Kitchen Technologies and Mealtime Rituals
Yet ifcamp organizers deliberately decided not to adopt all ofthe tech-nological innovations available to them (a culturally significant act in itsown right),they did use technology selectively,especially in connectionwith food preparation.Well into the 1930s (and particularly during mal-nutrition scares in the 1910s),rebuilding the health ofurban-dwelling chil-dren was one ofthe explicit benefits ofthe camp experience,and mostcamps prided themselves on their ample,wholesome food.The challenge of providing three meals a day for a small army ofcampers was substantial,prompting many summer camps to make a dining hall with a properly equipped kitchen the first permanent building to grace the camp property.From this perspective,then,it is no more strange for summer camps toemploy available kitchen technologies than it would be for colleges,hospi-tals,or prisons to do so.
A great deal ofscholarly attention has been devoted to kitchen technolo-gies in private dwellings,but we know very little about the growing numbersofkitchens that operated outside the home in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.Molly Berger has considered the physical evolution of hotel kitchens,demonstrating their role in creating new standards ofrefine-ment by insulating genteel diners from the sounds and smells associated withfood preparation.Harvey Levenstein and Dolores Hayden have investigatedaspects ofpublic kitchens established at the end ofthe nineteenth century,first in Boston and later in other cities (especially in connection with socialsettlements such as Chicago’s Hull House),to reform the eating habits oftheworking poor.These not only provided cheap and nutritious meals (at leastaccording to contemporary scientific standards),but cooking took place inopen view in order to encourage customers to emulate slow-cooking tech-niques at home.But where neither the quality ofthe food nor the characterofthe dining experience was the primary focus,in institutions in whichmeals were simply an infrastructural adjunct to educational,medical,penal,or religious activities,kitchens have largely been ignored.These kitchenswere technological systems as necessary as those that provided light,heat,and sanitation,responding primarily to practical imperatives and contribut-ing little to the larger mission ofthe institutions they served.
Or were they? Can institutional kitchens tell us more about cultural pri-orities than we have assumed they can? Have we missed something by con-
2.On the relationship between summer camps and changing ideas about health,seeAbigail A.Van Slyck,“Housing the Happy Camper,”
58 (summer2002):68–83.For more on concerns about malnutrition in the 1910s,see Harvey A.Levenstein,
Revolution at the Table: The Transformation ofthe American Diet
(New York,1988),112–20.3.Molly W.Berger,“The Magic ofFine Dining:Invisible Technology and the HotelKitchen,”
1 (1995):106–19.Levenstein,48–59.Dolores Hayden,
The GrandDomestic Revolution: A History ofFeminist Designs for American Homes,Neighborhoods,and Cities