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The Austerity Kitchen
By Christine Baumgarthuber
Where the alimentary is elementary.
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A Short History of the Dining Room (Part 2)

The turn of the last century saw the dining room go from a haven in a heartless world to a fueling station for factory work

A Collection of Designs for Household Furniture 3

To read part 1, click here.

One summer day in 1894 Walter Post took out a line of credit.

The Northern Pacific railroad clerk wanted to spruce up the six-room house he shared with his young wife, Ulilla (neé Carl and known fondly as “Lillie”). To Schuneman and Evans, the department store extending him the loan, he pledged repayment in 60 days’ time.

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Lost in the Supermarket

Florida Memory 2

“I was let off near a supermarket. It was dark. I was standing comfortably enough, looking at the neon lights, but I needed a direction, the hint of some discernible habit, a movement of some kind. A place to stand but at the same time to appear busy. I have no memories, only vague symbols of separations: an overturned kitchen table, a ripped bed sheet, a broken battleship abandoned at the bottom of a bathtub. I went into the supermarket. The aisles were crowded with evening shoppers. There was Muzak. I slid into the warm colors and the clicks of the cash registers. I tried to remember near the frozen foods, I am trying to remember, what it was I had to remember, but I had forgotten what I had gone in for, what it is exactly I have to go out for. I pushed the car down the length of one aisle and halfway up another. I picked up a can of beans. I must have picked up a can of beans because I can remember putting a can of beans back on the shelf and picking up another, a bottle of beans. I put the bottle of beans near cans of chop suey and vegetables and Pet milk. Then, finally, I managed to hold two cans of tuna fish. Something was evoked. A meal.” –Rudolph Wurlitzer, Nog (1968)

A Short History of the Dining Room (Part 1)

As more people found a place at the table, the concern became that of finding a place for the table

Silver for the Dining Room9

For the first time in my adult life, I have a something approaching a dining room. Accustomed to eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner on a breakfast bar, coffee table, or some other makeshift means of support, I find myself strangely delighted by the idea of sitting down each evening at a table that seats four in a space reserved only for eating. For one, meal time is easier. (There’s no better way to test your coordination and patience than carving a turkey that’s perched atop a folding table.) I’d say having a dining room makes me a fully fledged grown-up, were it not for the fact that I still rent. Precarity is Neverland.

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Chewing Through History

Comments on Corpulency

Comments on Corpulency 2

Claude, swinging his arms loosely, took long, regular strides and enjoyed watching their shadows, happily lost in their sway, which he further exaggerated by putting his shoulders into the rhythm.

Then, as though suddenly waking from a dream, he asked, “Do you know ‘The Battle of the Fat and the Thin’?”

Florent, caught by surprise, answered no. Claude excitedly praised this series of prints, pointing out favorite parts: the Fat, bursting from their enormity, prepare the evening glut, while the Thin, doubled over from hunger, look in from the street, stick figures filled with envy; then the Fat, seated at the table, cheeks overflowing, drive away a Thin who had the audacity to approach humbly, looking like a bowling pin among bowling balls.

Claude saw in these drawings the entire drama of mankind, and he took to classifying all people into the Thin and the Fat, two opposing groups, one devouring the other to grow plump and jolly. “You can bet,” he said, “that Cain was a Fat and Abel a Thin. And since that first killing, there have always been hungry Fats sucking the blood out of scanty eaters. It is a constant preying of the stronger on the weaker, each swallowing his neighbor and then finding himself swallowed in turn … So you see, my friend, watch out for the Fat.”

From The Belly of Paris, by Émile Zola (1873)