The Library of Work and Play: Housekeeping by Gilman, Elizabeth Hale
THE CHILDREN'S LIBRARY OF WORK AND PLAY
CARPENTRY AND WOODWORK By Edwin W. Foster.
ELECTRICITY AND ITS EVERYDAY USES By John F. Woodhull, Ph.D.
GARDENING AND FARMING By Ellen Eddy Shaw.
HOME DECORATION By Charles Franklin Warner, Sc.D.
HOUSEKEEPING By Elizabeth Hale Gilman.
MECHANICS, INDOORS AND OUT By Fred T. Hodgson.
NEEDLECRAFT By Effie Archer Archer.
OUTDOOR SPORTS, AND GAMES By Claude H. Miller, Ph.B.
OUTDOOR WORK By Mary Rogers Miller.
WORKING IN METALS By Charles Conrad Sleffel.
[Illustration: Photograph by Helen W. Cooke
Have You a Play-House?]
_The Library of Work and Play_
BY ELIZABETH HALE GILMAN
GARDEN CITY NEW YORK DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY 1911
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED, INCLUDING THAT OF TRANSLATION INTO FOREIGN LANGUAGES, INCLUDING THE SCANDINAVIAN
COPYRIGHT, 1911, BY DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY
"_Look not thou down, but up! To uses of a cup, The festal board, lamp's flash and trumpet's peal, The new wine's foaming flow, The Master's lips a-glow! Thou, Heaven's consummate cup, what need'st thou with earth's wheel?_"
PAGE PART I. THE PLAY HOUSE 1 PART II. LEARNING AND HELPING 41 PART III. MY HERITAGE 61
CHAPTER I. My Heritage 63 II. The Plan 69 III. The Accounts 87 IV. The Schedule 101 V. Possessions 115 VI. Care of Fittings and Furniture 121 VII. Upstairs Work 146 VIII. Dining-room and Pantry Work 160 IX. The Kitchen 188 X. The Cellar, Fires, Plumbing, etc. 208 XI. Menus and Marketing 244 XII. Cooking 274 XIII. Washing and Ironing 312 XIV. House Cleaning 337 XV. Emergencies 353 XVI. Servants 370 XVII. Martha 382 XVIII. The Inspiration 388
Have You a Playhouse? _Frontispiece_
FACING PAGE A Playhouse Somebody Else Has Made 14 Tidying 52 The Account Book 90 The Broom Closet 140 Straight and Smooth 150 Air, Sun, and Water 156 Order and Daintiness 164 Cooking 274
_Monday, I wash my dollies' clothes, And Tuesday, smoothly press them. Wednesday, I mend their little hose, And Thursday, neatly dress them. Friday, I play they're very ill, Saturday, something or other. Sunday, I say, "Lie still, I'm going to church with mother."_
WHEN I was walking in a garden the other day, I saw a play-house. And what do you suppose it was? A big tree with humpy roots which stuck out of the ground, and low branches which nearly touched the grass at the ends. You could not stand up straight in the house if you were more than three feet tall, but as the people who lived in the house were only about two feet eleven inches, they did not mind that.
You should have seen the china-closet. It was under a bent root, and all the dishes were white with violet markings. One might have thought they were big and little and middling-sized clam-shells, if one had not seen them in a china-closet.
There was a bedroom between two big roots. A doll was taking a nap there, not on a pine-pillow, but on a whole bed of pleasant-smelling pine needles which had dropped off a tree in the neighbourhood. The mistress of the house was in the kitchen cooking, and the kitchen, of course, was where the sun came through a break in the branches. One must have a patch of sun in a kitchen, for how can you bake without it? When I went into this kitchen, there was a cake baking, with an ornament on the top that looked quite like an acorn.
I was invited to stay for lunch, and I will tell you what we had: First, there were brown-bread cutlets, and smooth white stone potatoes, and a wonderful salad made of maple leaves and pepper-grass. Then for dessert we had the cake I had seen baking, and milk. The cake had a brown layer made from the garden beds and a yellow layer made from the path, and was iced with white sand. You will guess that the brown bread cutlets and the milk were what people getting up plays call "practicable," which is just a grown-up word for "really and truly."
A tree is one of the nicest play-houses a person can have. But suppose it is a rainy day! We will play it _is_ a rainy day, and we will go and go until we get to a house with a steep roof. And we will go in, and go upstairs, and then upstairs again until we get to a garret, where we can see the rafters sloping to the ridge over our heads, and the inside of the shingles. On the floor are trunks and boxes and barrels, and all sorts of things are hanging from the rafters. Sometimes we hear the pigeons running on the outsides of the shingles and cooing under the eaves. It is a lonely sound. It is rather dark, too, but we are brave, and we get past two saddles, and a row of white petticoats, and a dim place where there are a lot of old books with strange dark pictures in them, which one likes to be sure are shut in tight. At last we get round a corner and find a gable with a pointed window, and there is a play-house where a little girl and eight dolls live. There are four rooms in the play-house, though if you are not thinking, you may very likely walk right through the walls and not know it. On one side of the window is a bedroom, and on the other side is the kitchen. The dining room and the living room are in the corners nearest the rest of the garret.
The little girl's big sister put up some pictures on the sloping wooden walls to suit each room. One of them is very useful when the little girl is deciding what to play. It is seven little pictures on a card with verses to explain them. You can read the verses at the beginning of this chapter; I am sorry the pictures are not there, too.
This little girl likes especially to play "Monday, I wash my dollies' clothes"--because she has a tub and a washboard, and a wringer that will really let buttons through, and clothespins and a clothes-horse, and all the garret to put up lines in. Housework, you know, is so much more fun if you have the right things to do it with.
"Tuesday, I neatly press them," is a good day, too, but "Wednesday, I mend their little hose," is not. One cannot sit still and make believe sew, for many minutes. When mother was told about this trouble, she looked at the pictures and said, "Why, there's no sweeping day! As soon as the stockings are mended on Wednesday, you had better sweep, and tidy things up a little." Mother often wants things "tidied up" when it isn't in the game. She says, she does not keep her little girl's hat on the dining table, nor leave her bed unmade, and she cannot have the dolls brought up that way either.
The Friday game is one of the best. The two dolls that have night dresses are most often sick. Of course, it is a great care to have a doll sick, but it does make a great many interesting things to do. She may need cold-water cloths, or a hot-water bottle, or a poultice, and there is always medicine to give and meals to serve on a tray. Then the bed should be made over often. The little girl who lives in this play-house likes to have her dolls ill when she has company, because then there is some one to be the doctor.
"Saturday something or other," usually means cooking, and that, too, is a favourite game for company. Sometimes the little girl goes down into the "really and truly" kitchen to market, or sometimes mother sends up a little cake baked in a doll's pan. That makes a very grand occasion. The table must be laid with all the dishes, and napkins if possible, when there is a cake from the big kitchen.
A great many things can happen in a garret play-house, besides housekeeping. Sometimes it is so still up there, that one knows one must be in a deep forest, or out on the plains; and, of course, in that case, the cooking or nursing may be interrupted by a band of robbers, or an attack from Indians, or one may have a visit from an escaping prisoner, and besides, there are always long, dangerous journeys to take through the garret. In fact, every time one hears a new story, something unusual is likely to happen in the play-house.
Have you a play-house? I hope you have. Nowadays, when rents are so high, and when many people live in flats and apartments, it is often hard to get a play-house, but it can usually be managed in some way. If we have a nursery or a play-room all our own, then it is easy to have a play-house. We only have to get mother, or nurse to give us a corner to fix as we like, and to advise us about sorting things. Perhaps they will let us make the whole room into a play-house, but we really can keep house nicely in a much smaller space than that. The great point is to get the things together which belong together. If the bedroom things stand together, that is all we need to have a bedroom, and if the kitchen things are together, there is the kitchen. If we have a dining table, why, there is the dining room, and our living room can be anywhere where mother likes us to have most of the chairs.
But even if we have not a play-room we can still have a house. I know some clever dolls and their mother who keep house in the cupboard part of an old-fashioned washstand. The way they manage is to make the cupboard any room they wish to use. Monday morning it is a laundry, and every night it is a bedroom, and if they give a luncheon it is a dining room, and Saturday it is a kitchen. They keep the furniture which does not suit the room they are using in the drawer of the washstand which is over their heads.
I know another family who live under a dressing table. The legs of the table show where the corners of their house are, and they change the room into anything they need it for, as the other people do.
One little girl I know, whose name is Esther, lives in a flat and has only a bureau drawer for her housekeeping things. This is quite hard, for it means so much packing and unpacking, and parting with things she would like to keep when the drawer gets too full. She has to take her two dolls and a few things she thinks they will need into the parlour or the bedroom and play house there. In the bedroom, she plays it is night, because it is always nearly dark in there. Her mother lets her play with her big grown-up beds and chairs and stoves and irons. If she did not, Esther would have a hard time keeping house for her dolls.
But it is not always the people who live in flats who have not room for their things, is it? Sometimes after Christmas, or a birthday, one just feels as if one were trying to keep house in a toy shop. The best cure for this trouble is to give things away. Because--it is dreadful to think about--there are people who have no dolls: and there are people who have not so much as a tin cup to begin housekeeping with; and there are little girls who have real babies to look after, and real meals to cook who would just dearly love to have the games and toys that have to be packed away in closets and drawers because their owners have so many other things.
It is easy to _say_, give things away, but, my stars! how hard it is to decide which to give. One just can't give away the new things, and one feels so fond of the old ones, when one gets them out and looks at them. The only way to part with them is to think of Saint Martin cutting his cloak in two for the beggar, or something inspiring like that. Even then one feels a little dreary.
Once there was a little girl whose family moved into a smaller house. There was not room in her new play-house for the many things she had in her old one. Some of them had to be given away. One decision was so hard to make that she remembered about it after she was a grown-up woman. There was a little green wagon with yellow wheels, which she had always had, and which her older sisters had played with before she was born, and there was a little orange-coloured cart with four red wheels, which her father had brought out from town, a week or two before, filled with soap.
Two wagons were too many for the new play-house, and mother said keep the green one, because the other was only an "advertisement"; and the older sisters said keep the green one, because it was better and they had played with it; and father just smiled and said, "You must decide."
When no one was looking, the little girl took the little orange-coloured wagon with four red wheels, and the big letters round the outside, which made it an "advertisement," and put it in the box mother was packing for some other children, and it hurt so to do it that she could not quite help crying.
Some of us are troubled more with having too few things than too many, are we not? We can make a game of getting out of this trouble. We must all be discoverers and inventors, and if there is something needed in the play-house, we must keep our eyes wide open to see what else will do or what we can find to make into the thing we want. It spoils the hunt, and the surprise, if some one else tells you what to do, but one or two little things will show what the game is like. For instance, if it is a bed you need, try a strong pasteboard box, not very deep. If you mind its having no legs, then you must go on a journey and have it a berth on a car or a ship.
A cigar-box makes a good trunk for a small doll, especially the boxes which have trays in them. A doll with a cigar-box trunk will never have moths in her clothes.
Paper napkins are useful for dolls' tablecloths, and for napkins when they are cut into small squares. They will even do for sheets, if mother cannot spare us white "pieces" that are big enough. A bandanna handkerchief, or a scrap of bright calico, makes a good bedquilt.
Shells we have brought home from a day at the beach are convenient for dishes. Radiators are splendid stoves. And did you ever find out how much closet room there is under a bed? With the help of a few pins, one can hang all the dolls' clothes from the springs, and shut them in with the counterpane, if it happens to be a long one. But if mother does not want you to do this, you mustn't.
You will be able to make a great many discoveries and inventions, if you think what you want, and then think what to make it out of. But the best and most wonderful thing about a play-house is, that if we have to, we can make one anywhere, or out of anything. Once, two little girls wrote home about a visit they had paid, "We had two rag dolls and we played house." Even one little girl, without so much as a rag doll, can have a play-house. She has only to _imagine_, that is, pretend, and there it is--with rooms, and staircases, and people, and everything needful. It can be big or little; and in the country or in the city. She can do the washing, or give a dinner party; take care of a sick doll, or work in the garden, just as she pleases. It is easier and happier to play with the pleasant things people give us, and to be able to see and touch most of the things in our play-houses, but we always want some imagined things, too. And if it should happen that we are in a place where we "have nothing to play with," then we can imagine and pretend, and go and play in the play-house we always have with us. In a second, we can build it into a wigwam, or a palace, or a cave, or a great castle, or it can be just the house we live in when we are at home.
* * * * *
Sometimes, when we have played a good while in the play-house, we feel tired, and if it isn't a nap we want, perhaps it is that we would like to go and play in a play-house somebody else has made. We need not take a journey to do this, we only need some one to tell us a story, or a story-book to read to ourselves. We might choose to read "Cinderella," for that is the princess of housekeeping stories, or it may be that we will find one we like, if we go on reading this book.
Do you ever have Irish Stew for luncheon? Most Irish Stews are a good deal alike, but this is the story of one that was different.
Once upon a time there was an Irishman who lived in a little two-roomed hut on the edge of a bog. All day, he cut peats in the bog, for that is the way he made his living. It was not a very good living; in fact, he was very poor indeed. At night, when he came back to the hut, there were often only a few potatoes for supper, which he boiled in a pot over the fire. His old father had died a few years before, and that was the reason he lived alone.
[Illustration: Photograph by Helen W. Cooke
A Play-house Somebody Else Has Made]
One chilly, foggy night, the Irishman had come home late through the wet and the dark, and lighted his fire. There was very little for supper, and he had not had a chance to cook that, when Thump! Thump! came a knock on the door. He was ever so frightened, but he thought it would be better to open the door than have it thumped in. When he did open it--Preserve us! there were five big robbers with knives, and pistols, and high boots and fierce, bright eyes. They all crowded into the little hut, and threw more peat on the fire and demanded supper. The Irishman apologized, and said he had only potatoes. The robbers said they had to have something better than that, and all five of them laid their five big knives on the table with a look which meant, "Supper or your life!"
