A delivery arrived yesterday from our friend Kim, who lives just outside our nation’s capital. As a source of cultural information relevant to my research, Kim is my version of Chris’s Saucy Indexer (though Saucy’s finds, encompassing everything from erotic Roman cow costumes to the hurricane-shaped vise nuts on Saint Joseph’s workbench as portrayed in Peruvian art, are arguably a few notches up the cultural scale from our quotidian pursuits). A few weeks earlier she’d sent a snapshot of a Hoosier-type cabinet she recently acquired and asked whether I’d like to have it. Of course! I wrote back. I will gladly reimburse you for the cost of shipping. The cabinet is shown above.
At this point you may be wondering why Lost Art Press would ever have invited me to write a book about kitchens. This cabinet is a monstrosity: a plywood base without so much as a counter overhang, its floor-scraping doors hung on surface-mounted butt hinges and adorned with giant cherry decals…topped by an upper section that not only doesn’t match (to put it mildly), but offers a textbook example of the need to gauge shelf thickness according to depth, load, and span.
So let me assure you that I do not consider this cabinet an exemplar of the kitchen furnisher’s art. The key to its value (at least, to me) is its size: It’s only 18″ high — a toy, apparently made by someone of modest means for the delight of someone he or she loved. It is a perfect illustration of the kitchen’s magnetic appeal.
This is not the first toy kitchen cabinet I’ve been fortunate to have been given by Kim. The first was the colorful “Just Kidz” playset from 11 years ago; Kim made sure that I was the winner of this particular prize in a Thanksgiving parlor game played at a condo on the Delaware beach during a Nor’easter. I was charmed by the tiny plastic version of the kitchen-in-one promoted by the Hoosier Manufacturing Company in the 1930s that incorporated storage, cooking, prep space, and a sink.
You can dismiss these toys as gender-role enforcers along the lines of the Suzy Homemaker appliances my childhood friend Faye got on birthdays and holidays (kudos to my parents for agreeing to my requests for such gender-bending gems as Tonka Toys and a Thingmaker), but I’ve found that boys who visit my shop are just as intrigued as girls by the “housekeeping playhouse.” Such is the draw of the kitchen.
As for Kim, my friend in a high place, she’s also the one who hooked me up with a treasure trove of information about post-war construction, remodeling, and design published by the United States Gypsum Company (who knew?) that I’ve mined for info to use in articles and books.
Here’s a recipe I made last weekend in my own kitchen: my favorite pound cake, made in this case with dried Montmorency cherries that Mark brought back from a recent trip to northern Michigan. The recipe is adapted from one for pound cake in New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant. Those hippies knew their dairy products.–Nancy R. Hiller, author of Making Things Work