A tasty, brief history of the liveliest room in the house

Global warming notwithstanding, the weather outside is indeed frightful, and while a fire is so delightful, we have another cozy suggestion: Steven Gdula’s The Warmest Room in the House: How the Kitchen Became the Heart of the Twentieth-Century American Home.

Food serves as an excellent means for examining history, and Gdula does a terrific job tracking the advances (contra Michael Pollan) of the American diet in the 20th century. But he also includes the evolution of kitchen technology, architecture, design and science, creating a story that finds fascinating connections between the kitchen and social trends, like flapper fashions and salad styles, or organic farming and the still-inexplicable circa-1970s craze for avocado-hued appliances. At the same time, the book is a repository of fun facts to drop at dinner parties (did you know 1976 was the first year Americans bought more soft drinks than milk?).

An easy, enjoyable read, The Warmest Room in the House just makes you feel good; it’s literary comfort food.

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A tasty, brief history of the liveliest room in the house