The Irishman went into the other little room and sat down on a chest to think. There was nothing in the room but the chest, and nothing in the chest but a few old clothes, and the more he tried to think, the less he was able to do it. At last, for no reason at all, he opened the chest. In it lay an old cloak, which his father had worn forty years and more.
No sooner had he seen it, than he went back to the room where the robbers were, and they saw him take the pot into the little room, and very soon come back and put all the potatoes into it and some water, and hang it over the fire, which was now so hot and bright that the pot soon began to boil. It simmered, and bubbled and steamed and soon the robbers began to sniff their supper. It did not smell like anything they had ever had before, but was not bad for a cold, foggy night. Pretty soon the Irishman set the pot on the table, and the robbers ate heartily. The Irishman was busy arranging something near the door. All of a sudden, one robber choked. He choked, and choked, and two others beat him on the back. He coughed and coughed, and then, something flew out of his mouth. It was a button.
The Irishman turned up his eyes to the roof and said, "Ah me, that is the last of a good old cloak." Before the robbers could move, he had opened the door and disappeared into the fog.
KING ALFRED AND THE CAKES
A good while ago there was a king of England named Alfred. He was a great and good king, but in spite of this, he had many enemies, who tried to take his kingdom away from him. Once, after a battle, the country was so overrun with his enemies, that he had to separate from his followers and go away in disguise. You would never have guessed he was a king when he started, and when, after he had wandered a few days in the forest, he came to a cowherd's hut, he looked like a hungry, ragged beggar. The cowherd and his wife gave him supper, and let him stay all night, and gave him some breakfast next morning. After breakfast, he sat for a long time looking into the fire, thinking of his kingdom, and of the dangers and sorrows of his people. The cowherd's wife was a hard-working woman, and it provoked her to see a great big man dreaming over the fire all the morning. She said to herself, "If he has no work of his own to attend to, he shall just help with mine." She put some meal cakes on a board to bake before the fire, and told the King to watch them carefully while she went out to feed the pig.
The King said he would watch them, but he kept on thinking about his army, and the heavy taxes, and by and by the woman came back.
There was smoke in the room, but she could see that the stranger was still sitting beside the fire, and that her cakes were burned to cinders. My, my, but she was angry. She boxed her guest's ears soundly, little dreaming that she was laying hands on the Sacred Person of the King, and might be hanged for it. The King, however, took her blows and her scolding, for he was very sorry he had let the cakes burn.
Afterward, when he had driven out his enemies and was at home again in his own castle he told what a scolding he had got for thinking about his troubles when he should have been baking the cakes.
Long ago, longer than you can even imagine, nobody in the world knew how to cook. People were not as dreadfully hungry on that account as you might think, because, you see, they ate their food uncooked. No one had ever cooked, and no one had ever thought of it; no one had ever eaten cooked food, and no one knew how pleasant it tasted.
This is the story of the way a little Chinese boy found out how to roast pig.
His name was Bo-bo and he had been left at home by his father, Ho-ti, to look after their hut, and their one big pig, and their nine little pigs. Bo-bo, was fond of playing with fire, and what did he do but set fire to some straw, and that set fire to the hut, and burned it down. A much more serious matter was that the one big pig and the nine little pigs were burned along with the hut.
Bo-bo was dreadfully frightened when he saw what he had done. He knew his father would beat him, and he began to cry. He also poked round among the ruins of the hut, though he did not hope to find anything. As he was turning over the embers, he found one of the little burnt pigs, and tried to pull it out. It was very hot, and burnt his hands, and he did just what you or I would have done--put his burnt fingers in his mouth.
The instant his hands reached his mouth, Bo-bo forgot all about being burned. He licked his fingers, but not because they hurt him. He did not know why he did lick them, but he kept on. Neither he nor any one else in the world had ever tasted such a wonderful taste.
Pretty soon, it came to him that it was the pig which tasted so delicious, and no sooner had he thought this, than he sat down in the ruins of the hut and began to eat great pieces of the little burnt pig. While he was making the best meal he had ever had in his life, his father came home, and when he saw that the hut was burnt down and that his son was eating some horrible food that no one else had ever eaten before, he began to beat Bo-bo with the stick he had in his hand. But Bo-bo did not seem to feel it. He hunted in the ashes for another pig and thrust it into his father's hands. Then the same thing happened which had happened to him. The pig burned Ho-ti's fingers and he put them in his mouth, and after that he had no time to think of beating any one, but sat down with his son in the ashes and made a good dinner.
From that time on, whenever they had little pigs, they burned down their hut to roast them. When the neighbours found it out, they thought it very wicked of Ho-ti and Bo-bo to eat burnt pig, but as soon as they were persuaded to taste it, they changed their minds, and then everybody was burning down his house in order to roast his pigs. After a long while, some one found out that one could cook without burning one's house down, which I am sure you will agree was a great discovery.
--Some day, when you go to school, you will have this story given to you to read--for a lesson!
THE KING'S KITCHEN
When King Arthur was King of England, a boy named Gareth, was growing up in a castle far away from Camelot, the King's city. But he had two brothers who were at Court, and who were Knights of the Order of the Round Table, and when they came home, now and then, Gareth asked them more questions than you could count about the King and his knights, and the Court, and tournaments, and battles. Every day, he rode and practised with lance and sword, and exercised in all ways that would make him strong and skilful with arms. And always he tried to be brave and to be gentle toward weak things and to tell the truth. And the reason for all this was that, more than anything else in the world, he longed to be in the service of the King, and to be a Knight of the Round Table.
As Gareth grew older, and more and more worthy to be made a knight, his mother, Bellicent, sorrowed and grieved. Her husband was very, very old, and her two elder sons had gone away to the Court, and she could not bear to have Gareth leave her, for he was the youngest and last. Though she saw that his heart's desire was to be with the King, yet she felt as if her heart would break if he went. She tried to make him especially happy at home; she tried to persuade him that he was not skilful or brave enough to be a knight; she told him of dangers and wounds, and besought him not to go. Again and again he asked her permission to go away and earn his knighthood; again and again she refused.
One day when he had spoken so bravely and truly that she knew not how to resist him longer, the thought came to her to test his great desire to be with the King, and she said to him: "If you desire so greatly to serve the King, give the proof of it which I shall ask of you. Go to the King and ask him to let you serve him in his kitchen for a year and a day, and tell no one your name and rank until the time is over."
She thought he would refuse to do it, but he kissed and thanked her, and quickly made ready to go to Camelot. For he wanted to serve the King, and this was a way of doing it, though not the one he had hoped for.
He journeyed a day and a night, and came to Camelot, the wonderful big city which he had never seen before. In the morning, the King sat in the Great Hall of his palace to hear the requests and troubles of his people. There Gareth came, and stood before him. And when he raised his eyes to the King's quiet face, and met his eyes, he loved him and longed more than ever to serve him. It was a little hard, when he was longing to be made a knight, and to be sent on an adventure, just to ask to be a kitchen-boy; but he did it, and the King granted his request.
So joyous and strong was he when he went out from the presence of the King, that he felt nothing would ever be hard to do again. But there were things which were hard. The kitchen was a great stone room with an earth floor, and a fireplace at either end as big as a little room. When the great fires were lit it was mightily hot between, and there was smoke and hurry, and jostling of servants, and there were some bad-tempered people and a great deal of hard work. There were trenchers and platters to be scoured, and big iron pots to be lifted about and washed, and roasting meats to be watched and turned before the fires. The cooking tanned Gareth's face and hands as riding in the hot sun had never done. When he could, he would run out into the courtyard, and play games with the other kitchen-boys, and when they were tired, they would sit against the wall and he would tell long tales he had read, and some that he made up, about knights and dragons and enchanted forests and robbers. The stories he loved best to tell, though, were stories of the King.
Often these play-times were broken in upon by the Master of the Kitchens, who called them back to their tasks with no great gentleness. Especially was he a hard master to Gareth; and, strangely enough, this was because Gareth was willing and cheerful, for there are people with such crooked places in their minds that they cannot see a person working gladly at a hard task but they want nothing so much as to see if they cannot break their cheerfulness. And that was the sort of master Gareth found in the King's Kitchen. He missed his rides over the downs in the clear air, and the right to go and come as he pleased. But when things seemed hard he cast off the thought and laughed to himself, saying, "It is for the King." In a little while, too, he learned to take fault-finding, and, now and again, a blow, in quietness. And this, too, was for the King.
As the days came and went, Bellicent, alone now with her old husband, thought of her son day and night; and the tasks that he must do and the discomforts he must suffer seemed to her a thousand times worse than he ever thought them. At last, when hardly a month of his trial had yet gone by, she could bear it no longer, but sent a messenger to the King to tell him the story, and to take to Gareth a horse and armour and all things that he would need when it should please the King to make him a knight.
After the King had seen the messenger he sent for Gareth, and Gareth left his scouring and went gaily and eagerly to him. He was glad in his love for the King, and I think he may have felt that he had borne rather unusual things for his sake. As he came near, the King loved him for his youth and gaiety and faithfulness. But Gareth, looking up into the quiet, loving eyes that were fixed on him, knelt down at the King's feet and bowed his head, and knew that nothing he could do for the King would ever be too much.
The King ended Gareth's kitchen service and made him a knight, and some day you will read other stories about him, for he fought many battles and loved a beautiful lady.
And it seems likely that the King loved him all the more because he could cook and scour for his sake.
BROTHER JUNIPER'S COOKING
Have you heard stories about Saint Francis of Assisi? There are a great many, and people like to hear them over and over again. For, though Saint Francis lived most of his life in a little, faraway, country town in Italy, called Assisi, and though he died hundreds of years ago, yet every year many people go to see the place where he lived, and the church where he is buried, and many people in countries far away from Italy love him as well as they do their friends whom they can see and talk to.
One of the stories about St. Francis tells of a flock of birds that came to listen to a sermon he preached to them, and another is about a wolf whom he persuaded not to hurt people any more. The reason he could do these things, and the reason people who have never seen him love him very dearly is because he loved everything and everybody in the world, and God and our Lord Jesus more than all.
No one was so dirty, or so sick, that he did not want to take care of him; no one was so cross, or so cruel, that he did not want to be kind to him.
Every day he went about helping poor people, and sick people, and troubled people; and he taught them all to be sorry for the wrong things they had done, and to sing songs of joy because God loved them.
After a little, a good many men began to help him do this. They gave everything they had to the poor, and never after that kept any money. They worked every day to get a little food, and the rest of the time they spent in helping and teaching people. St. Francis called them his "Little Brothers," not because they were small or young, but because he taught them to think themselves of no importance, and to think, if anybody scolded them or hurt them, that they deserved it and more too.
One of these Little Brothers was named Brother Juniper. He was always thinking of ways to help people. One day, all the Brothers went out to work, and left Brother Juniper to take care of the little hut where they lived, and to get some food for them. When he set about this he began to think of the Brothers who usually did the cooking, and how much time they had to spend every day getting food ready for the others to eat. To be sure, they had but one good meal a day, yet even so the cooking of it took time the Brothers might otherwise have used for prayer, or tending the sick, or some other good work.
As Brother Juniper was thinking of this, a plan popped into his head which made him very glad. He took two big baskets, and went off happily to several farmhouses in the neighbourhood, where the people were fond of the Little Brothers and liked to give them anything they needed. That day they gave Brother Juniper chickens and eggs and meat and salad and all sorts of vegetables, and they lent him some big iron pots. He took the baskets home heavy with food, and he came back and took the pots home. Then he made a big fire, and all the time he was happy and sang to himself, because he thought, "I will work hard to-day, and cook all this food, and then the Brothers won't have to think about cooking for a week or more." He hung the pots over the fire, and put into them all the food he had gathered without so much as taking the feathers off the chickens or the shells off the eggs, or stopping to see whether the vegetables were all just fit to eat or not. Then he filled the pots with water, and before long they began to boil. The fire was furiously hot. Brother Juniper could not get near enough to it to stir the pots. When he found this out, he took a board and tied it fast to himself, and, with that for a shield, he leaped to a pot and stirred it, and then leaped away again to cool himself; then he dashed at another and stirred that, and so on.
By and by, the Brothers came back, and the Brother Guardian with them, and they all sat down to dinner. Brother Juniper poured out some of the stew from his pots and brought it to the table. He was hot and tired, but delighted, and he told the others what he had done, and that they need not do any more cooking for a long time. The Brothers looked at him, and looked at the stew, and looked at each other, but not a mouthful could they eat. Brother Juniper urged them to begin, and when they did not, wondered what could be the matter. He was not left long in doubt, for the Brother Guardian told him that the dinner was not fit for a pig to eat, and scolded him well for wasting so much good food.
Brother Juniper listened and the gladness died out of him. He went and knelt at the Brother Guardian's feet and confessed his fault, and begged to be forgiven for wasting the Brothers' food, and for getting them a dinner they could not eat. Then he went away by himself, and the rest of that day and all the next, he neither ate nor spoke, nor ventured to come near any of the Brothers, because he was so sorry for his wastefulness and stupidity.
But the Brothers and the Brother Guardian thought they would be willing to know as little about cooking as Brother Juniper if they could be like him in some other ways.
THE WIDOW'S CRUSE
Long, long ago, there was a famine in a little town called Sarepta. For months and months there had been no rain, and nothing could grow in the fields, and the streams dried up and the sheep died and many people died, too, because they had no food.
A widow lived in Sarepta, who had one boy, and she was poor. When the famine began she had just one barrel of meal and one cruse of oil, and because she knew she could get no more, she and her son ate as little as they could, but even so, in a few months the meal was far down in the bottom of the barrel, and the cruse of oil felt very light.
At last one morning, when the woman got up, she found there was only enough meal and oil to make one little cake. She looked at it a long time, thinking they must certainly starve to death when that was gone; then she went out to get some wood for the fire, for she said to herself, "I will bake this one cake and we will eat it, but after that we will have to die." I expect she looked white and sad as she went, for it hurts very much to be so hungry that you die of it.
She found a few sticks, and was picking them up, when a tall old man stopped beside her and leaned on his staff. His clothes were made of hairy skins, and he had a long gray beard, and his face and arms and legs were brown and rough as if he had lived out in the sun and the frost. He seemed to have been making a journey, and he asked for a drink of water. The widow was glad it was only water that he wanted, and was hurrying off to get it, when the old man called after her, and asked her to bring him a piece of bread.
