much for! With E-W ones the water will slosh onto the draining boards & run back into the sink!
      Modern kitchens are not designed to be actually used. They are all for show.
      Older kitchens are useful & have always been the Heart of the Home. The place the kids & adults gravitated to when they got home & whomsoever was doing the cooking did not object to people getting under their feet. It was part of Family Life. A life, thanks to the current Mortuaries those up-themselves, stupid “Design Experts” force on us, which no longer exists - at least, it seems. in most houses today.

    • nikki heat says:

      02:59pm | 18/08/11

      In past times , both Superman and Josef Stalin were men of steel.
      What is Steel’s future? Like all clothes, All Steel will be made in China soon!

    • nikki heat says:

      03:03pm | 18/08/11

      ladies men regard kitchen tyrants as bedroom beauties and bathroom joys

    • Jane says:

      03:42pm | 18/08/11

      I want a new kitchen, mainly because it hasn’t been done up since about the mid 70s. Apart from a lick of paint on the cupboard doors that is. But I’ve got an old house, so need to take that into consideration, can’t possibly have the look in this article.

      My biggest gripe about about any kitchen is the height of the benches. I’m a short ass, but even I get a back ache if bending over slightly to do a giant pile of dishes or a lot of prep work, so how do taller people cope? Why don’t they raise the height to a more acceptable level, can’t be that difficult.

      I don’t get the gadget thing either. The coffee grinder, stick blender (can do pretty much everything a food processor can) and microplane grater are the most used in our kitchen. But my absolute must have is a Japanese knife, which are worth a bloody fortune, but if you’ve ever used one, you don’t go back. My hubby couldn’t believe how I could pay that much for a knife until he tried it - I then had to buy another as we fought over it so much. Sad, but we spend a lot of time cooking so I say its worth it.

    • Self rightous says:

      04:36pm | 18/08/11

      The amount of Carbon on display is disgusting,you people really are the pits,Recklessly buying products made from carbon not to mention the emissions,Remember Tanya Plebisite’s warning about no food by november this year,your fridge will be useless,irresponsible bastards

    • Kate says:

      02:26pm | 19/08/11

      I admit it - I want a new kitchen. As I cannot afford such a luxury I collect kitchen gadgets instead. My cherry pitter really works, as does my prawn back remover, tiny garlic grater, big cheese grater, three sizes of funnels, enormous container collection (glass not plastic) and so on. What I really want is saucepan drawers and revolving shelves and a walk in pantry and a really great stove. Alas, it is not in the budget but I love to browse the kitchen shops.

    • stainless steel shelves uk says:

      08:39pm | 25/08/11

      Nice one!!

 

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