Like Moths To A Flame: Why do guests always gather in the kitchen?

Have you ever noticed during holidays like today, after all your work filling the living room with lights, flowers, champagne and bacon-wrapped appetizers, people leave your comfy couches to drift back to the kitchen?
If your home is like mine, it’s comfortable, but lacking a huge kitchen—so, more 10 guests means it gets a little tight.

It’s a bit of a cliché, but to many, the kitchen really feels like the heart of the home. The kitchen being the center (or heart) of the activity, means that’s where everyone wants to be—even if it’s to grab a bite of food coming out of the oven, to chat with the hosts, to chat with the guests who are chatting with the hosts or to drop off drinks in the refrigerator or napkins in the trash.

It’s often said that the messy informality of the kitchen has its own draw. Why? Because the kitchen is most definitely warm — both literally and metaphorically. You can relax in the kitchen. You can bump up against a counter, not worry about putting down that glass of wine.

Did you know warm, welcoming kitchen environments were not the norm 150 years ago. According to the book, The Food Axis, the kitchen would be a very separated place, and no one would go in the kitchen because mixing socially with servants was most definitely frowned upon.

The kitchen of the early 20th century also wasn’t conducive to welcoming toguests. It had issues because of poor refrigeration, inefficient cleansers and primitive plumbing, causing unappetizing aromas. It wasn’t unusual to find poorer households and tenements had shared central kitchens and hired household labor. As industrialization took hold in the later 19th and early 20th century, many household servants left domestic service for factory jobs, where they could make a lot more money. This in turn lead to housewives becoming their own domestic labor.

Now a new field developed: domestic science. Home economists and women’s magazines also came on the scene to tell housewives how best to manage their household on their own. That meant small kitchens. The ideal was to able the housewife to stand in the middle of the kitchen and reach everything—basically she would revolve in place to make dinner.

Over the last 100 years, the tiny kitchen expanded, to make room for other household members. It’s also become more of a living space — with design elements like color and windows — because people want to spend time there—including at parties. You might want to shunt guests out of the kitchen, but if people do end up there, next to a sink full of dishes and wadded-up tin foil, don’t knock it.

Those parties that feel a little magic — there are pretty flowers, the lights are dim, the candles are going, and you feel comfortable. That comfort and connection is the reason everyone gathers together in the first place—even if it happens in the casual mess of a crowded kitchen.

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