The kitchen table

We all know that the kitchen tends to be the likeliest place in any house for people to congregate. The Ellingham kitchen is certainly where most of the action takes place in this show. Actually, it’s the kitchen table where most of the action takes place!

In addition to being the place where Martin prepares and eats food, it’s where he talks to Louisa, Edith, his mother, and Bert. It’s where he finds Pauline kissing Al and where he first kisses Louisa. It’s where he packs his things when he expects to move to London and where he gives Louisa the engagement ring. Later, he changes James’ diaper on a pad on the table, and Louisa does too. It’s while sitting at the kitchen table that Martin looks overwhelmed by the commotion and noise in the kitchen, and it’s over the kitchen table that Martin confronts Mike about his OCD. Louisa tries to use the kitchen table as a workspace but Martin objects — at least when it’s mealtime. The kitchen table functions as a means of keeping Martin and Louisa apart or as a setting to bring them together.

Many times, Louisa comes to the back kitchen door to talk to Martin and they sit at the table. She talks to him about her forthcoming interview for the school headmistress job while sitting across from him at the table, and it’s where he first professes his love for her. It’s also where he’s sitting when they have an altercation and he sits looking dumbfounded when she tells him she has to leave towards the end of season 5. In season 6, the kitchen table is where they entertain and where that dinner goes very wrong.

Although they have a perfectly nice living room, it’s rare that they use it. Martin has been shown sitting on the couch maybe 3 times in 6 seasons, and Louisa not at all. The house is small and their need for space comes up several times, but they’ve circumscribed the space even more by confining the action to the kitchen most of the time. Even when Ruth takes care of James, she stays at the kitchen table until she decides to lie on the couch to get some rest. Al joins her at the table, then Penhale joins them, and eventually Bert sits there too.

The kitchen table is a gathering place, an obstacle, a practical setting and a place where Martin has felt both comfortable alone and intruded upon at times. The kitchen table is often the place where families spend time together eating and talking so it’s not surprising that this show uses it as a frequent setting. But here it’s important because Martin dislikes going out and making him seem more confined in his own home stresses his social restraints. I’m impressed with the ways this one location has been used and find it pretty efficient for the filming of the show.

Originally posted 2013-10-09 20:04:55.

3 thoughts on “The kitchen table

  1. Amy

    I chuckled when I read this. One reason we couldn’t stand living in our old house anymore was that despite having a nice living room and dining room, we never spent time in any rooms in the house but the kitchen and the bedroom. When we moved, I said I wanted an open floor plan so that I didn’t feel so confined to one space. There is something about a kitchen that draws people closer. Even now, despite the open floor plan, we eat at the kitchen island, and when friends come over, we congregate in the kitchen around the island. Must be in our DNA somehow.

    One comment—didn’t Martin first kiss Louisa in the cab after the Peter Cronk crisis in S1? The kitchen kiss was in Erotamania in S2.

    They also spend a fair amount of time in cars, cabs, ambulances and in fact have many of their critical conversations in vehicles—on the way to the hospital with Peter Cronk, in the cab on the way back, in the car after the concert when L “breaks up” with Martin, in the car looking for Mrs T in S5, in the car driving to the pub when L gives birth, in the car away from the airport in S6, and in the car going back and forth to Dr T. I’ve often found in my life that the car is often a place for uninterrupted conversation—with my husband or with my kids.

  2. kjacobson@mindspring.com Post author

    It may be splitting hairs again, but in the cab in S1, Louisa kisses Martin. While sitting at the kitchen table, he takes the initiative.

    You’re certainly correct about the many times when Martin and Louisa have important conversations while sitting in the car or other vehicles. My purpose in writing this and its follow-up post (“More about the Kitchen Table”) was to point out that the comfort and usual refuge of the kitchen has been overturned quite frequently in this show. They position the kitchen table as a place of unrest and conflict instead.

    Without drawing too much of a distinction between the home and the car, I would simply say that in a car we are often not facing each other and the time spent includes being distracted by going somewhere and having to pay attention to the road. They still have some significant discussions while en route, but I consider the kitchen table a more suggestive location.

  3. Amy

    Well, I will split the hair more finely (the lawyer in me can’t resist). Louisa made the first move, but then Martin leaned and initiated the second kiss in the cab. And he did kiss her back even on the first kiss, so I’d say he’d kissed her!

    I think one reason some people are more able to talk in cars is that you can avoid the eye to eye contact that can be intimidating or too intimate, especially for someone like Martin.

    I will go find your second kitchen table post. Also, the funny error message is still popping up when I use the Reply link on the new comment email notification. Sorry.

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