Risse, M. “Changing Kitchens in Southern Oman.” Knowing Food: The Association for the Study of Food and Society & The Agriculture, Food and Human Values Society Conference, sponsored by Boston University. Forthcoming, May 31, 2023.
My presentation will focus on the changes to kitchen design and use in Dhofar, the southern region of Oman, over the past 40 years. Using photos from my extensive collection and data from interviews, I will explain how newly-built kitchens look different, and are used differently, from kitchens built in the 1980/90s. I will discuss aspects such as placement within the house, color choices, cupboards and tables. In addition, I will show how kitchens are used by different people at different times in comparison to the late 1900s. My goal is to use kitchens as a microcosm of changes within Dhofari society as how people prepare and eat meals is a reflection of how families interact.
One example of the type of change that has happened is that now expatriate workers are often cooking within kitchens. As many families hire a male cleaner to come for a few hours every day, kitchens now should have a door so that male workers do not walk through the main parts of the house. One aspect that has not changed it that kitchens are designed for passive safety. For example, countertops are set higher than in Western countries, sometimes so high that a family member must stand on a footstool, and stoves are placed on pedestals several inches above the kitchen floor. This is done so that children cannot see or reach food or implements (such as knives) that are on the countertop, nor can they reach the controls for the stove.