The Cold War was a tense political standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union which lasted from just after the end of the Second World War until the fall of Communism in 1991 and it’s fair to say there was no love lost between the two!
At the height of the tension, to promote understanding between the two nations, they both agreed to hold a series of cultural exchanges, events and exhibits in each other’s countries.
So, what does all this have to do with kitchens, you ask?
Well, that’s interesting (and slightly surreal in a ‘did that conversation really happen’ way) but this bizarre exchange between US Vice-President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev really did happen and it’s known as The Kitchen Debate.
In July 1959 at the American National Exhibition in Moscow, the Americans built an entire suburban model house (cut in half for ease of viewing) claiming that at $14,000, anyone in America could afford one.
This perfect American show-house was filled with the latest time-saving devices, like a dishwasher and all the latest kitchen gadgets.
The Soviet press didn’t believe the average American could afford such opulence and wrote, rather brilliantly, ‘There is no more truth in showing this as the typical home of the American than, say, showing the Taj Mahal as the typical home of a Bombay textile worker.’
As the two men were walking round the home, they were both boasting of their respective nation’s accomplishments. Khrushchev suggested that the Soviets developed ‘things that matter’ while the decadent Americans were only interested in showing-off. As they toured the kitchen, Khrushchev sarcastically asked Nixon if the Americans had also invented a machine that ‘puts food into the mouth and pushes it down.’
As Nixon showed Khrushchev the kitchen, they started talking:
Nixon: This is our newest model. This is the kind which is built in thousands of units for direct installations in the houses. In America, we like to make life easier for women…
Khrushchev: Your capitalistic attitude toward women does not occur under Communism.
Nixon: I think that this attitude towards women is universal. What we want to do, is make life more easy for our housewives…. This house can be bought for $14,000, and most Americans can buy a home in the bracket of $10,000 to $15,000. This house costs about $100 a month to buy on a contract running 25 to 30 years.
Khrushchev: We have steel workers and peasants who can afford to spend $14,000 for a house. Your American houses are built to last only 20 years so builders could sell new houses at the end. We build firmly. We build for our children and grandchildren.
Nixon: American houses last for more than 20 years, but, even so, after twenty years, many Americans want a new house or a new kitchen. Their kitchen is obsolete by that time… The American system is designed to take advantage of new inventions and new techniques.
Khrushchev: This theory does not hold water. Some things never get out of date – houses, for instance, and furniture, furnishings – perhaps – but not houses. I have read much about America and American houses, and I do not think that this is exhibit and what you say is strictly accurate.
More a metaphor for the frosty American-Soviet relationship than a direct row about the quality of kitchens but as it turns out, it wasn’t a normal, everyday kitchen…
It was designed by New York architect Stanley Klein and subsequently enlarged by creative genius Raymond Loewy, one of the most successful industrial designers of the 20th century, and Andrew Geller, a highly influential architect. Khrushchev was right, a kitchen touched by Klein, Loewy and Geller is a million miles away from ordinary…!
As is a Wilson Fink kitchen. See what we did there?
If you’re having your own kitchen debate at home which looks like it might be turning into a cold war, contact us here to talk to us. We’re sure we can settle the argument…!
Alternatively, come into any one of our showrooms in Radlett in Hertfordshire, Leicester or Manchester and see for yourself why Wilson Fink are one of the country’s leading purveyors of fine kitchens.