By the first decades of the eighteenth century, it was already customary for the owners of large plantations to confine various cooking tasks to separate buildings located some distance from their residences. This move is usually interpreted solely as a response to practical considerations: the heat, noise, odors, and general commotion associated with the preparation of meals could be avoided altogether by simply moving the kitchen out of the house. In 1705 Virginia planter Robert Beverley praised this strategy for making one's house more comfortable, observing: "All . . . [the] Drudgeries of Cookery, washing, Dairies, &c. are perform'd in Offices detacht from their Dwelling-Houses, which by this means are kept more cool and Sweet." 1
There were, however, other important if less immediately evident reasons for planters to detach the kitchens from their residences. Moving such an essential homemaking function as cooking out of one's house established a clearer separation between those who served and those who were served. Until the last decades of the seventeenth century, slaves and their masters (at least in the Chesapeake region) lived and worked in close proximity, often in the same rooms, and sometimes shared a common identity as members of a plantation "family." 2 But this day-to-day intimacy was progressively replaced by a stricter regimen of racial segregation that was expressed by greater physical separation. The detached kitchen was an important emblem of hardening social boundaries and the evolving society created by slaveholders that increasingly demanded clearer definitions of status, position, and authority.
Separating the kitchen from the main plantation house was one of several related architectural gestures that signaled the onset of a more rigid form of chattel slavery that would persist until the middle of the nineteenth century. 3 Robert Q. Mallard em-