In recent years, I’ve noticed that the media seems to focus on how to survive this event, rather than celebrate it. What should be an intimate affair, with a deep renewal of bonds between family members, is now seen as an emotionally charged maelstrom. In essence, Americans have misplaced the ritual of a home cooked meal.
According to leading sociologists, it is the lack of participation that has led to the downfall of Thanksgiving. And the cure for this lazy malaise? It seems that the principle of ‘action absorbing anxiety’ has demonstrated that if each member of the family has a specific task at hand, a bonding synergy will be generated that has healthy neurological implications for all. In other words, get them involved.
The role of kitchen designer is integral to the success of this objective. If we look at the typical suburban floor plan, the fragmentation of active rooms has only reaffirmed the archaic gender boundary. This aged stereotype of women preparing food in the kitchen while the men watch football in the living room has yet to evaporate in the majority of Americans homes. In this layout, the sterile dining room becomes a transient pause for food and drink, a no man’s land between kitchen and living. As designers, we must recognize the importance of breaking down these boundaries, both physically and mentally.
It is our duty to create spaces that emphasize this seamless flow between functions, visually linking us as a family unit and encouraging democratic planning on all levels. A kitchen layout must be flexible enough to support several activities at once and allow the passive observer to interact if desired. It can be said that food preparation is a stronger bonding experience than eating itself.
Think foreplay. It is this very anticipation in the fulfillment of a desire that makes the activity so powerful. Isolating individuals from this process can only lead to detachment on a larger scale. This active living space should be a welcoming environment for all. Transforming this concept of task into something much bigger than work is the challenge set forth.
Perhaps we should learn to dine in the midst of our own kitchens? Once upon a time it was the norm. There’s a thought, Thanksgiving every night.
*Editor’s note: this blog post by Kevin was originally published last year, but we thought we’d revisit it in celebration of the holiday.