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Cooking at Home


Pick a technology and come to class prepared to discuss its impact on domestic cooking: refrigerator, freezer, rice cooker. What explains the appeal of these items? Are they 'labour saving' devices?

What kitchen technologies you recall from your childhood have disappeared?
Conduct a brief ‘object biography’ of your choice of cooking technology. Record your biography in your commonplace book.


Friedberg, Susanne, Fresh. A Perishable History (Cambridge, 2010), chapter 1: 'Refrigeration: Cold Revolution'.*
Macnaughtan, Helen, ‘Building up Steam as Consumers: Women, Rice Cookers and the Consumption of Everyday Household Goods in Japan’, The Historical Consumer. Consumption and Everyday Life in Japan, 1850-2000, eds. Penelope Franks and Janet Hunter (London, 2012).*

Milanesio, Natalia, Workers Go Shopping in Argentina (Albuquerque, 2013), chapter 6: 'Tales of Consumers'.*

Shove, E., and D. Southerton, ‘Defrosting the Freezer: From Novelty to Convenience: A Narrative of Normalization’, Journal of Material Culture 5:3 (2000)

* Sign into the Warwick Library Catalogue to access the electronic version.

To Learn More
Kitchen Technologies

Aguilar, Sandra, ‘Cooking Technologies and Electrical Appliances in 1940s and 1950s Mexico’, Technology and Culture in Twentieth Century Mexico, eds. Araceli Tinajero and J. Brian Freeman (Tuscaloosa, 2012).

Betts, Paul, The Authority of Everyday Objects: A Cultural History of West German Industrial Design (Berkeley, 2004), chapter 6: 'Coming in from the Cold: Design and Domesticity'.*

Freidberg, Susanne, ‘Moral Economies and the Cold Chain’, Historical Research 88:239 (2015).*

Myllyntaus, Timo, ‘The Entry of Males and Machines in the Kitchen: A Social History of the Microwave Oven in Finland’, Icon 16 (2010).

Pennell, Sara, 'Pots and Pans History: The Material Culture of the Kitchen in Early Modern England', Journal of Design History 11:3 (1998). *

Pilcher, Jeffrey, ¡Que vivan los tamales! Food and the Making of Mexican Identity (Albuquerque, 1998) chap. 5: ‘Replacing the Aztec Blender’.

Rees, Jonathan, Refrigerator Nation: The History of Ice, Appliances and Enterprise in America (Baltimore, 2013).

Wang, Q. Edward, Chopsticks: A Cultural and Culinary History (Cambridge, 2015).*

Watson, Bee, Consider the Fork: A History of How We Cook and Eat (New York, 2012).

Wilson, Anne, ed., ‘Waste Not, Want Not’: Food Preservation from Early Times to the Present Day (Edinburgh, 1991).


Bowden, Sue, and Avner Offer, ‘Household Appliances and the Use of Time: The United States and Britain since the 1920s’, Economic History Review 47:4 (1994)

Cowan, Ruth Schwartz, More Work for Mother: the Ironies of Household Technology from the Open Hearth to the Microwave (New York, 1983).

Hardyment. C., From Mangle to microwave: the Mechanization of Household Work (Cambridge, 1988).

Strasser, Susan, Never Done: A History of American Housework (New York, 1982).
Vanek, J. ‘Time Spent in Housework’, Scientific American 231:5 (1974).

* Sign into the Warwick Library Catalogue to access the electronic version.

practical exercise: object biographies

Every object has a life and often a series of afterlives, shaped by human use. This assignment asks you to perform an ‘object biography’ on a piece of cooking technology, from a George Foreman grill to a Meso-American metate. Please select a specific example, from your kitchen, or a museum, or a store, or elsewhere. What materials and circumstances influenced its creation and survival? What can we learn by spending extended time with a single object and by trying to tell its story?