She thought of the little bit of meal and oil, and of her hungry boy, and of how hungry she was herself--and now, here was this tired old man asking for food! It was really more than she could bear. She came back toward him and said, "As the Lord liveth, I have not a cake, but only a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse; and behold I am gathering two sticks that I may go and dress it for me and my son, that we may eat it and die!"
The old man saw how hungry and desperate she looked; it may be that he knew beforehand that she was; nevertheless, he said: "Fear not; but go and do as thou hast said: but make me thereof a little cake first, and bring it unto me, and after that make for thee and thy son. For thus saith the Lord God of Israel, The barrel of meal shall not waste, neither shall the cruse of oil fail, until the day that the Lord sendeth rain upon the earth."
The widow did not altogether understand what he said, but somehow she felt stronger and more brave. She went home quickly and baked a little meal cake, and brought it to the old man, and asked him to come to her house and rest. He went back with her, and then she set about baking the rest of the meal and oil. She thought it would only make a very little cake, but the more meal she took out of the barrel, the more there was in it; and the more oil she poured from the cruse, the heavier it was to lift. She could hardly believe it, and yet she saw it was surely so. Then she went, crying with gladness and relief, and knelt beside the old man and thanked him, and begged him to stay with them as long as he could. And he did stay, a good many months, and all the time of the famine there was meal in the barrel and oil in the cruse.
By and by, the widow and her son learned that the old man's name was Elijah, and that he was a Prophet of the Lord God of Israel.
If we sailed across the Atlantic Ocean, and then sailed as far east on the Mediterranean Sea as we could, we should come to Asia. Then if we travelled into Asia for a little distance, we should come to a small lake. Long ago, this lake was called the Sea of Galilee, and one of the little towns on the shore was named Bethsaida. In this town, almost one thousand, nine hundred years ago, a boy lived and played and went to school. His uncles had boats on the lake, for they were fishermen, and the boy played in the boats, and sometimes his Uncle Andrew let him go out with him to the fishing.
Bethsaida was a busy, little town. There was always something to do. The lake and the boats and the fishermen and the nets were always there; then sometimes Roman soldiers marched into the town, and merchants from far-off countries came to trade in the market-place. Now and again men came who gathered crowds round them, and talked loud and shook their clenched fists and tore their long robes and kept the town restless for days together.
The boy liked to go with his uncles to listen to these men. He could not understand what they were talking about, but the crowd buzzed and jostled, and sometimes groaned and yelled. It was very exciting. Uncle Peter was often angry about what he heard these men say, but Uncle Andrew just stroked his beard and went back to the boats.
The people called a man who spoke to them in this way a "Rabbi." This meant in their language, a master--a man who knew a great deal about something.
One day, a Rabbi came to Bethsaida, who acted differently from the others. He did not make speeches in the market-place, and often when people were crowding to hear him, he went away on the lake or into the hills. If they followed him, he would sometimes stand in a boat by the shore, or on a hillside, and talk to them; and he could make sick people well. He liked children; and the boy had seen him once stop in the road and talk to a woman. That was a very queer thing for a great Rabbi to do.
The boy saw very little of his uncles after this new Rabbi came, for they followed him everywhere he went and seemed to be his close friends. When they did come home they spoke of him as if they did not know just what to say, yet always it seemed as if they could have said more if they had thought it well.
One day, the Rabbi and his friends had gone up into the hills, and people from the towns on the lake, and from the country round it, had gone out to find him; for those who had seen him wanted nothing so much as to see him again, and those who had not seen him could not rest until they had found out what the others went to see. The boy had been playing in the boats that morning, which nowadays were most of the time pulled up on the shore, and when he saw some of the neighbours setting off for the hills, he made up his mind to go too. First, though, he thought, "Uncle Andrew will be hungry, and so shall I," and he went home and got some food to take with him.
The way up through the hills was long and steep. The boy and his neighbours were tired enough before they came in sight of a great crowd of people in a green hollow of the hills. It was strange but, though there were thousands of people all standing together, they did not make a sound. As the boy came a little nearer, he heard the Rabbi's voice in the stillness. He wondered why the people kept so quiet. He did not realize that he was keeping very quiet himself.
After a while he no longer heard the Rabbi's voice, and the people began to move and make a little murmur of talking. He crept through the crowd toward the group round the Rabbi where his Uncle Andrew would be. When he got there he found they were trying to think of a way to feed all these hundreds of people who were tired and hungry, and miles away from any place where they could get food. That reminded him of the luncheon he had brought, and he pushed the basket into Uncle Andrew's hand.
Uncle Andrew looked into the basket and smiled when he saw what it had in it. Then he said to the Rabbi, "There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves and two small fishes; but what are they among so many?" All the same, though, he held out the basket to the Rabbi, as if he really thought it would be of some use to him.
The boy looked to see if the great Rabbi would be angry with Uncle Andrew for saying such a useless thing, when all the others were trying hard to think what could be done. But no; instead of that, he looked as if something had made him delightfully happy, and he said, "Make the men sit down." And they did. Then the Rabbi blessed the five little loaves and the two little fishes which he had taken out of the basket, and began to break them up and give them to those especial friends of his who were always with him. And they carried them to the people sitting on the grass, and came back for more again and again.
And there always was more.
The boy went with Uncle Andrew, back and forth, again and again. He wanted, more than anything, to help in some little way, if it were only to hold back his uncle's robe as he bent toward the people on the ground.
When they would walk back for more food, he scarcely dared go so near to the wonderful Rabbi. And yet--his heart was in his throat with the joy and wonder of it--was it not his own barley bread and fish that the Rabbi had been so glad to have, and with which he was feeding all these thousands of hungry people?
Last of all, after every one was fed, the boy sat down close to his uncle and they had some luncheon, too; but he could not take his eyes from the Rabbi's face. He looked and looked until he could not see it any more, for he had gone to sleep in the warm grass.
When he waked the crowd was moving away, and his uncle was helping gather up the food which was left. The Rabbi had gone away alone into the hills.
THE FIRE OF COALS
It was spring-time, and eventide, in the thirty-third year of that amazing time when God walked on the earth, not only everywhere, and in every man as He does now, but Himself in the form of one Man.
Five of those men who loved Him best, and had been with Him most often, stood on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in the quick-coming darkness. Only a week or two before, they had seen their dear Lord nailed on a cross and left to die. And He had died. And when that happened, they felt they could not bear to live any longer. But--what do you think?--first one, and then another, had seen Him alive again, had talked with Him, touched Him, and been taught by Him as they used to be. When He was with them, they wished for nothing else; and when He was away they watched and longed for His return.
It had now been several days since He had been with them, and meanwhile they had been going about among people who thought of them as men who had wasted three years wandering round after another man, who was always about to do something but never did, and who, at last, had been put to death by the government. I expect it made these men feel lonely then, just as it makes us feel lonely now, to have to be with people who think that Our Lord is not alive.
They did not know what to do with themselves as they stood on the shore that evening. So, when one said, "I go a-fishing," all the rest said they would go, too. They were glad to be at work again, at something they had done all their lives.
They started out on the dark water under the stars, and cast their nets, but when they drew them in, they had caught nothing. They cast them again, and rowed here and there, and worked as hard as they could, but they got no fish for their pains, and the night was passing. One cannot tell whether or not they thought it strange, that men who had made sick people well, and cast out devils, could not now catch a few fish. Whatever they thought, they were wet and tired, and hungry, and the cold, gray early morning had come.
When it began to dawn, they rowed toward the shore. As they drew near, they saw some one standing on the beach who called to them and asked if they had any fish. They had to say no. Then the Stranger said "Cast the net on the right side of the ship, and ye shall find." They had cast it, perhaps, in that very place during the night, but they did not say so; they just cast the net. When they began to draw it, it was heavy with fish.
This was a strange thing. One of the men said very low, "It is the Lord." Then the one who had suggested that they go fishing, threw himself into the water and swam to the shore; he just could not wait. The others came in the boat, dragging the net full of fishes.
As all through the night everything had seemed to go wrong, so now, everything was all right. On the shore was just the thing that tired, hungry, cold people want--a fire, burned down to glowing coals, with fish and bread baking on it.
But that was not the best thing they found on the shore.
The Stranger told them to draw up the net, and they did, and counted the fish, one hundred and fifty-three. Then He told them to come and eat, and He said grace for them and waited on them, and they knew every word and every gesture, but they could not speak. They just ate and rested and looked at Him. It made them so glad, and yet it almost made them afraid, too, that He should care about their hard work, and come and cook for them and wait on them Himself.
Perhaps it often happened in the years which followed, that when a friend, or a woman, or a slave came to these men, bringing food and comfort for their weariness, that with them came also the memory of the dawn on the beach, and the fire of coals, and the blessing of a Presence more than theirs.
LEARNING AND HELPING
LEARNING AND HELPING
"She was one of those persons who possess, as their exclusive patrimony, the gift of practical arrangement. It is a kind of natural magic that enables these favoured ones to bring out the hidden capabilities of things around them; and particularly to give a look of comfort and habitableness to any place which, for however brief a period, may happen to be their home."
ONE would like to take the person Hawthorne is describing on a camping party or a picnic. She would be equally agreeable to stay at home with, or to find at home when one came in. It is a sign that there is such a person in a house when the whole family have to know where "Mother" is, as soon as they get inside the front door. Sometimes it is a sister or an aunt, sometimes a father, who has to be found before one can settle down, but whatever the relationship, it is the person who makes us feel at home.
It is odd, is it not, the way we are always saying that we "feel at home," or "not at home," or "homesick," or that something is "homelike"? What do we mean by it, anyway? When people try to tell what home is, they usually make poor work of it. It is not in the least necessary to tell what it is; a home is a thing to have, not to talk about. All I want to say here is that homes are not houses and furniture, but people. There is an Indian proverb which says, "The hearth is not a stone but a woman." Fathers and brothers have their own share in making their homes, but mothers and daughters are more apt to take care of their homes and stay in them. So it has come to be that making homes is a special and particular work of women.
Whatever work a girl may hope to do in the future, she will live somewhere, and whatever that somewhere is like, it should be as homelike as she can make it. This is partly on account of a good many people she will find who need a little pleasantness and comfort given to them, and partly because she will not be comfortable and happy herself unless she has something homelike about her. This is why it is a great advantage to be a woman; what power we have to make homes, we carry with us. Hawthorne says that a woman, who is especially gifted in this way, can make a home of any place, even though she is there but a few hours--a hotel bedroom, for instance. The Indian proverb, however, goes even further. It says, not that a woman can make a home, but that she _is_ a home. That is, we should have the power to make people feel at home wherever _we_ are.
Most women, though, have something more to make a home out of than themselves. They have little houses or big houses to keep. When they begin to do this they find themselves very glad of all the cleverness, and learning and experience which they can gather. It is much easier to do some of this gathering before one has a house of one's own, and ways of doing it lie all round us, often unrealized and unused.
Through most of our teens, school is the principal thing. Whether we are interested in it or not, it is then our recognized occupation. Nowadays, there are opportunities in many schools to learn things helpful in housekeeping. They are not only to be found in cooking and sewing classes. Chemistry and physics, which may one or other of them be required of you for college entrance examinations, are also of excellent service in housekeeping. Some of you will be in schools where you can choose to some extent what courses you take. In that case, do not say chemistry is "messy," and physics is "too hard," but just tussle with them for the sake of your home-making, as a boy would who knew he was to be a physician or an engineer. I hardly dare to mention it, but detested arithmetic, learned in school, often afterward saves the peace of a household and the happiness of the housekeeper. Personally, I have found what geometry I know useful on many unexpected occasions. But to turn to a more agreeable subject, I can recommend any course in light carpentry, for you will almost surely like it if you try it, and no one thing is more useful in a house--except perhaps, arithmetic.
If, on the contrary, you are in a school where there are no choices, or if you are obliged to narrow down to the requirements of a college entrance examination, the only thing to do is to keep in mind the things which will be especially useful to you--physical sciences, mathematics, manual training, domestic science; study some of them if you can, and, besides that, see what you can learn at home. I do not mean that the other things which you study at school are not useful in home-making; they are. It is just that certain things are part of the special training for this work, and those named above are the ones more usually taught in schools.
We turn now to the preparation which can be given to us, and which we give ourselves, at home. Ideally, this is the place to learn home-making.
If we have a home, whether it is a palace or a room in a tenement, some one in it "keeps house." If that person is one's mother, then is one the normal and fortunate person who learns in the normal and fortunate way, from being with her. If she does some of the work of the house herself, and we help her, we learn far more than we realize until some moment of emergency comes and we find that our eyes, and hands, and noses, and muscles are trained for service.
If your mother merely directs the affairs of her house and the details are carried out by others, watch how she does it, for this may be the way in which you will keep house; and persuade her to let you try it, sometime when she is to be absent. In this case there will be some one else in the house from whom you will need to take a few lessons. It will perhaps be a housekeeper, or a very trusted maid. Make friends with her and ask her questions. If she sees you want to learn and not to criticize she will become the most delighted, flattering teacher you ever dreamed of.
If your mother does part or all of the housework it will probably be one of your appointed duties to assist her. If it should happen, as is sometimes the case, that you are not required to help with the housework, then be a woman, and not a lap dog, and ask to help. In the proper story-book, a mother's response to such a request would be an affectionate answer and much patient teaching, and I think, in many, many cases, that is the reply a daughter does receive. But just suppose that you are one of the other cases. I can imagine a variety of answers you might get to "May I help?" One of them might be, "Go out of the kitchen, you'll spoil your clothes"; and others might be, "Don't bother me, I'm busy," or "Don't interrupt," or, "I'd rather do it myself than put up with your clumsiness."
