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Second Kitchens

(This thread was split from: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7074... -- 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.

                              1. We're not Italian or Kosher, but my mom had a second kitchen in the last house she owned. She was a baker and the only way to make room was to build a full kitchen in the garage. It was a room in the garage, with its own door. It had the giant sink with multiple basins, a stove, a commercial Hobart mixer, and a commercial convection oven. I don't recall any cooking happening in there. Just baking.

                                She had it licensed and up to code, so she started selling her Biscotti and wedding cakes and would rent the kitchen out to other local food businesses occasionally. I wonder what the next owners of the house did with it.

                                1. My Macedonian friend and her parents each have a second full kitchen in the basement (plus lots of extra refrigerators in the garage). In fact, they basically live in the basement--there's also a bathroom with a shower and a den. When I was house-hunting, I saw a few houses with the second living space an thought they must be Macedonian. But, thanks to CH, I now know they might have been Italian or Polish. I didn't think they were Kosher because a) I was more accustomed to 2 of each appliance in the same kitchen and b) it was not a very Jewish town.

                                  1. I don't fit into any of the established categories - I'm not Italian-American, don't keep Kosher, et al. We do have a small second kitchen upstairs but it is for our houseguests. There's an undercounter refrigerator-freezer we fill with libations, fruit, butter & jams, eggs, cheeses and God knows what else (it depends on the guest), microwave-convection oven, a single burner, several small appliances and a single sink. The cupboards hold plates, glasses, etc. in addition to crackers and bread or muffins or both. There's enough to make light meals. We know many people on the East Coast; when they visit us in the west, their "tummy time" is not attuned to our clocks. They can make coffee & toast for their eye-opener or they'll have fruit and be outdoors at the pool when we finally wake. We built this house and included the second kitchen, such as it is, for enjoyment of our guests. Neither my husband nor I have ever used it. It isn't large enough to qualify as a "real" kitchen.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: Sherri

                                      What a great gesture. All I can muster is hauling the booze fridge and a microwave upstairs.

                                      1. re: Sherri

                                        That's a really great idea. We have a home that's a rental right now but long-range plan will be to live in at least part-time. The basement level has a huge living area, bedroom, bath and a large laundry room with a utility sink. It would be a breeze to set it up as a little kitchen for guests. I just commented to someone yesterday that it's equally hard being and having a houseguest. No one wants to disturb the other. Thanks for posting this.

                                        1. re: c oliver

                                          Wiring up a kitchen is not a trivial task, I've done a number of them. If you just mean a microwave plus coffee maker / kettle then no problem. And we know what it is like wanting to take over in somebody else's house.

                                      2. What an interesting thread. The first house we ever owned, in New York just above the New Jersey border, had kept the ground-level basement kitchen when the new first-floor kitchen was installed. I sometimes used the basement stove during hot weather. I never realized until reading this thread that two-kitchen houses are somewhat a regional phenomenon.

                                        1. At my family's farm in rural NC, there are 2 kitchens. The "old kitchen" is a separate building (like a small house) & used a wood burning stove. There is no water line, but the well is a mere 50 feet away. The main house had a real kitchen added in the 1950's, but when built, didn't have a propane stove until the 1980's. There used to be a wood burning stove in there as well. Water was added to the main house kitchen. At the farm, the kitchen was in a separate building for fire safety. The old kitchen hasn't been used in many, many years & sadly, is in very bad shape now. Full of great memories though!

                                          1. I have relatives who have a second kitchen that they built in the basement. They did this as both the husband and wife love to cook and often throw big parties with tons of food. This way they can both cook and not get in each others way. A recipe for family harmony to be sure.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Withnail42

                                              I had to read this thread because I have two kitchens right now -- one in the basement and one upstairs. This is not because of my background or ethnicity or eating rules, however, it is because the SO decided it would be a good idea for us to do our own kitchen reno... 11 months ago. ARGH! (On the bright side, when it is finally done it's going to be fabulous).

                                            2. Both my grandparents had 2 kitchens. The basement kitchen was basically used for summer cooking. However, my grandfather used his kitchen all year. That's where the live eels, rabbits and chickens got slaughtered and cooked. Nona did most of the holiday baking in the basement kitchen. Oh, and the raviolis! Oh my God, the raviolis!! Yup, Italian/American.

                                              1. My Appalachin granny in southern Ohio had two kitchens; one upstairs in the main part of the house, and one in the finished, walk-out basement for parties and for overflow holiday cooking. And my brother in Florida has two kitchens, if you count the outdoor (huge) propane grill, fridge, and sink as a kitchen (and I do!).

                                                1. We never had two kitchens, but my gardener, Giuseppe, late of Sicily, happily took some of our old appliances when we redid our kitchen. He said that they were for the basement kitchen. I think he lives in Yonkers, but I bet this is common where ever there's a significant Italian population. Although we didn't have a second kitchen, I remember we had a cold pantry where the bacala was sent to soak. The odor was hellacious to my childish nose. We would open the door to smell it, and then laugh like lunatics over how bad it smelled.

                                                  1. My grandmother (from Italy, living in NJ) has three kitchens. My great aunt used to live in the upstairs of the house, so I guess both women had their own kitchen...plus the one in the basement for pasta?

