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Cooking at Home

Conduct a brief ‘object biography’ of your choice of kitchen technology.
Please send me a one-page biography before the seminar.
Questions to Consider While Reading

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?

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 kitchen technology, from a George Foreman grill to a Meso-American metate. Please select a specific, concrete object, 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?


Please read at least two items.

Ruth Schwartz Cowan, ‘How the Refrigerator Got its Hum’, The Social Shaping of Technology, eds. Donald MacKenzie and Judy Wajcman, Open University Press (Milton Keynes).

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'.*

Rees, Jonathan, Refrigerator, Bloomsbury (London, 2015).

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'.*

Brewer, Priscilla J. , '"We Have Got a Very Good Cook Stove': Advertising, Design, and Consumer Response to the Cookstove, 1815-1880', Winterthur Portfolio 25:1 (1990).*

Cang, Voltaire, 'Rice Cookers in Japan: The Development of the Rice Cooker and the Varieties of Rice Consumption in Japan', Journal of the History of Technology 10:1 (2022).

Crowley, David, and Susan Reid, 'Introduction: Pleasures in Socialism?', Pleasures in Socialism: Leisure and Luxury in the Eastern Bloc, eds. David Crowley and Susan Reid, Northwestern University Press (2010), pp. 26-29.

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

Frost, Robert, 'Machine Liberation: Inventing Housewives and Home Appliances in Interwar France', French Historical Studies 18 (1993).

Hardyment, Christine, From Mangle to Microwave: The Mechanisation of Household Work (Cambridge, 1988)

Isenstadt, Sandy, 'Visions of Plenty: Refrigerators in America around 1950', Journal of Design History 11:4 (1998).

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).

Trufelman, Avery, 'Crock Pot', 'Nice Try' Podcast.

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).

Reid, Susan, 'The Kruschchev Kitchen: Domesticating the Scientific-Technological Revolution', Journal of Contemporary History 40:2 (2005).

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

Zachmann, Karin, 'A Socialist Consumption Junction: Debating the Mechanization of Housework in East Germany, 1956-1957', Technology and Culture 43:1 (2002).

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