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30 November 2017

The Natural Kitchen


I remember growing up as a kid in post-war America, where food seemed to be at the center of life in the Henry household.  Sunday was a family chicken dinner, Thursday spaghetti, and meatballs, Friday was fresh bread and pizza from Bruno’s and the other nights we had TV dinners on the sofa watching our favorite shows, or more like my dad’s favorite shows.  Although I can’t recall my mother cooking, other than our weekly chicken dinner, I do have vivid memories of Saturday morning shopping missions to the local Safeway supermarket in the San Fernando Valley.



Living in the shadow of nuclear war with the Russians, those “Godless Commies” as my father would call them, we shopped as if we were shopping for the end of western civilization.  Eggs, bacon, breakfast cereal, milk, coffee, assorted fruits and a few vegetables and cans upon cans of Jolly Green Giant corn and peas. I remember years later, helping my parents to pack up the house for a move to New Hampshire and finding cans of corn and peas in the pantry dating back to the Kennedy administration.  And meat, my God, we purchased and froze more meat than we could ever possibly eat. I have no memory of ever actual defrosting anything, other than my dad driving down to the butcher for fresh steaks because the ones he had were still frozen and far from ready to barbecue.

The point of this jog down memory-lane is to point out that much of America’s shopping and eating habits have changed very little since the 1950’s and I would go so far as to say that they have gotten far worse.  Today we need to worry about everything from an increase in food-allergies to diabetes.  As well as added growth hormones, anti-biotic to genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) and that directly affects our overall health.   I believe that it’s time to rethink how we eat, what we eat and most importantly how we shop and prepare our meals.

For years I have been traveling back and forth to Europe for my work as a kitchen designer, and the opportunity presents its self to stay with friends instead of a hotel.  It has always amazed me that the kitchen, like in the US,  is the hub of daily life…it seems as if the same care and thought went into each meal, but something was very different, every meal was a symphony of color, taste, and texture.  From the morning meal of eggs, cheese, and assorted meats, as well as juice and coffee to the evenings' meal of fish or chicken, vegetables, bread, and wine.  For years I thought it was just the fact I was in a different environment than I was used to and that somehow this made the experience different.  And then it came to me.

In the middle of a lively debate, over an after-dinner glass of wine and a plate of assorted cheese, at my friends kitchen table in the Italian countryside, we were discussing the merits of American versus European kitchen design when we happen upon the topic of refrigeration, when the fundamental differences between European and American life hit me…the average American family was still living and buying food on a 50-year-old model based upon an Industrial Food Complex of corporate farming, industrial processing and packaging and national retail food distribution, all which encourages mass consummation and storage of foodstuffs that have been pumped full with additives for longer shelf life. And as when I was a child, we still go out once a week and buy as if the world is about to end…hence the need for a huge, monolithic, stainless steel box we call a refrigerator. 

On the other hand, our European cousins are living an almost Utopian lifestyle when compared to ours.  Thinking that the smaller, 60cm (24”) refrigerator was due to the smaller nature of European kitchens, it was quickly brought to my attention how wrong I was and the smaller fridge was reflective of lifestyle and the daily nature of meal preparation.  Almost everything is purchased for that day’s preparation and consumption.  Fresh bread from the corner bakery, fresh fish or poultry for the evening meal, eggs, milk from a local farm and fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables from the weekly farmers market or freshly picked from their own home garden.

The question is whether or not we can change our eating and buying habits for better health and nutrition.  Dr Mark Hyman believes that modern health care is flawed because it is based on the premise of treatment and not prevention.  Dr Hyman believes that the future of healthcare will take place in the family kitchen and not the doctor’s office.  

He went on to say “We ate ourselves into this problem, we can eat our way out”.

I have to agree with the good doctor, I do believe we can eat our way back to a healthy lifestyle and I also believe it starts in the kitchen. I have given much thought to this and feel that we all can make a few minor changes in the way we approach the way we purchase, store and prepare food.

The Natural Kitchen is a healthier as well as a sustainable environment. Here a few simple ways you can change your life as well improve the world around you.

The Natural Kitchen:
1.    Buy local. Buy fresh, Buy daily.      
2.    Plant a garden…Grow your own 
3.    Use your leftovers
4.    Store your food correctly for longer life
5.    Use a larder for vegetables and certain dairy products
6.    Replace your appliances to reduce energy consumption
7.    Compost your organic kitchen waste
8.    Reduce, reuse and recycle!
9.    Support the Non-GMO Project
10.  Use natural lighting when possible, LED’s when necessary.
11.  Live mindfully. Eat consciously. Choose as if it makes a difference.




 




 






19 October 2017

THE NEW PRINCIPLES OF KITCHEN DESIGN,

I have been designing kitchens for over 30 years and like most of my peers, associates, and contemporaries, I have followed religiously the holy tenets of our faith…the un-questioned “work-triangle”, that was until I met a holy-man from a faraway land called Michigan. Hewas on a pilgrimage to share his vision of how things should work and a set of principles to live by.

