In the Midwest — especially in the prairie farmhouse — the kitchen door of many homesteads provided direct entry into the back of the home. The kitchen was the central access core for sharing values and for meeting family and friends.
Many times you’d just walk in through the unlocked door, call out your arrival and take a seat at the kitchen table.
There was always a pot of coffee percolating on the stove and the smell of freshly baked goods wafted throughout the room from the cast-iron oven.
If you were a friend over for a visit, you always entered the house from the kitchen door and never the front door. Using the kitchen door meant you were always free to help yourself to whatever you wanted to eat and drink.
To ask permission first was to be rude and to take on the role of an uncomfortable unknown.
The front door was for strangers and deliveries.
The kitchen door held access to community values and acceptance was guaranteed for those you knew and loved.
Today — in the cities and the suburban urban core — the kitchen door is usually just a secondary exit to escape a fire. There is no warmth or humor found in accessing an urban kitchen.
Kitchens in the city are small pustules of cramped inconvenience that encourage more eating out than cooking in.
In the city, you buy your coffee on the street corner; your baked goods are bought from a bodega. One is left to wonder how leaving behind Kitchen Door Values has changed the connective tissue of an ever-industrialized American lifestyle.
Has abandoning our prairie mindset to the rotting woods fostered salvation in the hills or silence in the valleys?
Have we traded the dream of a City Upon a Hill for the despair of an immoral country rendered flat and faceless in the plains? Without a kitchen door everyone is forced to use the front door. Everyone becomes a stranger.
Everyone becomes unfamiliar. Everyone is a visitor and never family. Duty goes undiscovered and left to dust. Were you raised in a house with a kitchen door? Was that door ever locked?
Did people step into and out of your house as they wished, or were there strict rules for visiting that included knocking first? Do you have a kitchen door now? If you do not have a kitchen door, what room does your second entrance lead to and do your friends and family enter your home through that door or the front door?