April 28, 2011  |  Collection & Exhibitions, Counter Space
Hidden Kitchens

Virgilio Forchiassin. Spazio Vivo (Living Space) Mobile Kitchen Unit. 1968

Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen addresses the role of the kitchen in 20th-century life. But what does modern design mean if you don’t have a kitchen? If you live, say, alone in a wagon in the Nevada desert? Or you reside in your taxicab, and you want Brazilian food that reminds you of home?

The fascinating National Public Radio series Hidden Kitchens examines just that. Kitchen Sisters Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva have discovered an amazing variety of ways that people adapt the materials of modern life to meet their culinary needs.

For example, a group of shipyard workers uses welding rods to roast chickens. And a prison inmate found a way to make pralines in solitary confinement.

To me, the most moving story reveals the practical significance of the George Foreman Grill:

“So many immigrants, homeless people and others of limited means…have no kitchens, no legal or official place to cook…they have to sneak a kind of kitchen into their places. Crock pots, hot plates, microwaves and toaster ovens hidden under the bed. And now, the latest and safest appliance…the George Foreman Grill. It is, quite literally, a hidden kitchen.”

Dr. Adnan Tarcici. Solnar Tarcici Collapsible Solar Cooker. c.1970

Counter Space features very different kinds of mobile kitchens. For example, Dr. Adnan Tarcici’s Solnar Tarcici Collapsible Solar Cooker (1970) “hides” in a box and and uses only solar energy. And Virgilio Forchiassin’s Spazio Vivo (Living Space) Mobile Kitchen Unit (1968) can also be “hidden” by folding into a cube, and with its, built-in wheels you can take it on the road.

The series reminds me that while we may be drawn to signal design objects such as those featured in Counter Space, modern design includes any number of creative approaches to the never-ending human quest for a good, hot meal.

Counter Space closes on May 2, so don’t miss your chance to see this great show!