Partner's name Lon.
The Warmest Room in the House: A Cultural History of the American Kitchen in the Twentieth Century, Bloomsbury USA (New York, NY), 2007.
Wearing History: T-Shirts from the Gay Rights Movement, Alyson Books (Los Angeles, CA), 2007.
Contributor to periodicals including Details, Washington Post, and Cooking Light.
Steven Gdula is a writer based in Washington, DC, who contributes to various periodicals including Details, Washington Post, and Cooking Light. He is also the author of two books on popular culture, The Warmest Room in the House: A Cultural History of the American Kitchen in the Twentieth Century and Wearing History: T-Shirts from the Gay Rights Movement, both of which were published in 2007.
The Warmest Room in the House reviews the history of kitchens in America, tracing them decade by decade and illustrating how they have changed both in decor and in function. The book also attempts to show readers why the kitchen remains the heart of the home, regardless of how sterile it may sometimes appear due to the expansion of design and inclusion of many more appliances. Gdula starts The Warmest Room in the House with the kitchens of his childhood, as these are closest to his heart. During the 1960s and 1970s, when Gdula was young, his father traditionally prepared dinner for the family, because his job as a teacher allowed him to come home far earlier than his wife, who also worked. Coming from a family with Eastern European roots, Gdula naturally associates the warm and satisfying foods of his heritage with his childhood kitchen as well. The kitchen also represented a sense of economizing or thrift for Gdula. When his family suffered a financial set back and began to use food stamps to supplement their food purchases, they ate in the kitchen instead of in the dining room, which had been tradition up until that point. More so than careful spending, Gdula realized that the time spent squeezed around the small kitchen table meant that no matter how tight their budget, they had each other and would stick together.
On a less personal level, Gdula discusses the kitchen of the 1900s. In America, this room had a history of including things such as a root cellar for cold storage, a fireplace for cooking, and a water pump to bring up water for all sorts of purposes. However, it was an interest in cleanliness and the elimination of germs that led to the basis for the modern-day kitchen design; early models were copies of a scientist's laboratory, including surfaces that could be cleaned easily and plenty of storage space to allow for putting away equipment where it won't get dirty or contaminated in any way. Later decades saw the evolution of the work space, though kitchens early in the century remained far smaller than in modern times. Ironically, when kitchens were smaller, Americans spent far more time in them and cooked far more on their own than they do today.
In the 1920s, Americans began eating more sugar and faced prohibition, which eliminated—supposedly—one's alcohol consumption. Gdula includes numerous interesting facts in this section of the book, including a somewhat bizarre recipe for tomatoes that were served stuffed with chopped candy, a recipe that accompanied Oh, Henry! candy bars. Chronicling the evolution of the American kitchen, Gdula focuses more on the food in the kitchen during the 1930s and 1940s than on the kitchen itself. Discussing the 1950s kitchen, Gdula examines the common addition of the electric refrigerator, a sizable enough appliance which required sufficient space and an open wall, therefore altering the size of the kitchen.
Returning to the decades of his childhood, Gdula notes the shift in food quality and quantity, followed by the gradual addition of instant food products, less healthful choices, and an eventual shift of the source of family's meals from the kitchen to the restaurant. Barbara Jacobs, in a review for Booklist, commented that "throughout [The Warmest Room in the House,] Gdula demonstrates how intricately the economy is woven into the kitchen." A reviewer for Publishers Weekly, noted the emphasis placed on television and automo- biles by Americans, and concluded that "Gdula successfully personifies the American kitchen, but he has to fight the evidence piling up on the other side of his argument."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Atlantic Monthly, January 1, 2008, review of The Warmest Room in the House: A Cultural History of the American Kitchen in the Twentieth Century.
Booklist, December 15, 2007, Barbara Jacobs, review of The Warmest Room in the House, p. 9.
New York Times Book Review, December 30, 2007, Dominique Browning, "The Kitchen God's Life," review of The Warmest Room in the House.
Publishers Weekly, November 5, 2007, review of The Warmest Room in the House, p. 56.
Atlantic Online,http://www.theatlantic.com/ (February 12, 2008), Katie Bacon, "The All-American Kitchen," review of The Warmest Room in the House, and author interview.
Culinate Web site,http://www.culinate.com/ (June 13, 2008), Christina Eng, "Kitchen History: Two Books Tour the American Kitchen," review of The Warmest Room in the House; (August 13, 2008), author profile.
Metro Boston News,http://www.metrobostonnews.com/ (January 24, 2008), Elizabeth Weber, "When You Can Stand the Heat," review of The Warmest Room in the House.
Paper Mag Web log,http://www.papermag.com/blogs/ (October 12, 2007), Ann Magnuson, author interview.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel Online,http://www.sunsentinel.com/ (June 26, 2008), Carol Mighton Haddix, review of The Warmest Room in the House.