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May 12, 2010 10:53 AM

Second Kitchens

(This thread was split from: -- The Chowhound Team)

Maybe it's an Italian or Italian/American thing. I know a few others in the same boat and they are of Italian heritage. Most of my relatives had two kitchens: one upstairs for "show" and one in the furnished basement for actual cooking! We are a picky bunch when it comes to food and eating. lol

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  1. LOL, how would you know I'm half Italian? My aunt had 2 kitchens here in CA- the other in a finished garage for "stinky" cooking. Add all the hand washing, and I always joke that there is not one traceable fingerprint left in the family:)

    1 Reply
    1. re: BubblyOne

      I was actually responding to southernitalian! How funny is that? Maybe my theory has some truth to it!

    2. lol
      I myself do not suffer from this, but my mother definitely does! (Italian American!!)

      I am a really adventurous eater and am eager to try anyones home cooking - especially the Ethnic stuff!

      But mom - no way!
      She recently moved to Florida and her neighbors on both sides like to cook and send her food over...She graciously accepts the food and then puts the dish right into in her refridgerator where it will sit for a day or two before she throws it out..
      I visited her a few weeks ago and found a plate of pasta from her German neighbor,(who had been married to an Italian woman - and so learned to cook Italian food) as well as a plate of some sort of wonderful curried rice dish from her West Indian neigbor.
      I dipped into both - and both were fantastic!
      Gosh I wish I had neighbors like that - I would def take advantage of it!!
      But mom is 70 and is not about to change her habit - no matter how I tried to convince her she was missing out!

      1. My mother is very much like this, me only a bit less so. And, yes, we are Italian-American and have two kitchens!

        21 Replies
        1. re: Angela Roberta

          I'm not Italian-American, and also have two kitchens, one near the dining room for ordinary cooking, and one half a flight down from the main kitchen for the heavy, odorous, all day and holiday cooking.

          We also don't just east food brought or sent by acquaintances or not extremely close friends/relatives. If a guest brings a food gift, my wife is apt to say, thanks, I just take it down to the other kitchen, I don't have enough room here in the serving fridge, on the counter, etc. This homemade gift ususally is fed to the wildlife in our yards.

          Unlike the Italian-Americans, this comes from growing up kosher, and not knowing or accepting the kosher standards of acquaintaces, we wouldn't be putting these homemade gifts on our plates or eating them.

          No longer that strict in observance, but these traditions are inbred and food gifts are usually not eaten.

          1. re: bagelman01

            I'm struck by all these people with two kitchens. How does another kitchen in the house significantly contain smells? And in real estate terms, how do these work? I've never seen a two-kitchen place advertised.

            1. re: Bada Bing

              I look at appraisals all over the US, and 2 kitchens are usually found on the East Coast. They are also known as "summer kitchens", a way to cook w/o heating up the house, sometimes with in-law quarters as well.

              1. re: BubblyOne

                We were househunting in NJ recently and came across two with second kitchens in the basement. I imagine it would have been useful in the summer heat not to cook on the main floor in the days when people didn't have AC. The realtor said they were very common in the area (northern NJ).

                1. re: buttertart

                  I grew up in northern NJ too and second kitchens were very common. Every family that I can think of that had one was Italian-pAmerican and had Noni living with them. That second kitchen downstairs was her domain. A few of them had wood-burning pizza ovens too. And when Noni wasn't cooking, she was cleaning. Those houses served some awesome meals. I'm talking Ridgefield Park, Little Ferry, Lodi.

                  1. re: southernitalian

                    Very nice. This was in southern Bergen County too. I grew up with an Irish-Canadian great aunt in the house who was a wonderful cook and baker, nothing like an extended family for good traditional food and maintenance of food traditions.

                    1. re: southernitalian

                      My old house in Teaneck had one, too. With the required pink appliances.

                      1. re: southernitalian

                        Sign me up for a second kitchen with a Noni in it who cleans when she's not cooking. This must be one of the secrets to happy cohabitation with one's MIL.

                    2. re: BubblyOne

                      This is exactly what my mother had. The upstairs kitchen, while beautiful, was definitely cooked in; the downstairs kitchen was used all year: during the winter for "overflow" cooking and full time as a strictly Summer kitchen. But then the entire downstairs was finished as a second living/party space. (And, what parties they had.) Both parents were Italian however Mother was born in Italy and went to school in the US.

                      1. re: Gio

                        One relative of ours has three. The main kitchen, the batch processing kitchen and the final one, the outside covered patio kitchen. Appliances support generations of homes, families and sub-families without leaving the same household.

                        1. re: Paulustrious

                          Three is a good number. Sounds like a lot of great cooking goes on there. We had an open terrace with a huge wood burning brick fireplace with grills on each side and a pizza oven in the middle. Summer time was grilling and outdoor eating time morning, noon and night. Those really were The Days.
                          These days the Weber is just out the kitchen back door and the food gets hauled down a few stairs to the garden patio. Italians Are fussy eaters. LOL

                      2. re: BubblyOne

                        Summer kitchens are very common in my neck of the PA woods. All old farm houses had one. Many got torn down over the years or remodeled for other uses.

