“in a future where cooking is no longer necessary… will it still be called the kitchen?”
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About the author: Nash Escalada is a Toronto based industrial designer and content creator. He focuses on telling stories about how emerging technologies can bring positive change to the human experience. Kind of like the opposite of Black Mirror.
Turner the Turnspit Dog
Above is an illustration of the now-extinct Turnspit dog. We can just call him Turner. Bred in the middle ages, Turner served one specific task: To run on a wheel and rotate meat on the spit so that it would cook evenly. This dog is just one of the early and unfortunate examples of the lengths that humans have gone to in order to automate the drudge work we face when cooking.
The kitchen hasn’t always been the heart of the home. In the past, kitchens were treated as an area for work and were kept away from guests. But thanks to advancements in technology and pioneers like Turner, the kitchen slowly became a presentable space for guests and cooking has been made to be more enjoyable.
Prepare. Cook. Eat. Socialize. Clean. Repeat.
Today we can look at cooking in five phases: prepare, cook, eat, socialize, clean. Throughout history, we have been working hard to eliminate the human effort involved in the phases of preparation, cooking, and cleaning. Take a look around your kitchen and all of the technology that is there to save you time. The dishwasher used to be a person, the stovetop was a hole in the ground, and the blender was your hands.
I believe we’ve reached a point in time where kitchen technology has been maximized. If you go to Walmart there are appliances and machines that can do just about anything that you don’t necessarily want to do. So if we’re on brink of exhausting innovation in the kitchen consumer technology space, what’s the next step in the evolution of the kitchen? A robot that cooks and cleans for you? Maybe, but I think there’s a simpler solution. And that solution is to not have a kitchen at all.
The Ritual of Cooking
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are the undisputed moments where my family stops whatever they’re doing to sit down and be together. Lately, I‘ve been trying out new recipes to advance my skills in the kitchen and improve my diet. When I find a new recipe that I want to try out I must go through the five phases of cooking: prepare, cook, eat, socialize, clean. First I visit my local grocery store, find and purchase all of the ingredients, pay, drive back home, and unload and store items in the fridge and pantry. Once I decide to take on that recipe I take all the ingredients out, prepare them, cook them, set the table. When the foods ready I plate it, sit down, and eat with my family. Then, of course, I have to clean up my mess.
If we no longer cook, will it still be called a kitchen?
Imagine we could skip all of these steps and only focus on what’s most important: eating and socializing. Well, luckily that’s already possible. Today with the touch of your screen you can have any type of food delivered to your doorstep in 30 minutes. But in reality, no one does this every day because 1. it’s not nice to your bank account and 2. it’s not nice to mother nature.
But could we see a future where we could sustainably rely on daily food delivery? A future where its impact on our bank account and the natural environment is about the same as doing groceries and cooking for yourself every week? Think of how much of your home is designed around cooking. Pantries and fridges to store food. Cabinets to store plates, cups and cutlery. Utensils to cut and prepare food. Appliances to cook and reheat food. Appliances and utensils to clean up the aftermath. Tables, chairs, and counters to eat at. Now let’s imagine humans stop cooking and rely only on the delivery of food. How much of that stuff now becomes obsolete?
Now think of the costs that are associated with cooking. The car that takes you back and forth to the grocery store and the insurance you pay on it. The gas and electricity that enables you to cook the food. How much of that stuff now becomes obsolete? And if those tools no longer become necessary to have in our home what happens to home insurance rates when your house is no longer at risk of catching on fire because your dad left dinner cooking all night?
In a world where storage, refrigeration, transportation, and preparation are done by third parties like local kitchens and food delivery services the design and experience of our home completely changes. The disappearance of the cabinetry that fills the walls may suddenly leave room for more windows and natural light to enter the home. Fewer countertops dedicated to meal preparation may mean more space for a larger dining area where we can eat and socialize like royalty. This could be an opportunity for home builders and architects to re-think and repurpose the space that was once our kitchen.
The word Kitchen: roots from the Latin verb coquere, meaning “to cook.” But in a future where cooking is no longer necessary and as a result, this space is liberated from its ecosystem of tools will it still be called the kitchen?
How might third party delivery services influence the design of our homes?
The elimination of appliances and storage solutions is one way that could fundamentally transform the design and experience of our homes, but what else may contribute to this change? How might the services that deliver the food to our homes also begin to have an influence?
Today brands are entering our homes in the form of smart speakers, smart thermostats, and security systems. These technologies have now become standard elements in our living spaces. One of the most notable innovations of this kind is Key by Amazon. Key is a system that allows a parcel delivery worker one-time access to open your garage or your front door to securely drop off a package so it is safe from porch pirates. As a result of installing Key in your home, the design and experience you have within this space now change forever. Your doors are now powered by Amazon have a new purpose in the world.
A Home Designed by Uber Eats?
In a world where food is delivered daily to your home, how might third-party delivery services influence the design and experience of our homes? How might Uber Eats influence the physical design of our living spaces?
Traditionally kitchens have been located in the rear of the home. The front of the house has been reserved for the living room and a space to showcase family decor. The location of the kitchen today makes it easier for parents to look after their children as they cook. But, in a world without a kitchen will the dining area continue to be at the back of the house or will it move closer to the front to make delivery frictionless?
Before the innovations of milk pasteurization and home refrigeration, the milkman would drop off the exact amount of milk a family needed for that day. Some homes would even have a little door installed for the drop-off of milk and pick up of empties. Could we see a return of this system for the drop off of food and the pick up of the waste that is produced?
Will we choose convenience over this primal ritual?
I cannot imagine living in a home without a kitchen. Cooking is a primal behaviour unique to humans and is one of the few things that can bring people together. But there are many times where I don’t feel like cooking and I’d rather have some local restaurants do the work for me. Today it is technologically possible to survive without a kitchen. It may not be accessible or affordable for everyone but we could reach a future where that changes. If we do it’s important to think about how our homes might change and what role brands may play. At the end of the day, our behaviour today and data generated collected as a result will let the technology companies running these third-party delivery services know whether the kitchen becomes a thing of the past or not. Will we choose convenience over this primal ritual? And if so what will this space be called?
Thanks for reading! Let me know what you think. What would you the space that once was a kitchen?
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