It is truly hard to believe that we are still designing kitchens based on an idea born out of the “rational” movement of the 1900’s. The work-tri-angle was created to maximize the efficiency and eliminate unneeded steps and movements in the preparation and cooking of the daily meals, thus allowing the woman of the house to free up her valuable time for more important tasks like cleaning, laundry, and childcare.

This once private domain of the feminine world has now given way to a new social order and reflects the world that we live in. Today we find a more “democratized” environment, where everyone is welcomed in the kitchen, a place where family, friends, and guests are invited, if not encouraged, to participate in the ritual of preparation.

And with this increased activity and additional bodies, all in a high-traffic ballet of fire, boiling water and sharp pointy things, we find that the assembly-line kitchen of the past century, with its uniform horizon of sink, dishwasher, cook-top, oven and refrigerator, forever locked in its limited one-person “work-triangle”, must make way to a new way of thinking.

The pilgrim I speak of is industry thought-leader, designer, and manufacturer, Pete Walker. His evolutionary or maybe more correct, revolutionary concept is called the “Proximity Principles©”. According to Pete’s first principle, “A kitchen should be arranged around a series of task-based work centers in relative proximity to each other and in proper sequence relative to tasks as they actually occur in the art of cookery”.

According to Pete, the Principles dictate the adaptation of the site conditions to various task-appropriate layouts and the results of their use are uniformly functional. As is true of any situation, site and structural issues and the constraints of budget will impact the final result. In other words, no matter the size, shape or budget of the kitchen, the Principles always improve the use of whatever space is available.

To further his beliefs, Pete has created a line of eco-centric kitchens that embody his philosophy; the Proximity Kitchen System™ eliminates the vast number of unnecessary options, elements, and configurations currently found in both domestic and imported mass-manufactured kitchen product lines. His streamlined collection leaves the designer with an elegant intersection of minimalist product and maximizes achievable function.

A kitchen based on the “Principles” is therefore no longer skewed by geometric happenstance; the obsolete “work triangle”, but, based on a set of irreducible “first principles”. These principles organize a clear set of design techniques and protocols which create space that allows an individual to move gracefully through a kitchen where everything comes easily to hand as it is needed or as Pete would say, “Life within reach”.

Like any movement or belief out of the norm, Pete and his “Principles” has its share of nay-sayers and distracters, but there seems to be an ever-growing legion of architects, interior designers and kitchen specialist, who call themselves “Proxies”, that have embraced this new thought in both mind and heart as well as action in the practice of their trade.

If you would like to know more about Pete and the Principles or would like additional information regarding the Proximity Kitchen System, I would encourage you to visit www.proximitykitchen.com

23 August 2017

FOR THE LOVE OF COOKING

I love to cook!  Actually I enjoy the process of cooking, the preparation, selecting the ingredients, laying out my tools, cooking my meal and then to finally serve it to my family and guests. As with most chefs, professional or amateur, I nibble my way throughout the undertaking and have little room to actually sit and eat with my guests, but to sit and talk, to eat and drink and just commune with one another is its own reward.

I am glad to say that there has been a renascence in kitchen design over the last few years, maybe it’s because of the current economic times we live in and people are staying home more and eating meals around the family table has once more taken center stage. What has changed, or maybe a better word would be, evolved, has been the democratization of the family kitchen. This once private domain of the feminine world has now given way to a new social order that reflects the world that we live in. Everyone is welcomed, if not expected to participate in the ritual of preparation.

And with this increased activity and additional bodies in a high-traffic ballet of fire, boiling water and sharp pointy things…we find that the assembly-line kitchen of the past, with its uniform horizon of sink, dishwasher, cook-top, oven and refrigerator, forever locked in its limited one-person “work-triangle”, must now give way to a new way of thinking.

Appliances once dictated the form and flow of the kitchen, today they have all been replaced by the individual or individuals and the task and then the appliances and the space needed to fulfill the task. With a variety of people and activities in this enclosed environment, we must create a fluid, interactive, multi-functional arena, where tools and materials are close at hand and within a given task boundary.

Much like selling toilet paper, the primary use of the product is seldom addressed. The same has gone for modern kitchen design. Over the past several years, the collective thought of modern kitchen design was to create the “illusion of order”. This was accomplished by hiding the true function of the kitchen. By hiding the food, the waste and the appliances, we create the illusion of productivity and efficiency by hiding the process.

With cooking returned to the primary function, the kitchen must be efficient to be productive, an environment conducive to the task at hand. To this end we have reached out to the commercial kitchen to better understand the true meaning of efficiency, a world that clearly defines the boundaries of form and function and where the poetry of chaos is the rule of order. The commercial kitchen is designed around a menagerie of players, each with a task or goal to fulfill, all working independently, all working to the same conclusion and all working in perfect harmony.


Kevin M HenryⒸ2017
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