The first thing to do when one gets an answer like this is to go away. The second is according to temperament; if you feel hurt and discouraged, then, try not to, or if you feel that your responsibility is ended by the refusal of your offer, then don't think that; it isn't true. Think rather, that you may have offered just at the wrong moment--you will find when you begin to keep house yourself that there are a good many wrong moments--or that there may have been some simpler thing you could have done which would have been a greater help. We might also consider the possibility that our way of helping has not been quite agreeable on some former occasion. Perhaps, alas, we may be clumsy, or we may be slow, or we may be more nuisance than help just at first. After we have gone away and thought ourselves quiet, then we must do that most difficult and heroic of things--try again to help the person by whom we have been rebuffed.
You see I speak entirely of your side in this matter. That is because neither you nor I may be permitted to pass judgment on your mother. She is like some one about whom we have read a short story, we only know one little period of her life and only a few of her thoughts and feelings even then. She must always remain a bit of a mystery to us, because we can never know very much about what happened before we were born.
There is a thing which makes helping mothers difficult, that one must guard oneself against, especially because it is so natural and so insidious. It is especially a snare when we learn about housekeeping outside of our homes, though it very frequently lies in wait for us anyway. It is the desire to reform our homes and our mothers, and that instantly. I venture to say that the trouble with this lies in the _instantly_. The ways you are taught at school may be better than mother's ways; but, on the contrary, mother's ways may be the result of practical experience, and they may be an adaptation to the practical needs and tastes of her family. It may be that the things you learn are better adapted to your own generation and your own future housekeeping than they are to your parents' tastes and needs. You are the future, but remember that your parents are the past, without which you would never have been. There is this also to consider, that as we grow older, we grow toward orthodoxy. We place our faith in the "new thing" of the hour, and in a little while, find that it was proved impracticable ten centuries ago. While we are deciding that the old people we know are narrow-minded old fogies, behold, some girl or boy tells us that the reason we do not believe in their theory of the universe is because we are "old-fashioned." To you, young, thoughtful, and alive, belongs the belief that you are born to make the world better; and this is true. Not, however, by tearing down is this accomplished, but by building up. And the building is done by laying in a lifetime one small stone in the structure, ages old, which has its foundations in the deeps of the universe, and upon whose finished spires shall shine the glory of Heaven.
But there--it is of some practical ways of helping mother, and thereby learning housekeeping, that I wish to speak just now. They belong to the class of things called little services, but I can assure you, they are great, in tact, and helpfulness and love. They are homely; but they are just the sort of things angels would like to do. Dusting is one of them, the little everyday dusting which makes such a difference in the tidiness of the house, and perhaps takes five minutes, or less, to a room. With this goes taking up crumbs in the dining room, with a sweeper or dustpan and brush, and arranging flowers and watering plants. Tidying means removing dirt and litter, and putting each thing in the place where it belongs. Tidiness is not a housekeeper's superstition; it is a mechanical device for invoking the spirit of restfulness.
Another homely thing always needing to be done is mending. It is, by nature, incidental work, and therefore it is especially grateful to the housekeeper to have it done by an incidental helper. I do not mean merely darning stockings and sewing on buttons though that is the larger part of it, but also, mending which is done with hammer and tacks, or glue, or perhaps a varnish brush. I mean all those odd jobs which pursue the busy housewife in the hours when she ought to rest. Get your mother to write a list of these odd jobs on her memorandum pad, as she sees or thinks of them during the day, then see how many of them you can find a way to do.
[Illustration: Photograph by Helen W. Cooke
If your household does not include a waitress, there is a class of small services which need to be done before each meal. One is not quite so sure to be at home at meal times, as if one were a boy, but one can arrange to be. Certain things are needed on the table which come from the refrigerator or the cellar, cool things which should be put on at the last moment. The cook has already fifty things to do at the last moment, and few things relieve her more than to know that she need not think of the table until she puts the meal upon it. I saw a girl, once, looking at the dining-room table, and tapping out some sort of rhythm with four finger-tips against her cheek. She owned up that she was saying to herself, "Bread, butter, milk and water"--four things which she had made it her business to see on the table before each meal. Sometimes there were jelly and pickles and other relishes to put on, but these four, which she counted off on her fingers and her cheek, were the essentials.
Wiping and putting away the dishes is a small service which one can do often and acceptably. It is elsewhere described, but is also mentioned here because it belongs to this list of opportunities.
If your mother, or whoever does the cooking in your house, likes to be helped with it, there will be many little things which you can do, like beating eggs for instance, or shelling peas. No one can tell you what they are, though, except the person who is cooking.
How many, and which of these small services you are able to do, depend on how long your school hours are, and on what sort of health you have, and on how much of the housework is done by the family. It is not fatal if you do not do any of them, provided your reason is not laziness or selfishness.
There is another group of small things, helpful, but more personal to yourself, which you are less likely to be prevented from doing. You probably have a room, or half a one, and a closet, and bureau drawers, and certainly clothes, which are your own. Possession means responsibility. If we find this sharp-cornered foundation-stone of truth in the depths of our own bureau drawers, it is less likely to fall heavily on us later on. Our own things and the places in which they are kept should be our own care, and not another's.
It may not be your business to do the periodical sweeping in your room, but the daily dusting and tidying the household authorities will be glad to have you do.
You cannot find a better way to learn to make beds than to make your own, for in that case you get the benefit of the insufficient airing or the crease, or the crumb, which you have let go. If, for some reason, you cannot make your bed every day, try to do it on Sunday. It is a custom of gentleness from one woman to another.
Keeping a room in order is accomplished by the same means that any tidiness is brought about, that is, by having a place for things and seeing that they are there. The things that most girls want in their rooms are apt to be hard to keep in order. They are things which our heartless elders call "trash." I would not undertake to say what a girl's room should or should not contain, but I would ask her not to have so many things that they are either never neat or else a tormenting care; not to hang things on her walls which are vulgar or silly; and not to leave her clothes and little adornments for other people to put away. Keeping one's own possessions in order is a reasonable service to others, and one of the natural, gradual ways of learning home-making.
Will you turn over a few pages and read the suggestions about the fittings and care of closets you will find in the chapter on upstairs work? Bureau drawers, however, are not mentioned elsewhere than here, for I consider them the private property of individuals, to be cared for by their owners and not to be intruded upon by others except in emergency. Articles put in drawers should be classified as far as possible, and things used least often should be put in drawers least easy to get at. Suppose, for instance, a bureau has four drawers, the lowest is probably deepest and requires stooping to open it. In it can go best waists, and sashes, and girdles, and scarfs, and fluffy objects which should lie loosely. In the third drawer underclothes might be put; to be folded and packed close does not hurt them. As they are things which go into the wash, they should be worn in rotation, and this is accomplished without thought or trouble if we pile all the garments of the same kind together and always put the newly washed ones on the top or the bottom of the pile, and take the ones we are to wear from the opposite place. It takes a great many troublesome words to describe this action, which is very simple, and almost immediately becomes mechanical. In the second drawer of this possible bureau might go collars, and handkerchiefs, and gloves, and ties, and things which must be kept uncrumpled. If one has ample room, pretty boxes are good to keep these things in, and they make for neatness. If one must economize space, it is better to have some squares of silk, or pretty coloured linen or silkoline in which one's possessions can be laid flat, and then the four corners of the wrapper folded over upon them. I have found these more convenient to get into and more easily washed than regular veil and necktie and glove cases.
The top drawer is the one which locks most securely, because it is under the top of the bureau, instead of under another drawer which might be removed. It is therefore the one in which people usually keep the things which they especially value, and their pocketbooks or handbags. If a part of the top drawer is set apart for the collars, ties, handkerchiefs, hair ribbons and belts which are in immediate use, it will assist immensely to keep a room and bureau top neat. One does not wish to put things, which have been worn, away with things which are perfectly fresh, and one wants the belt and ribbons which one wears for two or three days in succession close at hand. If they are folded or rolled up to keep them shapely, and put in a space in the top drawer which has been chosen for the purpose, time and tidying will be saved. The space will need emptying out frequently, but that can be done on those Saturdays when one is seized with a sudden clearing-up fit.
Care of our clothes is not directly related to housekeeping--it is only a collateral relation. A neat house, however, is marred if the housekeeper herself is untidy. For our immediate purpose, though, the point is, that the habit of caring for our clothes, and the deftness and inventiveness which such care requires, are qualities constantly useful in housekeeping. I met a woman once, who boasted that she did not know how to hold a needle, but give her a hammer and nails and she could do anything. I happened to see her later with a hammer and nails, and she was clutching the hammer close to the head, and pounding in nails with more disregard for the help of leverage, than if she had been a cave-woman pounding a stake with a stone. Some people can hammer who cannot sew; and some people can sew who cannot hammer; some people can do neither, and some people can do both. But the fact remains that if we can use our hands and heads cleverly for one thing, we have a better chance of using them cleverly for another; and blacking shoes, and binding skirts, and mending stockings, and putting in ruchings, are steps in an apprenticeship to more interesting and clever work. Incidentally, too, we are giving ourselves that exquisite daintiness which is one of a girl's charms.
At least one means of learning something of housekeeping lies open to every creature. That means is an observing interest. We never remain entirely ignorant of the things in which we are interested. We gather ideas about them everywhere, and in the most unexpected and unintentional places. If we sit at tables where the meals are carefully served and well cooked, that privilege teaches many things about serving and cooking. There is as much to learn in a cheap restaurant, if we watch how things are done, and think out the reason for the methods. If we watch a servant or a housewife doing work well, we need never again be entirely ignorant of how to do that work. If we read a book or hear a lecture, or overhear a scrap of talk in a street car which contains a thought to help us or an unusual method to be tried, it ought to stick to our memories as if magnetized. Think in the morning that you want to know something about the cats in Thibet, and almost surely before night, you will have heard or read something about them. We know how often this is true of remote and unusual affairs; it is infinitely more true of intimate daily ones. It is a great blessing; a means of getting knowledge without other struggle than remembering what we want to know. If it is not a royal road, it is at least a royal by-path, to learning.
Some day, you will discover that you are "grown up," and if you have learned what you could and helped when you could, you will discover, too, that you have the gift and power to make a home--that you are a woman, who is not a stone but a hearth.
"The lot has fallen unto me in a fair ground, yea, I have a goodly heritage."
THERE is a deep surprise and joy in these words, which grows to exultation. They might have been spoken by one who had climbed a height to look for the first time on the place where henceforth his life and work were to be, and saw in the curve of many-folded, blue hills, white roads with crops warming in the fields on either hand, woods and streams, laden orchards, and vines in garlands.
"It is a fair ground." Then--"yea, I have a goodly heritage." There is joy in beauty, and in possession--and more than that. There is exultation in the vision of seed-time and harvest, of growing beauty and usefulness, of life renewed; and in the strength and power to work for all this and to achieve it.
It is not fanciful to say that a woman may regard her heritage in some such way as this. The childhood, and the homes of the world are hers, and her work is the making of men and women. If she chooses to say that God has exalted His handmaiden, who is able to deny it?
The particular work of women is not just like any other work; indolence and failure in doing it, however, have been too often excused on account of this fact. Their work is yearly becoming more and more allied with other commercial, intellectual and moral activities. Even their housekeeping is no longer a disagreeable thing kept out of sight as much as possible, as the plumbing used to be. Its varied problems are being recognized and studied. Nobody denies that they are difficult, but it is not reasonable to suppose that they are the most difficult in the world, nor that they are unsolvable. One reason why they are difficult is that they are an attempt to establish order and law, without destroying individuality and freedom; and another reason is that the housewife exercises her profession chiefly for the benefit of her own family. If the physician had to doctor himself, the preacher preach to his wife, and the teacher teach his own children, their professions might be in as much confusion as the housekeeping profession is. The efforts to do away with these difficulties by having families live together, eat together, or do anything else in a wholesale way, have not succeeded and have led in a wrong direction. What is wanted is a way to preserve the separate family and the separate family home, not a way to make them into something else.
Difficulty is a characteristic of their work which should appeal to women. They are seeking to do difficult things. They are seeking to prove that there is no profession, nor labour, nor art in which they cannot succeed. In many cases they have succeeded admirably; it has not proved the point they set out to prove however, but another. What they have proved by their activities is that they are amply able to solve the problems and accomplish the organization of the work which is especially their own. They cannot get it believed that they are equal to anything while their own work lies undone--while they wilfully leave the home or helplessly stay in it.
Things which we are proud to do in other fields, we neither see nor do in our own. For the sake of a college degree, or a paper to be read before a club, we delve in difficult books; yet we do not study, nor even read about our own work. We would be proud to invent a flying machine, or a mud-digger, yet most of the inventions to aid housework are made by men. We aspire to be stockbrokers, merchants, accountants, bankers--while housekeeping finance has become a stock joke. We are eager to study social problems and take up settlement work, but we do not think it worth while to study our own cooks. We feel in ourselves a power to organize and betake us to the club, and leave the cook and the nursemaid to organize our homes and our children's lives. We have raised the woman's work of teaching and of nursing into excellent professions, and yet we are ready to sit down and cry before the difficulties of housekeeping.
Unpleasant and monotonous things, which we claim make our own work unbearable, we ignore in occupations which we covet or admire. Under Mr. Kipling's influence we cultivate an enthusiasm for machinery and engineering, but we neglect his constantly emphasized lesson that the digging of a canal or the building of a bridge involves humble toil and unsightly details far beyond any we may encounter in peeling potatoes or washing dishes. We look at the wide, slow waters which have been let into the land and they silence us; we follow with our eyes the great span of the bridge and hold our breath as if it were music. It is right that we wonder and admire. They are great things. But see that woman beside you who is looking at the bridge with such especial interest. Is the bridge any more wonderful than her son, who built it? He is what she has built. It seems to me, one might peel several tons of potatoes as a thank-offering for a son.
But I will not take such high ground as to suppose that we might be willing to do some hard and disagreeable things just because we feel very earnestly the privilege and glory of being women. Much more ordinary considerations urge us to get about our work. If the engineer son of whom we were speaking said, "Estimates make me nervous," or, "I hate dealing with dirty, foreign labourers," or, "You can't expect me to concern myself with the nasty river-bottom when I have the arch of a bridge in my mind," or, "This work is so monotonous, I certainly have a right to one day a week when I can go to town and shop"--if he said these things, we should say he was--effeminate.
