People love to think about, look at, and discuss kitchens. When people shop for a home or walk through a builder’s model, the kitchen receives a huge amount of consideration. When they watch television design shows or visit design-oriented websites and social media, the kitchen often is their area of interest.
A fondness for the kitchen has a long history – from as far back as we can remember or see through the pages of history. The kitchen has been the focal point of the home with the cooking, eating, gathering, household chores, sleeping, and similar domestic tasks being done in or just off the kitchen – because it was an activity center and because of the heat produced through the central fireplace or cooking stove.
Think of the prominence of the kitchen table – now largely disappeared from home designs in favor of nothing or an island or peninsula – where family meetings were held, the insurance agent met with us, the neighbors sat and visited, someone selling educational products (think encyclopedias) or other items for the home would lay out their materials, a person soliciting for charity would make their case, or someone else we agreed to sit down with would meet with us at the kitchen table. Of course, there was a fun side to the kitchen gatherings as well – card and board games, jigsaw puzzles, fingerpainting or similar, and having a cup of coffee or a piece of pie or helping of ice cream.
If we were to characterize the kitchen in terms of applying a trend to it, it would be as a gathering spot and entertainment center – both before and after the availability of TV and other mass media items. These activities were popular three or four generations ago (if not more than that) and they largely continue today. Therefore this is a long-term trend but not trendy because it is not fadish, popular, or “in” to do it now when that was not the case just a short while ago.
Another topic that applies to the kitchen more than any other area of the home, and is becoming more of a focus, is safety. True, the bathroom remains the number one problem area in the home for serious injuries and the amount of those injuries, but the kitchen is where there are more opportunities for unsafe activities.
In the bath, slipping and falling are the primary concerns – with serious potential consequences the result of such actions. While in the kitchen, there are numerous potential issues that can cause minor to more severe injuries and often require medical attention.
In no other room in the home with the possible exception of the garage, but not all homes have garages or use them for anything other than parking or storage if they do, are there the number of unprotected sharp cutting items such as knives and scissors. Knives are found loose in drawers where they can injure someone who carelessly reaches into that drawer to retrieve it or something else. Knives can fall from the countertop or table and hit us on their way to the floor – or be contacted or stepped on after they are on the floor.
In trimming or preparing food or opening packages, we are at risk of cutting ourselves – even professional chefs do this and they are quite aware of how to use knives correctly. We are much less adept at using them generally.
Opening packaging – cans or boxes – can leave sharp or rough edges that can scratch or cut us.
Heavy objects can bruise or cut us as we walk into them or have them fall on our heads or shoulders from a closet, cabinet, pantry, refrigerator, or freezer shelf. They could hit our knee, shin, or foot on their way to the floor.
Burns are peculiarly the domain of the kitchen with hot cooked foods and liquids and hot cooking surfaces (active and residual after they have been used). Unknowingly contacting a hot surface or touching or ingesting an especially hot food can produce discomfort to a more serious burn.
At the other end of the spectrum is a burn caused by extremely cold items – handling things directly from the freezer or attempting to thaw, prepare, or work with frozen items without proper hand protection of insulation from the deceptively cold temperatures that have a way of starting out just being a little cold and then becoming potentially injurious very quickly.
Just as is true in the bathroom, slipping on the floor – or from a ladder, chair, or stool used to reach higher items – can produce injuries. Water, juices, broths, spilled food items, something sticky, and other objects that we may not expect to be on the floor find their way here, and we can slip or lose our balance on them.
Safety in the kitchen is not a trendy item – it has not suddenly become a focus of ours although we have many disinfectant products to use on countertops and other hard surfaces to reduce the impact of bacteria, germs, and other such concerns. Rather, safety is an ongoing concern – a longterm trend that shows no signs of lessening. There just are too many activities and too many potential human interactions with the workings of the kitchen to make it any less of a concern going forward.