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With Takeout On the Rise, How Close Are We to Kitchenless Houses?

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Dinosaurs, quills dipped in ink, the paper clip assistant (Clippy) that helped you accomplish computer-bound tasks on Microsoft Word—these are but a few things that are now, in 2018, extinct. You could argue that all of these things ran their course, gave way to whatever technology or species that superseded them, or maybe they were just demolished by the unexpected appearance of a giant fiery meteor.

Well, it seems, kitchens could soon be on their way out, too—on a speedboat toward the horizon, never to be seen or heard from again. Throw your oven a goodbye party. Maybe.

Last week, The Guardian posed the question: “Would you live in a house without a kitchen?" And it got me thinking.

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Pointing to the recent trend toward food delivery apps, Guardian staff writer Arwa Mahdawi posits that kitchens, at least as we used to know them, are becoming less necessary in modern households. By 2030, they could be near-obsolete as millennials turn on their stoves less and less, and turn instead toward Seamless.

These observations stem from a study conducted by analysts at UBS who reported the following conclusion: “The total cost of production of a professionally cooked and delivered meal could approach the cost of home-cooked food, or beat it when time is factored in. In a world of increasingly time-starved and asset-light millennial consumers, we think growth in online food delivery is part of a megatrend which shouldn’t be ignored.”

This compounded with reports that chart the shrinking size of kitchens in recent years doesn’t bode well for the room so many—especially us, here at Food52—have long considered the heart of the home.

There’s the even more modern proposal of shared kitchens, as some newly built developments eschew individually owned cooking spaces for community ones. Take, for example, this coliving situation where tenants rent private bedrooms for cheaper prices, granted they share a common space with a team of other renters.

So what does this all this mean for the future of the kitchen?

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It remains to be seen. Though many can’t stop lamenting the slow languorous death of tradition at the hands of the youth, I’d conjecture that the death of kitchens is not in our near future.

Cooking—while expanding, exploding, and evolving—isn’t going anywhere. And millennials, it seems, are doing their part to ensure that. Take, for instance, Sana Javeri Kadri, who’s reviving supply chains that deliver single-source, ethically farmed turmeric. Or Alexis Hillyard, a YouTube cook who runs cooking workshops for kids with limb difference. All of our contributors, writers, editors, and recipe developers here at Food52 are human beings who cook in, yes, real live kitchens.

Open Sesame

Dinosaurs may no longer roam our earth, yet we still crowd museums to marvel at their skeletons. Before we lament the loss of kitchens, why don’t we fill them with smells and laughter and anger and questions? It’s not like a giant meteor is headed our way, right?

So while kitchens may be decreasing in size, and the frequency of takeout orders may be climbing at a rapid clip, I don’t think there’s much of a case for worrying. Cooking is always changing and, yes, tradition is beautiful—but so is innovation. In many ways, getting in the kitchen has become more deliberate. Ordering in hasn't cheapened that twinkling novelty, that textured specialness of a thoughtfully prepared home-cooked meal. If anything, it's only enhanced it. Eating with others, or even alone, can still be endlessly valuable, regardless of the size of one's kitchen.

Do you see kitchens going the way of dinosaurs? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.