Our times are so quick that, if we went earnestly to work, the next generation would see nothing in the remarks quoted above, to suggest a _woman_.
And do you know that this work of ours is a profession in which we can be as clever, and independent, and advanced, and emancipated as we please, and no man will like us the less for it. They like us to be inconsistent and unexpected, and they do not like us to know more than they do. But if we can keep house thriftily and comfortably and not bother them with it, they like that. In this we are not their rivals. They like our charming unexpectedness better elsewhere than in the butcher's bills; and they love the inconsistency of the woman who, in the home which her cleverness and toil have made peaceful and adequate, is yet full of pleasure and wonder at the things her husband or her son has accomplished.
This is my thought of our fair heritage of clever, helpful and devoted work, with its goodly promise of a harvest of people whom we have helped to be happier and better. Such is the country of my Vision.
IF WE want something, we plan to get it. We say, "I will do this, not that; I will use my time, as I have little strength; I will give my strength, as I have little money; or, I will give my money as I have little time to give." A plan is merely a series of choices, a record of things taken and things left for the sake of obtaining some end or of following some ideal.
If we wish the people for whom we keep house to be well and happy, and good, we shall plan to make them so, as earnestly and definitely as if we were making a train schedule, or drawing the plans of a house, or writing the outline of a book.
The object of a housekeeping plan may be an ideal, but the plan is based on a definite, practical fact--the amount of income. The plan itself is the record of the choices made in the outlay of that amount of income.
The first thing for a family to do when they wish to make a plan, is to impress on their minds, not what they think they will have or what they think they ought to have, but the definite amount of money which they have. Some people gamble who do not go to races or play cards. They bet on futurity by spending something they expect to make, or risk a purchase on the security of Aunt Maria's usual Christmas present. The indications of this sort of gambling are the casual remarks one hears too often; "I just had to have it," or "We could not keep up our position without it," or, "I can't have my children dressed like beggars," or "It was awfully expensive, but I will save on something else." They are silly words and not honest. Silly, because they mean that some momentary self-indulgence has been thought worth the price of long unrest and anxiety; not honest, because if people have what they cannot pay for, they have what some one else has paid for as truly as if they had carried off a parcel belonging to the person standing beside them at a counter. In that matter of Aunt Maria, there is an extra offense. A gift should bring some special pleasure, or meet some special emergency. Counted on, or spent beforehand, it gives no happy surprise, no unexpected pleasure or relief; and what is worse, Aunt Maria gets no more happiness from making the gift than she would from paying the interest on a mortgage. Counting on gifts is a mean trick. If a child's parents do this, they cannot reasonably blame him for calculating the inheritance he will acquire at their death.
The income from some kinds of work is of necessity uncertain. This makes the housekeeping plan especially difficult. Probably the wisest way to meet this is to pretend that one's income is an amount somewhat under one's brightest hopes, and to live on that amount. In case of a disappointment, there is not then so large a deficit to struggle with; or, if the hopes come true, the surplus can very easily be put into a needed garment or a needed pleasure, or perhaps into the savings bank. Some people manage uncertain incomes by the month instead of the year. The trouble with this is that there is likely to be "always a feast or a famine," and that is demoralizing. As far as possible, a family should have an established style of living, to be changed only gradually, as an assured income increases.
This thing called the style of living is the insidious, untiring rival of that hard, cold fact, the amount of income. The two are forever quarrelling. Logically, the amount of income should settle the style of living, but often people spend weary lives trying to stretch the hard fact to fit its ever-increasing rival. This conflict is the source of most household troubles, and quarrels, and sorrows. What is the matter? Why is one less ashamed to wear one's heart on one's sleeve than a patch? Why would you rather owe the grocer, than say to your friend, "I can't afford it?" Why, when I say I am not ashamed to be poor, does the blood rise in my cheeks to belie my words? Poverty is not a badge of failure and laziness. It is often a decoration for high principle, or for noble self-sacrifice,--it is the lady-love of saints.
Very soon and very often in housekeeping, whatever may be the income, the conflict will arise between needs and wants and the financial ability to supply them. For this struggle we must gather our common sense and courage. They will help us to choose the things which really matter, and to laugh at ourselves for pretending to have what we have not.
* * * * *
Some husbands and wives make the financial plans of the family together. In other cases, the husband decides what amount of the income should be spent on the table, and the wife plans only the expenditure of that. The households in which the wife buys and the husband pays without consultation or agreement, exist, but let us hope they are few. Then, there is the household in which the woman is financier, and the man lives on an allowance. And, of course, there are a great number of households which are not complete families, but are groups of people, related or unrelated, who make their homes together, and in which the division of income is made by one person, or by the group, as they wish or are compelled by circumstances.
Plans for a whole income are considered here because they include the problems and details of less elaborate plans.
As has been said, the first thing for a family to do is to find out their definite income, irrespective of Aunt Maria. Incomes of all sizes are lived on in some way. The way which their income will cover, is the style of living suitable for a family. If the family income pinches, however, and there is some way of increasing it which does not destroy the home life, nor work some member of the family to death, then it is well to take that way. But only in cases verging on starvation, should an increase in income be made by the homemaker leaving her housekeeping, or the breadwinner working eighteen hours a day.
When the amount of the income is found out, the next thing is to divide it among the family needs in a reasonable proportion. This proportion is decided in the first place according to necessity, and in the second, according to taste.
Let us take for illustration a family with an income of $2,000 a year. And then let us take, from Mrs. Ellen H. Richards's book called "The Cost of Living," the following proportions for an income of that amount.
1/4 for food. 1/6 " rent. 3/20 " running expenses. 3/20 " clothes. 1/4 " miscellaneous expenses.
Translated into dollars this is:
$500 for food. 400 " rent. 300 " running expenses. 300 " clothes. 500 " miscellaneous expenses.
The next thing is to find out whether this is a possible proportion for us, if this income is our own.
Food, $500 a year, $9.61 a week, $1.37 a day--we shall probably think this a possible allowance.
Rent $400 a year, $33 a month--here there may be a difficulty.
If we own a house in a country town or a suburb, we can probably pay the taxes and make repairs, and have something left from $400. If we rent a house in a country town or in a not too popular suburb we can perhaps get it for less than $400, but in the latter case, the remainder may need to be used in carfares if some member of the family has to go to the city every day. If we live in a flat in a large city, it is an uninviting one that can be had for $33 a month, and even so, nothing is left for carfares. Regular carfares are usually reckoned in the department with the rent, because the place where one's home is situated determines their amount.
Here are two cases, then, in which the proportion for rent does not work. The first, in which there is more money than is necessary to provide a dwelling, is easily arranged. The surplus can be used for more clothes, or more "help," or to satisfy more of the unfailing supply of miscellaneous needs, or it can be put by for future needs.
The second case, in which we feel we must have a $40 flat and have only $33 with which to pay for it, is not as hopeless as it looks. For the next thing in the table of proportions is $300 a year for running expenses, that is, wages, fuel, light, water, etc. Here is at once a partial solution of the rent difficulty. In that forty-dollar flat, heat and water are supplied. If we use gas for cooking, $7 a month will be an average gas bill for a careful family, that is $84 a year. This amount will likewise cover the expense if we use gas for light and coal for the range. Then if we pay three dollars a week to an inexperienced girl, or $1.50 a day for two days a week to a combination washerwoman and scrubwoman, that will be $156 a year. Our running expenses will then be $240 a year. The $60 saved will pay $5 a month on the rent, and we shall then need only $2 a month more to secure the forty-dollar flat.
Next, $300 for clothes. In a year when things have lasted over, we may be able to get the $2 a month for the rent from this department. If, on the contrary, there is a new overcoat, or a new street dress to buy, or a new member of the family to clothe, then it cannot be spared.
The next division is $500 for holidays, recreations, books, charity, savings, doctors' bills and all unclassified expenses. This is the division which is most difficult to manage. If we think we cannot spare that $24 from the clothes department, we shall need to consider very carefully whether we take it from this, or from the food department. We shall have to consider the price of food in the neighbourhood; the health of the family; how much they need a holiday; whether there is any special purpose for which we must save; whether there is some piece of furniture much needed; whether there is a present which we greatly desire to give. And these are only samples of the things which will need to be considered. A choice must be made, though, however difficult, for when one item of expenditure in the family life is exceptionally large, there is but one thing to do, that is, to decide, reasonably and carefully, in what other department of living the expenditure can be lessened.
In this case of a high rent which has just been described, see in the table below what has happened.
+-----------------+------+------+----------+---------+---------------+ | |_Food_|_Rent_|_Running |_Clothes_|_Miscellaneous | | | | | Expenses_| | Expenses_ | |-----------------+------+------+----------+---------+---------------+ | Mrs. Richards's | 500 | 400 | 300 | 300 | 500 | | Division | | | | | | +-----------------+------+------+----------+---------+---------------+ | Division | 500 | 480 | 240 | 300 | 480 | | for high rent | | | | | | +-----------------+------+------+----------+---------+---------------+ 80 60 20
The high rent is balanced by a saving in running expenses and in some item of miscellaneous expense.
This is merely a suggestion of the way in which a housekeeping plan is worked out. Every family has its own needs and wants, and its income must be proportioned to suit them as far as possible. If your income is larger than the one used as an example, you will find that the department of miscellaneous expenses will grow and need to be subdivided many times--you will have more concerts than cabbages--if, on the contrary, your income is less than the example, you will find that the food and rent departments will begin to swallow up the other departments.
An example of the extreme of this is exhibited by a budget of housekeeping expenses given by Mr. Arthur Morrison in the _Fortnightly Review_ a few years ago, for a family with an income of £1 10s. a week--about $7.50 a week and $390 a year.
Rent 7 0 Meat and fish 5 5 Bread and flour 2 1½ Groceries 1 8 Cheese, butter, eggs, bacon 1 11 Green groceries 1 3 Fuel 2 0 Oil, etc 1 7½ Clothes 2 0 Club and insurance 1 0 Beer and tobacco 2 9 Balance 1 3 -------- £1 10s.
This table, roughly calculated, gives the following proportions:
A little more than 2/5 for food. A little more than 1/5 for rent. A little more than 2/25 for running expenses. A little more than 1/15 for clothes. A little more than 2/15 for other expenses.
Nearly half the income was used for food; the same proportion for rent as it is reckoned should be paid by a family with an income of $2,000; and about a third ($2.50 in our money) was left for fuel, clothes, and every other need or want. Yet Mr. Morrison says that if the wife is not lazy and the husband does not drink, a family can live in London on this income and manage to be well and decent. "Pretty hard!"--yes. "Pretty sordid!"--no. Courage and perseverance and self-denial made that budget, such as most of us save up for heroic occasions, and would not think of expending upon marketing and meal getting.
One cannot be as definite about housekeeping plans as one would like to be in dealing with such a definite and practical subject. In the nature of things, each family must decide on the purposes for which its income is used, and on the amount to be devoted to each. I cannot, however, emphasize too strongly the necessity of definiteness on the part of those dealing with their own actual incomes. A carefully thought out plan of expenditure, written down and earnestly adhered to, is a family backbone. A first plan has to be made somewhat in the dark, but every year brings enlightenment and confidence. Though the purposes for which their income is used are for each family to decide upon, yet I venture to lay stress upon three purposes which are often subdivisions of that general and entirely voluntary department of miscellaneous expenses. For convenience, I shall call them, "Allowances," "The Tenth," and "Savings."
There is an odd sort of innate privacy about money matters. Children are taught that it is ill-bred to open other peoples' pocketbooks or checkbooks, or to ask them what their possessions cost. As they grow up they find that business affairs are considered confidential, and that no honourable person investigates another's money affairs without some authority. It is desirable that these rules of honour should be preserved, and one simple way to help in this is to arrange that each member of the family has an allowance, if it is only five cents a week--an allowance for which he is responsible to himself alone. These allowances should go down in the family accounts as "Allowances," the details belong to the individual. The members of families in which this arrangement is made should conscientiously keep their private expenses within the amount agreed upon, for allowances not only teach the right of individual privacy, they teach that old and difficult lesson that "you can't eat your cake and have it too";--that one can't have marbles and candy the same week. An allowance also supplies each person with something to give away, which is really his to give. He may not have earned it by work, but he has earned it by going without something he would have liked to spend it for. There is yet another purpose which allowances serve. They help to prevent the failure of a plan of expenditure. For they keep a strict and careful plan from becoming a galling chain. They prevent the absorption of personal privacy and freedom by the regulations of the family as a group against which the individual, sooner or later, invariably rebels.
"The Tenth" is that part of the family income, more or less than an actual tenth, which is given away. It is not mine to offer advice as to the size or use of this division. I merely emphasize its necessity. It is the small thing, which keeps meanness and bitterness out of the management of scanty means, and selfishness and brutality out of the management of ample means. Establish a give-away division in your plan, for the sake of your own disposition, if you are not urged to it by any other consideration.
Next to this division, which is considered the generous division, comes one which has a less agreeable reputation, but undeservedly--"Savings." Many people who will say giving is a good thing, will deny that saving is. And is it? Why? What is it for? It is to provide those who suffer adversity, or who live to old age, against becoming a "public charge"; or against dependence upon relatives and friends. There is a fine honour in not taking the risk of these things. One ought to be willing to struggle hard and self-denyingly to save oneself and one's family from becoming burdens to other people.
Perhaps you say, "But why pinch and save for something which may never happen?" If you speak as one solitary individual, it is true, you may die before old age; it is the rare family, however, in which some member does not need a provision for a last period of helplessness. Then, there are those things called adversities, and those things called opportunities, which turn to adversities if they cannot be used. Do you know many people, who have not at some time been in a difficulty where they needed money, or who have not had a chance that depended on an outfit or a pledge? Is it reasonable to expect to run to some one else for help at such times?
And, by the way, to whom would you run? To the friend who is the open-handed, good companion, or to the careful, farseeing friend? Of the two, which is the more to be depended upon, the more finely honourable, the more worthy to be imitated?
