At B&B Antiques in Gastonia NC we almost had our hands on a beautiful white Hoosier cabinet, but we were just about 2 minutes too late. Maybe we shouldn’t have stopped for lunch at Tony’s first or at least we should have skipped the ice cream. As I was so heartbroken, it is hard to remember the exact details, but I do remember it was in fantastic shape and just the right size for our kitchen. As we were searching for the price tag, we heard, “My grandfather just bought it.” A pretty young lady standing nearby explained that grandpa has a thing for Hoosiers. Grandma, on the other hand, is into all things Campbell’s Soup. (I told you everybody has a story. We really enjoyed talking with her, even if grandpa had bought my Hoosier. At least it was obviously going to a good home.)
Kitchens were not always blessed with the copious amount of cabinetry and counter space we have grown accustomed to today. There was very little workspace provided for food preparation back in the 19th century kitchen and thus, baker’s cabinets were born. Then around the turn of the century, according to homeguides.sfgate.com, what we call Hoosier cabinets today elevated the baker’s cabinet to a new level of form and function. These cabinets included a pull-out counter top and ample storage spaces specifically designed to keep everything in its place and within arm’s reach.
Every woman wanted a Hoosier cabinet in her kitchen. Not only was it very stylish and came in a variety of sizes and styles, but it would streamline her kitchen tasks by cutting down on the number of steps necessary to perform her kitchen duties. (Supposedly, this is not just marketing hype but a scientifically proven fact. According to multiple websites including wmaustin.com, the Committee on Elimination of Waste in Industry commissioned this study.) Now, how could a family deny their domestic engineer a scientifically-proven, work-saving device that would result in a happier home life for everyone involved?
But how would this magic cabinet keep the kitchen from sapping all of her energy? It’s easy to understand when you realize that the typical Hoosier cabinet, which had about a 2’x4’ footprint, provided not only pull-out countertop space with storage above and below, but also a flour bin/sifter combination – just sift the amount you needed directly into the measuring cup. There were multiple drawers for smaller utensils and hooks for hanging larger ones. There were built-in spice racks and tin-lined drawers for fresh baked goods as well as space for glass canisters and jars. Not only did it provide storage space for everything needed, it kept the kitchen organized saving her time and energy. Compare having all of this at your fingertips to making multiple trips from table to cupboard repeatedly to get all of the ingredients. Then a few more times for sifter, measuring cup, spoons and bowl. Don’t forget the rolling pin, dish towel, biscuit cutter, and cookie sheet. (Have you lost count of the number of steps already?) You haven’t even started mixing, rolling or cutting the morning biscuits yet, much less gotten them into the oven and the family is starving and cranky. Is this any way to start the day? Yes, indeed, the lady of the house didn’t just want a Hoosier cabinet, she needed one!
So why would I use a picture of a bottle representing the Aloha State on a blog post about a cabinet from the Hoosier State? Well, as we roamed through the other booths at B&B, way back in a corner on a top shelf, what to our wandering eyes should appear but this island beauty beckoning us back to the Big Island. So we carried her home as a daily reminder of the volcano, the rain forest and the don’t blink or you’ll miss it sunset - without a doubt, the prettiest place we have ever been.