Eighteenth-Century Kitchen Tools
If you were to ask your students what rooms in their homes were used the most, the kitchen would be one of them. It is common now to have a kitchen flow into a family or living room so anyone preparing food in the kitchen can talk and enjoy the company of others in the area. In contrast, eighteenth-century colonial kitchens were often located in basements or in separate buildings. The kitchen was a place to store, clean, prepare, and cook foods. It was an active place from sun-up until the mid-day meal since cooking went on until that time. Food prepared for the 2 o'clock meal, the main meal of the day, was usually cooked that day. The leftovers were eaten as a small evening meal and again at breakfast.
It was typical to find the kitchen in the house since the fire was used for cooking, heat, and light. In wealthier households, however, the kitchen was often separated from the house because of the heat, smells, and activity. The higher the social class of the household, the more likely the homeowner wanted the cooking staff far from living quarters and guests.
The tools that were in the kitchen varied depending on the social level of the family. A woman of an average household would spend time in the kitchen cleaning and preparing foods that were either grown or hunted in the area. In the majority of homes, they used basic tools such as cast iron pots, baking kettles, and a simple spit. In gentry or higher middle class households, the kitchen contained the same basic tools, as well as items considered a luxury, such as spit jacks and gelatin molds, to make meals that would look and taste wonderful.
In this lesson, the students will learn about the kitchens, tools, and utensils used in the eighteenth century, and compare them to objects used in modern kitchen.
- Display the picture of an 18th-century kitchen using a computer and projector or transparency and overhead projector. Ask students for their first impressions of what they see. Explain that they will be learning about several of the objects seen in a colonial kitchen.
- Show students enlarged images of the Kitchen Tools List. Several objects will be easily recognizable; others may be seen in context in the kitchen picture. Discuss with students how the tools would have been used.
- Put students in pairs. Give each group one Kitchen Tools List and the Kitchens Then and Now Graphic Organizer. Have the students look at each tool, discuss its purpose, and determine its 21st-century counterpart, filling in their Kitchens Then and Now Graphic Organizer.
- As a class, discuss the uses of the eighteenth-century kitchen tools versus the modern kitchen tools. Which would be easier to use? Which would be safer? Would it take more or less time to prepare food? How might these differences affect the lives of the people who cooked in the eighteenth century, whether they were family members or servants?
Have students write a diary entry as a cook in an eighteenth-century kitchen, including what tasks they had to accomplish and how they felt about them.
This lesson was written by Dee Besl, elementary school teacher, Florence, KY, and Linda Colbert, retired elementary school teacher, Williamsburg, VA.