There are two very usual ways of keeping savings. Life insurance is one of them. It is more than a way of keeping savings, for in most cases, the amount finally received is more than the amount paid in. It has this advantage, and also the advantage that the savings thus laid by are only available at a time of great need--sickness, accident or death--or sometimes, after a long period of years. It has the corresponding disadvantages that these savings are not available for small needs, and also that they may be lost, if for any reason the subsequent premiums cannot be paid.
A savings-bank account is another way of keeping savings. Savings banks will take money in very small sums and will pay a reasonable interest on it. This method of keeping savings has the advantage that the money can be drawn whenever it is needed, but the resulting disadvantage that the account may be small at the moment of sudden need. If it is possible, as it often is, to have both a life insurance and a savings-bank account, a household may feel well protected against calamity, and well provided against sudden wants.
If some member of a family has a life insurance, a definite premium will have to be paid at definite times. A savings-bank account is not so insistent. But to succeed in saving and to do it with as little discomfort as possible, it is better to put ten dollars or ten cents into an account on the first day of the month, and forget about it, than to save five cents in carfare on Monday, one cent on a newspaper on Tuesday, ten cents on lunch on Wednesday, and so on.
You will say that it amounts to the same thing. That if that money is put into the bank, all these little pinching economies will have to be borne as a consequence. That is logical, but only to a certain extent true in practice. In one case, that of the definite amount put away monthly, the money is saved because it is not there to spend; in the other case, it is there, but is saved with the thought of saving. The latter method means going without everything that possibly can be gone without. It is the method by which one fills a Lenten mitebox--it is disciplinary, that is, it is meant to hurt a little, and it does. People do not keep Lent all the year, however; it is an especial season for an especial purpose. At some time of serious difficulty in household affairs, it may become necessary to save in this Lenten way, but the usual, regular sort of saving, which is a duty for life with most of us, should be done as far as possible by a decision once carefully made, and afterward automatically carried out.
I wish I could in some way show the pleasant side of the matter of savings. There is much comfort and gladness in the possession of a small reserve fund. The mere sight of the big, ugly Savings Bank which contains it can give new courage. We look up at the building in passing and know we have there the chance to start again if we are not succeeding; a holiday if we very much need one; weeks to recover in if we are ill; protection from dependence upon other people; the power to keep some one we love from suffering; and the joy of sometimes giving a gift.
* * * * *
And now, a word more on the subject of choices.
In a little town I know, there live two old women. One will not go to prayer meeting because she cannot afford to put five cents into the collection basket; the other goes every week and contributes one bright penny. She devoutly brightens it on a piece of old carpet before she starts. As it is such a little gift, it must be made as fair as possible.
There is a stern business principle in the whole of life. It is that law of choice of which we spoke at first. If we have a thing, we must in some way pay for it, we cannot have the thing and its price too. We pay in various commodities: in work, in money, in time, in ability, in thoughtfulness, in suffering; but in some way we pay. It is not a harsh and ungenerous law; it is to be rejoiced in. God meant us to be self-supporting, not objects of charity.
The trouble with His law is made by us. Some of us try to get out of paying at all; some of us are angry because we would rather pay in something we have not. We would rather pay for food and clothes with money only, instead of with a little money and much thought and labour. We would like to buy our friend a birthday gift, instead of writing that birthday letter which costs us thoughtfulness and an ache in our pride. Because we cannot afford a holiday, we will not pay for comfort and pleasantness at home with the coin of gaiety, or a favourite dessert, or a new book from the Library.
Each of you, and I, whatever our incomes, have our choices of this kind to make, and the price of them to pay.
* * * * *
--It is prayer-meeting night. Shall we stay at home?--Or rub up a penny?
WHEN a family have made a plan of yearly expenditure, they must have some way of testing at short intervals whether they are keeping to it or not, and some record by which at the end of the year they can tell whether their plan is a good one. These tests and records are furnished by _accounts_.
Accounts are as old as the brick books of Assyria. They have been found necessary to business transactions for ages. One of the reasons that housekeeping does not receive its proper recognition as a business and a profession is that it does not bear the stamp of either in the form of accurate accounts and statistics. Perhaps these are lacking because so many women are driven to tears or fury by accounts. It is odd that they are, too, for they keep golf and tennis scores, and devote themselves to whist, and are madly fascinated with jig-saw puzzles, and all these things are a good deal like accounts.
A favourite excuse for not keeping accounts is this: "I have just so much, and I can't spend what I haven't, so what's the use?" This ignores two things. The first is, that spending a little more than one's income, and thus gradually running up a debt, is an extremely easy thing to do. The second is, that people who do not plan their expenditures, deprive themselves of the chance to choose what their expenditures shall be made for. If you plan to have strawberries and cream on the first Monday in February, and bread and tea on the next Saturday, and you like that, then there is nothing more to say--except to hope for improvement in the next generation. If, however, in the exuberance of appetite or hospitality you have strawberries and cream on the first Monday in February, and are awfully surprised to find you can only afford bread and tea on Saturday--then you need to realize that you have deprived yourself of the freedom of choice, whether right or wrong, and that you had better keep a few accounts. The moment a family have one penny more than they need to buy the food which will keep them alive, there comes to be an element of choice in the spending of that penny. When the penny grows to an amount not easily calculated mentally, that freedom of choice is only obtainable by accepting the bondage of some sort of accounts. It is like the bondage of the truth, it makes us free.
There are many methods and variations of methods of keeping accounts. Mr. Morrison's woman with thirty shillings a week undoubtedly kept her accounts in her head, but she kept them. Many women keep accounts with a collection of small boxes or envelopes, each marked with the name of the commodity for which the money within is to be used. They find it easier to calculate with the actual money than with figures. It is well enough if they cannot do better, but it is primitive. I suppose that some six or seven thousand years ago, it was the latest thing in account keeping. No woman wants to be as far behind the style as that.
Accounts kept in figures have several obvious advantages. The symbol of five thousand dollars--$5,000--takes less room than that amount in money, and is no temptation to a thief. Another advantage is, that these symbols of money do not have to be paid out, but remain in a book, and furnish a record of just what has been bought and what money remains. They also make it clear to the owner of the money whether she has had what she most needed or not. That is one of the reasons accounts are so disagreeable; they often say, "You made a fool of yourself that time."
[Illustration: Photograph by Helen W. Cooke
The Account Book]
There are two sides in accounts, which are usually represented by opposite pages in a book. The right-hand page is the _Credit_ side; the left hand page is the _Debit_ side. On the right hand, or Credit, page are written the sums of money we have or acquire. Credit is related to the word creed. The reason for this relationship is, that a credit page represents how much we may be believed in financially; and to what amount people believed in us who paid us for work; and to what amount people believed in us who gave us gifts in money. On the left-hand, or Debit, page are written the sums of money we have paid out. The word debit is related to due and duty and _devoir_. Therefore, on this page go the amounts which have been _due_ to others for the things which we have had, and which it has been our _duty_ to pay because we have had these things. If we are honourable people, we will do our _devoir_ in this matter.
At the end of a day, or a week, or a month, as seems best, the account is balanced. This word _balanced_ is a metaphor. By its means the credit and the debit pages are changed into the pans of a pair of scales, and the account is balanced when they hang even. That is, when the items on the debit page add up to the same amount that the items on the credit page add up to, the account balances. But suppose the pages do not add up to the same amount--they rarely do, and they rarely should--What then? Then the metaphor of the balance suggests what to do. If one scalepan is lighter than the other, put a weight into it. If the debit side is lighter, that is, if it is less than the credit side, add on the amount which will make it even with the credit side, and write beside that amount, "Balance." In that case, there is a little money yet unspent, and when the next two pages of the accounts are begun this money yet unspent is put down at the head of the credit page like this:
Balance on hand $2.39
If, on the contrary, the credit side is less than the debit side, add the balance there. This means that something has been bought which has not been paid for, and the meaning of another word related to debit becomes intrusive--_debt_. Debt is sometimes a temporary necessity--like oxygen pumped into lungs which can no longer pump for themselves; sometimes it is a calamity, sometimes it is a disgrace; and it is always dangerous.
Two pages of an account such as a girl might keep of her personal expenses, when balanced at the end of a week, look like this:--
+--------+------------++---------++--------+---------------++---------+ | 1909 | _Cash_ || _Dr._ || 1909 | _Cash_ || _Cr._ | +--------+------------++----+----++--------+---------------++----+----+ | July 1 | Veil || | 50 || July 1 | Bal. on hand || | 25 | | " " | Soda || | 20 || " " | Allowance || 10 | 00 | | " 3 | Gloves || 2 | 00 || " 3 | Birthday || 5 | 00 | | " 4 | Church || | 25 || | || | | | " 5 | Carfare || | 10 || | || | | | " " | Shampoo || | 75 || | || | | | " 6 | Postage || | 20 || | || | | | " " | Carfare || | 10 || | || | | | " 7 | Balance || 11 | 15 || | || | | | | ++----+----++--------+---------------++----+----+ | | || 15 | 25 || | || 15 | 25 | +--------+------------++----+----++--------+---------------++----+----+
The person to whom this account belongs has a balance on hand of $11.15 to put at the head of the next credit page. She is evidently an exemplary person for she has spent just about a fourth of her money in a fourth of the month.
One would think that simple household accounts might be kept like this personal cash-account. They could, except that it is desirable, almost necessary, that household accounts should be divided into departments. The departments will be those which have been decided upon in the plan of expenditure, such as food, clothes, fuel, savings, etc. There are several ways in which accounts can be kept in departments. Two or three of the simplest are suggested here. The rule for selecting a method is, use the one which confuses you least.
One method is, to begin in different parts of an account-book, accounts for each department like the simple cash-account above. It is convenient to have an indexed book, or else to paste slips on the pages where each account begins, which will stick out beyond the leaves and indicate by a word or an initial what department will be found there. The book should be one made for accounts, for then it will be ruled correctly. In each place where a department begins, write the name of the department at the head of opposite pages. On the credit page put down the amount allotted to this department for a week or month. This amount is copied from the plan of expenditure, which should be written down in the beginning or end of the book. On the debit page write the names of the items for which the money is spent and the dates. It is safer to balance house-accounts once a week. This prevents the use of more than the week's allowance, or if it has been necessary to use more, this serves as a warning to spend less than the allowance the next week. Below is a brief, two-weeks' account for the Clothes Department.
+-------+------------+---------++-------+-------------------+---------+ | 1909 | _Clothes_ | _Dr._ || 1909 | _Clothes_ | _Cr._ | +-------+------------+---------++-------+-------------------+----+----+ | May 1 | Hat | 8 | 00 || May 1 | Month's allowance | 25 | 00 | | " 3 | Buttons | | 20 || | | | | | " 5 | Shoes | 5 | 00 || | | | | | " 7 | Balance | 11 | 80 || | | | | | | +----+----++ | +----+----+ | | | 25 | 00 || | | 25 | 00 | +-------+------------+---------++-------+-------------------+---------+ | May 8 | Thread | | 30 || May 8 | Bal. on hand | 11 | 80 | | " 12 | Silk | 2 | 00 || | | | | | " " | Socks | 3 | 00 || | | | | | " 14 | Balance | 6 | 50 || | | | | | | +----+----++ | +----+----+ | | | 11 | 80 || | | 11 | 80 | +-------+------------+---------++-------+-------------------+---------+
If it should happen that one department has to help another department, put the amount down on the credit page as: From X--Department--$10.00; just as the birthday present is put down in the personal account.
Here is another method, which is easy to understand, but tends to become clumsy if the details are many. For this, one should have a book with an unusually large page, and wider than it is high. Rule it like this form below. It saves confusion if the vertical rulings are done in red ink.
Key[*] Gr. =Groceries Cl. =Clothes Car.=Carfare Ch. =Church
+--------++------++------++------++------++------++------++-------+ | 1909 ||_Fuel_||_Gr._ ||_Meat_||_Cl._ ||_Car._||_Ch._ ||_Wages_| +========++==+===++==+===++==+===++==+===++==+===++==+===++==+====+ | Aug. 1 || | || | || | || | || |20 || |35 || | | | " 2 || 6|00 || 1|00 || |98 || | || |10 || | || | | | " 3 || | || |60 || 1|10 || 3|00 || |20 || | || | | | " 4 || | || |72 || | || | || |10 || | || | | | " 5 || |30 || | || |60 || |15 || |10 || | || | | | " 6 || | || |20 || | || 1|00 || |10 || 1|00 || | | | " 7 || | || 1|68 || 1|90 || | || |25 || | || 5|00 | +--------++--+---++--+---++--+---++--+---++--+---++--+---++--+----+ | Week's || | || | || | || | || | || | || | | | Total || 6|30 || 4|20 || 4|58 || 4|15 || 1|05 || 1|35 || 5|00 | +--------++--+---++--+---++--+---++--+---++--+---++--+---++--+----+
[* Transcriber's Note: Key added by transcriber to make table less wide.]
At the end of the week, the amount at the foot of each of these columns should be compared with the weekly amount for that department allowed in the plan of expenditure. If the week's total is more than the allowance, the amount it has exceeded should be put down in red ink at the head of the column for the next week. This will serve as a reminder that when that column is added up, it should be possible to add in the red number without exceeding the week's allowance for that department.
This method has the disadvantage that it does not record the items for which the money was spent. It is practicable, however, especially for a housekeeper who only manages the part of the income devoted to the food supply. Often, in this case, items can be obtained, if desired, from the little books of the butcher or the grocer in which purchases are charged for a week or a month.
This method does not show the credit side of the accounts. The previous method has a credit side, but it is theoretical. That is, the amounts on the credit pages were taken from the plan, they are not a record of actual checks or amounts of money in which the income was received. This defect in these methods must be remedied.
It can be done by devoting a page of the account book to the dates on which, and the amounts in which, the actual credits come in. They will be salary, wages, interest on investments, gifts, etc.; or the sum of money from the business which supports the family, which at stated times is deposited in a bank or given into the hands of the housekeeper for the living expenses. It is necessary to see that these things come in regularly; if they do the housekeeping plan may safely remain unchanged. If they decrease, a way must quickly be found to lessen the expenses; if they increase, one must decide slowly what is the wisest thing to do with the surplus.