                        As far as less than 100 year old houses, I know at least five families that have two full kitchens. None of which are in Italian American households. I learned something new today.

                        Four out of five have full kitchens (with bar seating) in finished basements for entertaining as a back ups for large gathers. The other one had two full kitchens on the main floor (large family) that served slightly different uses.

                      3. re: Bada Bing

                        Bada Bing: I grew up in Jersey City, NJ and it was very common for my relatives who moved out to the 'burbs to have a house with two kitchens. Usually one was on the first floor and the other was in a furnished basement. (Though I do remember one wealthy relative having one on the first floor and another on the second floor.) In the poart of the country where I grew up, two kitchens is not as uncommon as you would think.

                        1. re: ttoommyy

                          Actually, I'm recalling that one of my childooh homes, in North Dakota, had a basement apartment that we used rather than rented. Par-tay!

                          But wouldn't basement cooking still stink up the house?

                        2. re: Bada Bing

                          The second kitchen was on the level with the garage (a half flight down from the main living level of the house). It was where the extra refrigerator, wine cooler and freezer was, as well as a 6 burner commercial viking range. The windows opened out to the rear of the house, and there was a door to the back yard, Off the kitchen was a washer and dryer, 1/2 bath and an ironrite mangle iron for pressing table linens.

                          When doing major or entertaining cooking, it was grest not to carry groceries upstairs to the regular kitchen, just cooked food or platters.

                          In the sitting room adjoining the master bedroom, we have a mini-office kitchen with a bar sink, a counter height refrigerator, a two burner element and a small microwave. I bought it used at a bankruptcy auction at a local office park $300 well spent--great for late night snaks, or when someone is ill upstairs, or making and warming a baby bottle.

                          My wife is a realtor, and it is common to see the terms 'summer kitchen' 'party kitchen' 'auxiliiliary kitchen' in ads. If some one advertsise two kitchens, they put in a disclaimer, 'not a legal two family house'

                          1. re: bagelman01

                            One day, perhaps my backup stove will be a six-burner Viking!

                            1. re: bagelman01

                              LOL (re: disclaimer), and then the buyer is free to do whatever they want, many times turning it into an illegal rental.

                            2. re: Bada Bing

                              Extremely common in Toronto in the old Italian crowd. There are two distinct types of house (side splits and back splits) that the Italians of the 1950-80's favoured. The work-house kitchen - for the mass preparation of vegetables at harvest time - was usually in the half-way-down basement. It's not something most of the the second / third generation do. I have a whole slew of Italian relatives (by betrothal I hasten to add) that are rear-ranged.

                              And Italians are the fussiest eaters I know.

                              1. re: Paulustrious

                                Polish/Eastern-European mix from near Buffalo and my grandmother had two kitchens. The old original 30s gas range was moved to the unfinished basement after the new one came in in the 70s, along with the hinge-handled fridge. It was used for fall canning, with the utility/laundry sink, and the annual Christmas pierogi mania. A week of rolling, filling, pinching and then pre-pan frying, from industrial sizes of Crisco, so that they could be warmed in the oven Christmas Eve. I started working it at four, mostly just being taught the pinch, then on to fillings. By 10 I was in the basement frying while my Grandmother and Aunt worked upstairs, usually preparing the homemade saurkraut (which would fester in the utility sink for weeks), which was always the last batches, after the potato, potato/farmers cheese. We'd turn out about 250.

                                I really miss it.

                                1. re: lsmutko

                                  Many Chinese seem to do the 2 kitchen thing too. In New Zealand the second kitchen, usually just extra burners, is in the garage.

                            3. re: bagelman01

                              Why not give the food to someone who will eat it so it won't go to waste? It's not good for wildlife to eat processed foods, and in fact it's illegal in some states to feed wildlife.

                          2. A friend lives in a rental house that has two kitchens, one on the main floor and the other in the basement.

                            I was told it was something to do with maintaining a Kosher household. How does that work? (my friends don't keep Kosher, maybe the landlords did?)

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Rasam

                              In regards to Kosher, there has to be a complete separation of Meat and dairy. Separate, plates, cooking vessels, utensils, etc. My sister even has separate dishwashers. Some people find having separate meat and dairy kitchens make observance easier, OR
                              they have one kitchen for all year and a second Passover Kitchen for the spring holiday which requires separate everything from the rest of the year. A second Passover kitchen alllows one to start the holiday preparations before the regular kitchen has been converted fro Passover use.

                              Kosher, lots of fun: all year dairy, meat and pareve(Neutral) pots, pans, dishes, etc and another set of each for Passover. 6 sets, a bridal registry's dream come true.

                            2. Friend of mine (chinese) has two kitchens. The one in the garage is professional, with pro ranges and exhaust to meet code.