August Bebel 1879

Free Development of the Individual

3. Communist Kitchen

First Published: Die Frau un der Sozialialismus, Berlin, 1946, S. 463-624;
Source: Society of the Future, Progress Publishers, 1971;
Translated: from the German by Don Danemanis;
Transcribed and HTML Markup: Sally Ryan.

As regards food, quality rather than quantity is the vital consideration: plenty is of little use if that plenty is no good. Quality is greatly improved by the way food is cooked. The preparation of food must be conducted as scientifically as all other human activity if it is to afford the best results. This requires knowledge and equipment. That our women, to whose lot the preparation of food falls in the main, do not and cannot possibly possess that knowledge needs no proof.

Mechanised appliances in big catering establishments have even today reached a level of perfection which the best equipped domestic kitchen cannot equal. A kitchen equipped with electricity for heating and light is ideal. No smoke, no excessive heat, no vapours, the kitchen looks more like a parlour than a work-room, in which all sorts of technical equipment and machines take in their stride the most unpleasant and time-consuming work. It has electrically driven machines for peeling potatoes and fruit, for stoning fruit, for stuffing sausages, for pressing lard, cutting meat, frying and roasting it, grinders for coffee and spices, bread-slicers, ice-crushers, corkscrews and corkers, and a hundred other apparatuses and machines enabling a relatively small number of people to prepare food for hundreds of diners without undue effort. The same applies to dish-washing and cleaning appliances.

For millions of women the kitchen is one of the most exhausting, time-robbing and wasteful institutions; it ruins their health and depresses them and is a source of constant worry for those--and they form the majority--whose means are scanty. The abolition of the private kitchen will be a deliverance for countless women. The kitchen is as obsolete an institution as the artisan's workshop; today both imply mismanagement, a waste of time, effort, heating and lighting, foodstuffs, etc.

The nutritive value of food is enhanced by the ease with which it can be assimilated; this is the decisive factor. A natural system of nourishment for all is possible only in the future society. Cato (200 B.C.) praises Ancient Rome for having had experts in the art of healing, but, up until the 6th century of the city, no work for them to do. The Romans lived so soberly and simply that disease was rare and old age was the usual cause of death. Only when gluttony and idleness, in short, licence for some and want and excessive work for others, asserted themselves, did matters change radically. Gluttony and licence will be impossible in future, and likewise want, misery and privation. There is enough to satisfy all. Heinrich Heine wrote:

There's enough of barley and wheat below
Every appetite to appease,
Myrtles and roses, beauty and joy,
And, finest of all, sweet peas.
O yes, when their pods split up, sweet peas
Will be piled on the ground sky-high.
As for heaven, let sparrows and hawks share it
With the angels that live in the sky.

"He who eats little lives well" (that is, long), said the Italian Cornaro in the 16th century, as quoted by Niemeyer. Ultimately chemistry will also participate in the manufacture of new and better foods in a manner and on a scale hitherto unknown. Today this branch of science is greatly abused in order to facilitate adulteration and fraud, but it is obvious that a chemically prepared food, possessing all the properties of a natural product, fulfils the same purpose. The form of preparation is of secondary importance, provided the product meets the requirements in all other respects.