If this way of recording actual credits does not seem convenient, a general account can be kept to supplement the detailed accounts. It will be well to have a small account book especially for this purpose. Two of its pages will look like the example below. The items on the debit page are gathered from detailed accounts such as have been described. Completed for a month, it should be balanced as any account is balanced.
+-------+-----------------+---------++--------+-----------------+----------+ | | | || | | | | 1909 | _General Acc._ | _Dr._ || 1909 | _General Acc._ | _Cr._ | +-------+-----------------+---------++--------+-----------------+----------+ |Jan. 1 | Savings for Jan.| 5 | 00 || Jan. 1 | Salary | 125 | 00 | |" 3 | Rent " " | 35 | 00 || " 15 | Interest on | 15 | 00 | |" 31 | Clothes " " | 20 | 00 || | (investment) | | | |" " | Food " " | 38 | 00 || " 25 | Extra work | 10 | 00 | |" " | Fuel " " | 8 | 00 || | | | | +-------+-----------------+----+----++--------+-----------------+-----+----+
Many people keep no accounts except in their checkbooks. That is, they write down carefully therein the date and source of every check deposited; and on the stub of each check drawn they write the purpose for which the money is to be used. This method is much better than no account keeping, but it is hardly detailed enough for a house account in which there are many items too small to be paid by check. After every three or four checks there is apt to be one marked "Incidentals," or "General Expenses." Into these indefinite checks often go the trip the family meant to take, the table linen they meant to buy, the savings they meant to put away, and at the end of a year it is impossible to say what they had instead.
Unless purchases are always paid for in cash, charge-accounts will have to have a place in the house account book. Some people have passbooks kept by the baker and the butcher and the grocer, and pay these accounts weekly. Others have charge-accounts with all their tradespeople and pay their bills monthly. If one has a charge-account with a firm, purchases made from them should invariably be charged. Paying for one purchase, and charging the next makes a tangle which neither the purchaser nor the shopkeeper can hope to prevent.
When purchases are charged, it is well to open a little account with the firm in the house account book. Write the name of the firm at the head of two opposite pages. On the debit side write the purchases, their dates and prices. On the credit side, write the dates and amounts of any payments made to the firm, because on those amounts is based the firm's belief in their customer. Such accounts may often take the place of the separate accounts kept for the departments of expenditure. The butcher's account will be the meat department; the coal and wood dealer's account will be the fuel department; etc.
When purchases are charged it is easier to buy more than one can pay for, than it is when they are paid for in cash. This is the cause of the objection which some people have to "charging."
It is very needful to have a fixed time every day for attending to the housekeeping accounts. The best time is immediately after the orders for the day have been given; or immediately after the housekeeper returns from market. It is well to have a little scratch-pad hung up in the kitchen, and another on a desk in the living room, and another upstairs, on which expenditures made at irregular times can be jotted down. The used slips can be torn off each day, and the items put down in the book at the regular time for the accounts.
Accounts balanced once a week are a little trouble once a week; those kept by the month are a large trouble once a month. Accounts balanced weekly are less apt to have mistakes in them; and they are a more frequent warning against living beyond one's means.
To a young housekeeper wishing to look into the matter of account keeping, I would recommend an interesting little book by Professor Charles Waldo Haskins, called "How to Keep Household Accounts." It is agreeable as well as useful. I wish, also, to say, in this connection, that the methods of keeping household accounts suggested in this book are neither professional nor authoritative; they are merely simple ways in which accounts may be correctly kept.
Not long ago, I made bold to ask an interesting and successful business man if he kept detailed accounts. He took out of an inside pocket a worn, narrow-paged diary. In it, under each date, was recorded every cent he spent--even to cigars and organ grinders. He showed it as if he did not quite like to, and yet as if he were determined to stand up for it--somewhat as a man acknowledges an unpopular conviction. He said, "It seems awfully close--no, I mean it seems awfully careful, but I want to _know_."
You may guess what it was he wanted to know.
IN MAKING and using a housework schedule the housekeeper has a narrow path to tread, between chaos on the one hand and slavery on the other.
If the idea of a housework schedule appeals to her, it would be wise for her to make as slight a schedule and be as little bound by it, as possible. If, on the contrary, she feels sympathy with the woman who thought it would be more interesting to do the washing on a different day each week, she should by all means have a rather detailed schedule and faithfully keep to it.
A work schedule saves the time and strain which, without it, would be expended each day in deciding what was to be done; it prevents those who do the work or help with it from waiting round to be told what to do; and it keeps one day from being too hard and the next too easy. But we must not have a schedule which makes the accomplishment of a certain amount of housework in a given time seem a more important duty than the little pleasant acts which make the comfort and pleasure of a home. If the man of the house wants his wife or daughter to walk to the car with him after breakfast, she should be able to go without feeling anxious or preoccupied. The coming of an unexpected guest should not be thought a torment and a calamity because it disorders a schedule. When a small head is thrust under one's elbow and a small voice says, "'Want to be loved now," confusion to anything which inclines us to say, "Run away, you bother me."
A household run on a strict schedule becomes an institution, not a home; on the other hand, a household in which the work is done at any time or no time is neither clean, restful nor knit together with the bonds of mutual service and mutual compliance.
Housework is some of it daily, and some of it periodical. Bedmaking is daily; sweeping is periodical. There is also work which may be done by the workers in the house, or by others coming from without. In one family the laundry work, bread making, window cleaning, floor polishing and the like will be done by those in the house; in another, these things will be done out of the house, or by people who come in to do them.
(_a_) DAILY WORK
The following is a list of daily work in an average house. Besides these things some piece of periodical work is done each day.
Fire made or made up. Shades rolled up; windows opened a few minutes; suggestions of yesterday removed. (In summer, veranda arranged.) Breakfast prepared, served and cleared away. Pantry and kitchen put in order. Menu made and orders given. Downstairs rooms put in order. Bedrooms put in order. Bathroom put in order. Accounts. Preparations for second and third meals. Second meal served and cleared away. Rest. Third meal prepared, served and cleared away.
Outside affairs usually decide the time at which these activities are performed. Meal hours in most cases depend on the work hours of some of the family, and on the meal hours depend the times when other things are done. Who shall do the work depends on the number of workers, the occupations which they have beside housework, and the periodical work of the day.
If there is one woman in the house, she must go through this list of things, doing each slightly or elaborately, as she is able and as they require. On the days when there is washing or sweeping or baking to do she will have to abbreviate other things. Upstairs and down she will merely put things in their places and remove visible dust; she will leave the table set until after luncheon, on washdays until after dinner; she will have planned the meals for this day the day before, and she will hurry all the work a little.
In a house where there is a mistress and a maid, the mistress will pick out from the daily work the things she wishes to do. She will perhaps set the table, put the house in order, plan the meals, go to market and make her accounts before luncheon. On washing and ironing days, if no extra person comes in to help, she will add to this the chamber-work and perhaps the washing of the breakfast dishes. Probably on those mornings she will not go to market.
When there are two maids in the house, the second will do the work suggested in the former case for the mistress on a washday, with the exception of the menu and the accounts, and with the addition of waiting on the table, washing the dishes, and some preparations for the meals which are not actual cooking.
When there is a third maid the upstairs part of the house will be her domain, and she will probably do some personal services for the mistress. In a large family she will help to wait on the table, and to wash the dinner dishes. After breakfast she will be busy with upstairs work and some sweeping, and after luncheon she will rest and dress and then answer the doorbell and the telephone during the time that the waitress is resting and dressing.
A fourth maid is usually a laundress, a fifth would do the rougher and simpler part of the kitchen work, and a sixth--but there, a housekeeper with five or six maids will not need suggestions from this book.
In households where there are several servants, their meals are added to the list of daily work. These come before those served to the family with sometimes the exception of dinner. When this exception is made, "tea" keeps the time between luncheon and dinner from being too long. It has always seemed to me that separate meals should be arranged for as soon as a family decide to keep a servant whose regular duty it is to wait on the table. A particularly tangible shadow lies upon a meal which is served by some one who after a long morning's work may be faint and hungry for the food she brings to you.
(_b_) PERIODICAL WORK
The following is a list of periodical work for an average house.
Washing. Ironing. Sorting and mending linen and clothes. Sweeping and dusting. Bread baking. Thorough cleaning of the kitchen. Cleaning garbage can, and surroundings. Cleaning refrigerator and food receptacles. Arrangements for days out. Preparations for Saturday and Sunday.
* * * * *
Polishing furniture and floors. Cleaning silver. Cleaning of linen closet and others. Care of cellar.
When can these things be done, and who is to do them?
We will consider the laundry work first. This should be the periodical work for two days of the week; if it runs over it crowds other things, and indicates that the wash is larger than we may have it with the present number and quality of workers. On the days devoted to laundry work, the daily work should be as brief and the meals as simple as possible. Of course, when there is a woman in the house, or who comes into the house especially to do washing and ironing, the usual schedule can be adhered to.
The day on which the washing is done is a matter of choice. It is traditional to wash on Monday, but some people say that Tuesday is better. If a woman comes in to do the washing it must be done when she can come. The advocates of washing on Monday say that as it is the longest and heaviest weekly job, it is best got out of the way as early in the week as possible; that the work of the week seems to wait round until the laundry work is finished; they say, too, that it is easier to wash on Monday because other people are washing.
The advocates of Tuesday say that as more of the family are at home on Sunday and as the regular clearing up is not done, the house needs especial attention on Monday; also, that they do not like putting clothes to soak the last thing Sunday night.
If circumstances leave one free to choose the day, it is as well to try each long enough to get used to it, and then to decide on the one which proves easiest for every one concerned.
In the household with one maid, the mistress should help on the days the laundry is done with the daily work and in some cases with the laundry itself. In the two-maid household, the cook washes, the waitress assists, and the mistress frequently does some of the daily work. In the three-maid household it is possible for each to do her usual part of the daily work and give some assistance with the laundry.
The sorting and mending of the clean clothes is the work of the mistress or of an upstairs maid. The sorting should be done when the wash is finished. The mending, if heavy, often has to wait for odd times.
The next heaviest periodical work to the washing is the weekly cleaning. In a household with two maids or less, the cleaning should not be the periodical work on more than two days, one for upstairs, one for down. The living room and the dining room will probably have to be thoroughly cleaned each week, but the other rooms can usually be done in alternate weeks with the help of the daily setting in order and the careful use of a sweeper two or three times in the interval. It is more immaculate and more agreeable to have all the rooms thoroughly cleaned each week, but in a fairly large house with two women to do the work this ideal may become a grievous burden.
In houses in which there is an ample number of servants, the cleaning of the downstairs rooms, daily and periodical, is often done before breakfast. It is the ideal way of accomplishing this disturbing and uncomfortable job, but it cannot be so done unless there are enough workers in the house to divide the work into distinct departments.
Baking, cleaning the refrigerator and food receptacles, cleaning the kitchen and looking after the garbage can is the work of the cook. If there is another maid in the house, the cook has the four days of the week not used for the laundry work when she may do these things. If she is the maid-of-all-work, she will have the two days left from the laundry and sweeping in which to do them and many others.
Bread baking is usually done twice or three times a week. Cake baking, nowadays, is an irregular performance. As making bread is not a day's work, it can be combined with other pieces of work, preferably with those which are done in the kitchen. It combines nicely with cleaning the refrigerator and food receptacles because one of these is for bread and should be perfectly fresh for the new batch. A careful housewife sometimes makes the cleaning of the refrigerator her own work, but even so, she will appoint a time for doing it. A good refrigerator need be cleaned only once or twice a week, a poor one may have to be done oftener.
A garbage can should be cleaned as often as it is emptied, and should with its surroundings be watched all the time, lest the cover is left off or any scraps or splashes are left outside to draw flies and make disagreeable odours.
A kitchen in which much work is done needs a thorough weekly cleaning. People are apt to do this on Saturday, but there will be many households in which it will be unwise to do so. If the master of the house has a half holiday on Saturday, and the mistress of the house does the housework, the work of Saturday morning must be only the daily work and such preparations as will leave Saturday afternoon and Sunday as free from work as possible. Some extra cooking, marketing and menu making, some adornment of the house and laying out of fresh table linen will be desirable and necessary; but kitchen cleaning, the changing of bed linen, or the making up of weekly accounts, should be appointed for some other day in the week.
If the housewife has servants to help her, she can have more work done on Saturday, but even then, she will guard against having things done which make the house seem unrestful, or which occupy her.
Arrangements for "days out" are merely adjustments by which one person's work is done by others. If there is one maid, the mistress takes her place; if two, one does the necessary work of both, the mistress helping a little. For the day a maid goes out no periodical work belonging to her department must be appointed. "Sundays out," like the days, are merely an adjustment of duties to allow for fewer workers.
Some of the periodical work is much more occasional than that already mentioned. This must be fitted in, sometimes by leaving more frequent work undone for one day, but usually by appointing it for a day when there happens to be a little less to do than usual. The silver, for instance, usually need not be done more than once a fortnight or once a month, and can be fitted into a morning when there is no sweeping, or into a rainy Monday. Other infrequent work can be managed in the same way.
In simple households a detailed written schedule is not necessary perhaps nor desirable, unless it be for periodical work and the "days out." For these a schedule like the one herewith might be made. This one is for two maids and includes some infrequent work.
+--------+--------+--------+----------+--------+----------+---------+--------+ | | _Mond._| _Tues._| _Wed._ |_Thurs._| _Fri._ | _Sat._ | _Sun._ | |--------+--------+--------+----------+--------+----------+---------+--------| |COOK | Washing| Ironing| Bake | Day | Put | Bake | Sunday | | | | | Clean | out | cellar | Clean | out | | | | |refrig., | | in | kitchen | | | | | |etc. Take | | order | | | | | | |waitress's| | | | | | | | | work | | | | | |--------+--------+--------+----------+--------+----------+---------+--------| |WAITRESS| Washing| Ironing| Day out | Sweep | Sweep | Clean | Take | | | | | |upstairs|downstairs| silver | cook's | | | | | | | | | work | |--------+--------+--------+----------+--------+----------+---------+--------| |MISTRESS| Help | Help |Sort and | Help | Help | Get out | Help | | | a | a |mend wash | with | a | clean | with | | | little | little |Help with | work | little | linen | work | | | | | work | | | and set | | | | | | | | | closet | | | | | | | | | in order| | +--------+--------+--------+----------+--------+----------+---------+--------+
[*Transcriber's Note: Days of the week were abbreviated by the transcriber to make the table more narrow.]
