The New Art of cooking, 1930s-style

It’s 1934, and we have a new GE refrigerator, or maybe we’re thinking of another new kitchen appliance. What will we do with our wonderful new electric kitchen helpers, and what should our new kitchen look like?

Time to browse The New Art:

The New Art cookbook, 1934

This cookbook/wish book showcased kitchens with GE appliances, and included recipes. It includes the recipes from the earlier Silent Hostess cookbook, along with other recipes to play to the strengths of other GE appliances besides the refrigerators.

First, they give you a few new 1934 model kitchens to drool over:

The New Art cookbook, 1934: Model kitchen

The New Art cookbook, 1934: Model "Provincial" kitchen
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A “model kitchen”: Images of early 20th Century kitchens and kitchen goods

I have another web project I should probably mention, since it is somewhat related to the subject of this blog: A “model kitchen”: Images of early 20th Century kitchens and kitchen goods from Google Books (and elsewhere) Some of you may have already seen it when I posted it as a link on Metafilter Projects a couple of months ago, but I never mentioned it here or on Slumberland, I think.

When we started to redo the kitchen, which was built in 1911, I had to (because I’m just that kind of a geek) try to find tons of images of kitchens from that era to try to understand what the kitchen once looked like and how it was used when the house was new. Google Books, as it turns out, has bunches of old magazines and books that have the sort of images I was looking for. Many of them are in old ads. I also have found images in other sources such as the Library of Congress and the Seattle Municipal Archives.

I’ve collected a lot of these images and divided them into the categories of General kitchen views, plans, and cabinets; Refrigerators (ice boxes); Stoves; Furniture; Sinks; Accessories; and Miscellaneous. There are some amazing images, including the 1906 dishwasher and the rotating “U-Turn-It” apartment fixture. Here are a couple of examples from the “General kitchen views” category:

From an Armstrong Linoleum catalog, 1918.
From an Armstrong Linoleum catalog, 1918.

A model electric kitchen, 1924.
A model electric kitchen, 1924.

Unfortunately, if you are not in the US, most of the images won’t work for you. This is because I used Google Books’ “clip” function to make and host most of the images, and Google won’t show you the images if you’re not in the US. Sometimes changing the “.com” in the Google Books URL to your country’s usual domain (such as, or .ca) will make it work for you, but if not, you may not be able to see the images. I apologize. Someday I will try to host all the images myself, and get rid of the Google clips.

The “Silent Hostess”

The vintage-style stove was only the beginning of my kitchen’s transformation. With the cast-iron stove, came a farmhouse sink, wooden countertops, red Marmoleum floors, and a restored faux-tile wall. How could we put a modern stainless steel — or even white — fridge into what was turning into a relatively period kitchen?

We couldn’t. Our fridge is now one of these:

old fridge
(Photo by Phil Urwin)

…a late 1920s or possibly early 1930s GE Monitor Top refrigerator, the fridge that made it “safe to be hungry.” Seven cubic feet of frosty cold storage, and I do mean frosty. We have to defrost frequently, though it’s not terribly difficult.

For most people who acquired one of these Monitor Tops when they were new, it was the first electric refrigerator they ever owned. Even if they had an ice box before, they couldn’t have used it the same way a refrigerator would be used; ice boxes weren’t good at keeping consistent low temperatures. They certainly couldn’t have easily made ice cubes to cool their drinks.

General Electric came to the rescue with cookbooks/manuals like this one:

"Silent Hostess" Treasure Book

This “Silent Hostess” Treasure Book was published by GE in 1930, and includes illustrations, recipes, and instructions on how to properly use (and defrost) a Monitor Top refrigerator (though they never use that phrase). Read More

It is possible that Wendi takes this vintage cooking thing too seriously

Back in January, when our old craptastic 1970s stove broke, I threatened to get a vintage stove. At the time, we had no idea what we were going to do to the kitchen other than to get another stove, and I wanted to get a new floor because the tiles were horrendous and never looked (or got) clean.

My house was built in 1911, and the kitchen had only been partially remodeled in all the years since — the original built-in “kitchen dresser” still exists on one wall. My dream was always to make it look like something in Bungalow Kitchens. But kitchen remodels — even period-style — are expensive, and I never thought we would be able to do one.

And then we saw this, and had to buy it:
"Country Charm" stove in our kitchen

Once you have a stove like this, it demands that the rest of the kitchen go with it. And so began the transformation of the kitchen into a modern version of a 1920s kitchen. (We didn’t quite go all the way back to 1911 style. 1920s kitchens have more storage.) It’s not finished yet. Normal people do this sort of thing in a more linear way, I suspect. But it is about 75% finished, and the kitchen is now usable. New Marmoleum floor, new cabinets, new (old) fridge, new big kitchen table to use as prep space and eating space — it is a dream kitchen, if you are a history geek like me.

The lesson, though, is be careful when you are planning to “just replace an appliance and maybe the floor tiles.” It doesn’t always work that way.

(About the stove — it’s not a true vintage stove. It’s a 1970s Country Charm reproduction, supposedly made from late 1800s molds, but with electric burners, a clock and timer, etc. It’s old enough to be vintage in its own way, but not a true antique. It works beautifully, though the oven is a bit small, and I like it. Eventually I might have to replace it with a gas stove, but currently we don’t have gas running to our kitchen.)