The Kitchen

The kitchen was a major center of activity in the household.  The large coal and gas range dominates the room. It was used as a heating source as a well as for cooking foods.  A table provided the space for food preparation; a cupboard stored pots, pans and dishes; an icebox kept food items cold; and a sink for dishes and a tub for laundry utilized indoor plumbing – certainly a recent innovation for working class households.

Even with the convenience of indoor plumbing and a gas range, the kitchen was the scene of virtual non-stop labor for Maria Botto and her daughters.  In addition to meals prepared for the family, the Bottos fed a noon meal to extra people during the week; these were workmen without families who rented rooms and came from the mills for a hot dinner.  On Sundays the Botto women prepared food for as many as 100 people who came to recreate on the property. This, of course, provided an additional income for the family.

The Botto family’s foodways reflected their home region of Biella, Piedmonte, Italy.  Piedmontese cooks prefer wine and chicken broth to accompany such staple foods as polenta (corn meal), risotto (rice), and tortellini, a pasta.  Generally, rosemary, sage and other herbs were used in cooking and grown outside in the garden.  The herbs also had medicinal uses.

Some of the artifacts found in the kitchen are a copper pot used to cook polenta (“purur”), meat grinder, fish scaler, orange juice squeezer, coffee grinder, rug beater, mousetrap, and wall calendars which were used by working people as decorations.

The Botto women were generally charged with kitchen duties.  Maria Botto hired a German woman to do the laundry.  One special job was reserved for Pietro – stirring the polenta and cutting it with a string.