                                                    ...up until now it hadn't occurred to me that I've never seen so many kitchens in one house. But I'm really, really liking this idea of two kitchens. How have I been getting by with just one?!

                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: bluemoon4515

                                                      And here I thought just having two ovens in one kitchen was my goal! lol

                                                      1. re: ttoommyy

                                                        I just watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations set in Sardegna where the host house had five floors with a kitchen on each. Now that's my kinda house.

                                                    2. Not Italian American but Chinese. I remember in the 90's when there was a huge influx of Chinese from HK immigrating to Vancouver, alot of them built houses with second kitchens that were smaller and were built to be "wok kitchens" where they could stir fry at higher heat and with a bigger exhaust fan so it wouldn't smell up the rest of the house.

                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: bdachow

                                                        It's amazing how seriously certain ethnicities take their cooking, so much so that they would have a separate kitchen just for certain kinds of food, methods, preparation, etc. Fascinating!

                                                      2. Oh your posts are so funny.

                                                        I love the idea of a show kitchen! If I win the lottery, I am getting one. I may even put in a ceramic top stove. People can come over and admire how I can put out so many meals and yet never create the slightest scuff or burn. In my hidden kitchen there would be gas - lots of it. A woodfire and a cauldron.

                                                        Seriously though - we too have two kitchens. One downstairs - but it never gets used until we have guests that decide they do not want to leave. it is in the MIL apartment. It has an ancient, wicked giant coil stove and the cast off popcorn stink microwave. Appropriate for overstayers and the dreaded MIL (JK - I love my MIL). I make my husband fry outside. That is the THIRD kitchen. Deep frying is a wretched stink for a house.

                                                        1. I recently heard this is common in STL's Italian-American neighborhood, but apparently (the reason explained to me anyway) the main floor and kitchen were largely used only when having company and the basement living area was for everyday use.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: hill food

                                                            "the main floor and kitchen were largely used only when having company and the basement living area was for everyday use."

                                                            This is also true of my Italian and Italian-American friends and relatives here in New Jersey.

                                                          2. Yes, I'm resurrecting an old thread.

                                                            I find the subject of 2nd kitchens fascinating.

                                                            I married a Sri Lanka and lived in Sri Lanka for nine years. It seems that, among the middle to upper class, it's common to have second kitchens. One kitchen is where the serious cooking is done, usually by the maid. That kitchen can also be locked up from the rest of the house and will also serve as the maid's quarters if she's live in, whether with a separate room for a bed or with a cot that's pulled out for sleeping. Even if there's no maid, that's still where the serious cooking is done. And where all the messes take place.

                                                            The other kitchen is more for show, from what I can tell. Or for the woman of the house to use when guests are over.

                                                            1. Obviously those who keep kosher often have 2 kitchens. I live in Northern California and have run across places with a kitchen upstairs and one downstairs for canning in the summer. It was usually in an unfinished basement with plenty of shelves for putting food by.

                                                              1. We didn't have two kitchens, precisely, but we did have a gas stove (a WONDERFUL old gas stove) in the basement, with one kitchen cabinet, complete with countertop, next to it. We also had a spare fridge at the bottom of the basement stairs. The house housed a lot of people during WWII, when housing in the cities was at a premium, and there was a small bedroom/bathroom in the basement. The extra cooking area was great for roasting the turkey or canning fruit, anything that took a long time or made a particular mess. If Mom felt like a meatloaf in July, she baked it in the basement, so as not to heat up the room we tended to hang out in. When I was a teenager I was encouraged to do my tie-dye and candlemaking experiments in the basement. I would love to have a basement kitchen area, myself...though not in the gothic horror of a basement in this house...

                                                                1. Not of Italian heritage, my great grandmas house had a canning kitchen on the back porch though. They are fairly common in the South.

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: rasputina

                                                                    The Canning Kitchen is still wanted in the South by those who can in June, July and August.

                                                                    My Godmother's Plantation house had a warming kitchen off the dining room and downstairs from the warming kitchen was the full kitchen which was wonderfully warm in winter and cool in summer.

                                                                  2. Not just for one for show and one for dirty work, but if they're upstairs and downstairs, it's a heat thing too. Much cooler cooking in a downstairs kitchen when it's hot out.

                                                                    1. My grandparents had an upstairs " fancy" kitchen that was closer to the bedroom level so it was used for breakfasts and any meal that was to be served in the formal dining room that was the next room over. They also had a full kitchen in the finished basement that was walk out to the sun room and yard. We would eat dinners there mostly b/c it was closer to the barbecue grill and the TV ( football and baseball for the men) and there was a banquette built-in along the wall that meant lots of people could come for dinner- grilled or take-in deli on Sunday nights!

                                                                      1. Well, I'm not Italian but I do have the remains of the Summer Kitchen in the basement of our 1840's home. The family that owned it before us lived here since it was built. The flue holes are in the chimney waiting for their wood/coal stoves & the gas hookup is still there. They used this space for laundry as well. The sink is still there. It has 4 sinks.
                                                                        What is interesting is that to stay warm in the winter the family added valves to the steam system in the basement.
                                                                        This type of kitchen was very common in Massachusetts.
                                                                        Also, most of the row houses in Baltimore City had the proper kitchen located in the basements. This was done because of the hot summer weather and the groceries were delivered down one flight of stairs to the kitchen.