Looking around my house, I was startled and a little appalled to realise how little I knew about the domestic world around me. I had absolutely no idea why, for example, out of all the spices in the world, we have such an abiding attachment to salt and pepper. Why not pepper and cardamom, say, or salt and cinnamon? And why do forks have four tines and not three or five? There must be reasons for these things. Suddenly the house seemed a place of mystery to me.
The Guardian is featuring excerpts from Bill Bryson’s forthcoming book, At Home: A Short History of a Private Place. Today’s is all about toilets, stairs, and the lawn. Previously: “The Secret Life of Your Home” and “The Story of the Electric Light.“