(_c_) SOME GENERAL PRINCIPLES
One or two general remarks about schedules are necessary before the subject can be closed.
As far as possible heavy, dirty work should be done in the morning, the workers are more able to do it then, and besides, the cook does not wish to do such things when getting the dinner, nor the waitress when she should be dressed for the afternoon, nor the mistress at the social time of the day.
In making a work schedule, a savings fund is as necessary as in making a plan of expenditure. If every one in the house is doing as much as is possible, there is no allowance for accident, or illness, or unexpected demands. A little strength which is not nerves should be left in you and in your handmaidens at the end of the day. Housework extends over an exceedingly long day. At present, the only way to remedy this seems to be to arrange that each worker get a little rest some time in the day. I have put this as a necessary item in the table of daily work.
If no savings fund of strength is possible, more workers are needed, or better workers; or, if this is impossible, the style of living should be modified until it is appropriate to the force of workers.
The schedule is not the important thing, but the work; and there are things more important even than the work. For instance, a reasonable degree of liberty for the whole household.
The family, unless they take part in the work, should not be conscious of the work schedule. It is a framework to be carefully draped; a new kind of family skeleton to be kept in the closet as carefully as the old kind. It is necessary because it makes easy, natural regularity possible, and without it, as we have said, there is neither character, nor peace, nor mutual service in a home.
The housework must be done--well and regularly done--and to accomplish this, days must be alike, and weeks must be alike, and months and years alike. But they must be as the leaves on a tree are--alike to the casual glance, yet really somewhat different because capable of infinite adaptability.
THE time and strength necessary for housework, and the comfort and happiness resulting from the work depend much upon something which housekeepers have to a great extent the power to control. I mean the quantity and kind of things they have in their houses.
Much time and money and weary labour would be saved, much comfort and loveliness would be gained if we could persuade ourselves to follow William Morris's rule:
"Have nothing in your rooms which you do not think to be beautiful and know to be useful."
Were this rule suddenly put in practice, what a bundling out of rubbish would ensue. A Bonfire of Vanities would rise in no time, built of little tables and pedestals, cushions and bows, curtains, vases, pictures that no future generations would call us vandals for destroying, fringes and ruffles, souvenirs of travel, broken and mended objects from the top shelves of closets, bronze and china statuettes, and that whole miserable race of blotters which do not blot, book-racks which faint under the weight of books, pen-wipers which would be insulted if they were inked, collapsible waste-baskets always in a state of collapse, holders that hold nothing, cases that fit nothing, impervious pin cushions!
May the smoke of them ascend!
One would think that this rule of use and beauty were austere enough, yet many people, before they acquire even a useful or a beautiful object, must consider whether there is room for it in their home, whether the members of the household have time and strength to take care of it, and whether it is appropriate to their possessions and to their way of living.
The amount of space we have about us seriously effects our health of body and mind. The more furniture there is in a room, the less air space there is. The sense of oppression one feels in a room crowded with furniture is not imagination, there is literally much less air to breathe. It is also not merely an idea that a house full of ornaments and pictures is not restful to live in. One knows what matchless weariness results from hours spent in a museum; it is caused by continually readjusting one's eyes, and thoughts, and emotions to an endless succession of things. A room crowded with ornaments and pictures is a miniature museum. With familiarity one may cease to see the individual objects the room contains, but this is indifference, not peace.
Those who have not done housework with their own brains and bodies cannot realize how many thousands of times every object in a house has to be touched and moved merely for the sake of cleanliness and order. It seems a small matter whether there are six pictures in a room or eight, whether flower vases are kept in the china closet or on the tops of book shelves and tables, whether there are five little fal-lals on a mantelshelf or twenty-five; but I hardly think it is a small matter whether a woman spend a half-hour with her children, or out of doors, or reading a book, or spends it in dusting tormenting trifles. These considerations are equally important when the work is done by maids; there are always enough useful things to do in a house to fill reasonable work hours.
One must ask, then, even when a useful or beautiful object is in question, Have I room for it? and, Is it worth the time and strength needed to care for it? And then one more question: Is this thing I desire suitable? That is, will it make the rest of the furniture which cannot now be renewed look shabby? Shall I feel that it is too good for the sun to shine upon, or the family to use? Will it set up a standard which I cannot keep up to without feverish effort?
In order to select or to weed out possessions in a reasonable way, attachments have to be kept in check; one must keep in mind that the family are more worthy of regard than the family chairs, and one must have such respect for oneself as a spiritual and intellectual creature that one will not fall in love with a silver-service or a set of ancient plates. I can think of few things more humiliating than the fact that families can be divided by old furniture; that sisters can be estranged by silver sugar-tongs; that lives can be spoiled, hearts broken and fortunes spent in the service of possessions which should exist only for the temporary comfort and happiness of their owners.
All this does not mean that our homes should be bare as hospitals, and ugly as barracks, and that, if the furniture is shabby, we ought not to have the one beautiful picture, or the good piano, or the hoard of books, which may be the treasure of the family. Nor does it mean that we ought not to love our household goods.
We want our homes as complete in comforts and appliances as we can reasonably afford. We want them lovely to look at. And we shall be all the better if we have an affection for every stick they contain. Scrooge hugged his own bed-curtains, because the sight of them assured him that he was at home. For the same reason we love the things we live with, and the place where we live. We like to come back after an absence and find the same things in the same places, and get an extra welcome from every one of them.
This is incidentally an argument against frequently changing the arrangement of the furniture, as some housewives think it economical and diverting to do. Such changes destroy that settled, established look which is homelike, and very comfortable to live with. Do you know about the man who was not afraid of burglars when he got up at night, but was awfully afraid of bureaus and rocking-chairs which his wife found a new place for every week?
We naturally become attached to things which we like, and which we have taken thought to get, and which we have looked after year after year. Heirlooms are the result of such care and affection and companionship continuing year after year, generation after generation until the objects on which this care has been expended seem to become a part of ourselves and our lives, until they seem to have absorbed some of the personality and affection of those who no longer dwell with them, nor with us.
But when possessions begin to seem something more than tables and tea-cups and silver spoons, have a care--they're not.
CARE OF FITTINGS AND FURNITURE
EVERY house contains a great variety of objects and substances. If these are to be kept clean and in good condition, one must know what they are and what to do for them.
_The Ceiling._--In the first place each room has a ceiling. Ceilings are usually plain and light coloured, because they are not easy to look at and because they are reflectors. They are not ornamented on account of our necks; they are not made dark coloured on account of the light bills.
Ceilings for the most part need little care. When the room is cleaned, they should be wiped, either with a long-handled mop with a wool head--dry--or with a broom in a bag. The former is harder to get but is better, because the combined length of the ordinary broom and the ordinary woman is not usually enough to reach the ceiling effectually and without strain. Besides, many brooms are too heavy to use above one's head. Such wiping nicely done is all the regular care a ceiling needs, whether it is whitewashed or frescoed.
_The Walls._--Walls are panelled, or painted, or calcimined, or covered with fabric or paper. Wood, paint and calcimine are considered cleaner than other coverings, but all can be kept up to an ordinary standard of cleanliness.
Panelling should be carefully wiped with the wool-headed mop used for the ceiling, or with a cloth where it is within reach. If the wood is dark and polished, it may now and again be rubbed with a little good furniture polish; if it is light or unpolished it is better to content oneself with wiping off the dust.
Fabric-covered walls should be cleaned once or twice a year with a vacuum cleaner. If this is not possible, they may be as often brushed. This must not be done violently, but carefully, and preferably with a hair broom--a white hair broom such as one uses for clothes, if the wall covering is especially handsome or delicate in colour.
Painted walls may be wiped with a dry or dampened mop, or they may be washed with soap and water, or even with disinfectant, should this happen to be desirable.
Calcimined walls may be wiped only with a soft mop, or very gently with a broom in a bag. Mop or broom bag must often be shaken out of the window, otherwise the walls will be smirched or clouded. Very little in the way of restoration or cleaning should be attempted with calcimine, for it almost invariably makes a bad matter worse. Spots such as are made by hands or heads can sometimes be removed by rubbing them with a piece of dry bread, or with some corn meal. It is safe to experiment with any _dry_ remedy; but a wet remedy will always fail. Even calcimine itself, put over a spot or a scar, will leave a mark.
Papered walls may be wiped with a dry mop, or a broom in a bag. They are not as easily smirched as calcimine, but one must frequently shake out of doors, or else change any brush or cloth used for wiping walls.
If you need a reason for wiping walls and ceilings, look at the mop or the cover of the broom with which you have done the work. Dirt is the enemy of health and loveliness.
_Woodwork._--When woodwork is cleaned, all cracks, ornaments and irregularities should first be gone over with a small, soft brush. A flat brush such as is used for varnishing is good.
If the woodwork is not polished, it should next be carefully--that is, every inch of it--wiped and rubbed with a soft, dry cloth, or if the room is exceedingly dusty, with a cloth very slightly dampened. Any sort of oil, or polish, or even water is apt to darken or spot unpolished wood. In the case of baseboards and window ledges, however, a little dressing of some kind should occasionally be rubbed into them, for they have to be defended from dampness in the one case, and hard usage in the second. A little of the polish used for floors will do very well for this purpose.
If woodwork is polished, the dust should be wiped off after the cracks have been cleaned with the little brush. It should then be rubbed briskly with a flannel or soft cotton cloth dampened with good furniture polish. Kerosene, which is usually at hand, is inexpensive and excellent for this and other purposes of the kind. But use this or polish sparingly.
Painted woodwork should ordinarily be dusted with a little brush and then wiped just as if it were hard wood. Once in a while, it should be wiped with slightly warm suds made with mild soap. It should not be soaped nor made very wet, and should be wiped dry as soon as it is washed. Spots which will not yield to this cleaning can be removed with alcohol or kerosene.
_Floors._--Some people will tell you that uncarpeted floors are a great deal of trouble, and some will say that they are very little. Perhaps part of the trouble which they seem to give is due to the fact that people keep their floors cleaner than their carpets. Dust _shows_, as we say, on a bare floor; it lies under furniture and blows about in fluffs. If the floor is carpeted, that very same dust, also the dust of other days when no sweeping is done, sinks into the carpet and assists in making colds and throat disorders and a stuffy smell. If we really minded dust, we would mind it just as much buried in the carpet as rolling round in fluffs. But we don't mind dust, we mind being thought dusty. If we have the same standard of cleanliness for the carpet as for the floor, the floor is the easier to care for.
Uncarpeted floors are usually finished with oil, shellac, stain, wax or some other smooth, preservative substance. Floors thus finished require three kinds of care; refinishing, polishing and dusting.
_Dusting._--Dusting should be done, if possible, every day. It does not require much time or strength. With a good mop or a broom in a bag, floors can be as quickly and lightly dusted as polished desks or tables.
_Polishing._--The frequency with which floors require polishing depends on the finish, the amount of wear, and the standard of appearance required. Some people polish them once a week, some once a fortnight, some once a month; others have their floors refinished twice a year and do nothing to them in the intervals except dust them.
Waxed floors are polished differently from those finished with oil or shellac.
To polish a waxed floor, first remove all dust with a hair broom, a wool mop, or a broom in a bag. Then rub carefully and energetically every inch of the floor with a heavy polisher until the polish is restored. The best polishers are costly, but others, less expensive, are made of strips of felt or chamois. They can also be home-made from a block of heavy wood with a hole bored diagonally in the top large enough to hold an old broom handle or a mop-stick. The bottom of the block must have several thicknesses of heavy material tacked over it. Old flannel, old bath towels, and old carpet are good for this purpose.
Floors not finished with wax are polished with oil or some patent polish. Many patent mixtures for this purpose are exceedingly good. Besides these, two parts linseed oil to one part kerosene is a good polish; also one-half turpentine to one-half crude oil. Kerosene used by itself both cleans and polishes floors, but its odour is an objection to its use.
As in the cases of the waxed floor, all dust must be removed before the polishing begins. When this is accomplished, rub the floor with a soft thick cloth dampened with polish. There should always be much rubbing and little oil. A quart of floor polish should last months. If by mistake too much oil is applied, rub the floor again with a dry cloth. When finished, it should feel smooth to the hand, not oily.
If oily cloths are kept from one time to another, they should not be shut up closely in a box or closet for they are liable to spontaneous combustion.
_Refinishing._--Floors are refinished by receiving a new coat of finish. Before this is put on, the floors should be thoroughly cleaned. This cleaning is well done with sandpaper and turpentine. Every board must be rubbed in the direction of the grain until it is entirely smooth and clean. After this the floor should be wiped with a dry cloth, and the finish applied and polished.
When it is necessary or desirable to wash a hardwood floor, it should be done just before refinishing and with tepid water, soap that would not hurt hands nor lace and a cloth well wrung out before it is applied to the floor. Water is injurious to polished floors of any kind, and to waxed floors especially.
If a floor receives hard wear in one or two places, or if something hurtful is spilled upon it, it may be necessary to refinish these places when the remainder of the floor does not need it. In such cases a few square feet can be done just as a whole floor is done. The final polishing will keep the place from looking like a patch.
_Rugs and Carpets._--Carpets tacked down close to the walls are not as clean as loose floor covering, and they are the chief cause of the fearful misery called house cleaning. Every other act necessary to the cleanliness of a house can be done without turning it upside down and driving the family to the club or the tavern except--taking up carpets. Rugs can be gathered up and taken to the lawn or the roof to be cleaned. The walls and floor of a room can be wiped within an hour. Windows can be washed and furniture and brasses polished with people sitting undisturbed in the room where it is being done.
Before the possibility of unobtrusive cleaning had dawned on me, I was once making a visit in a large city house. My surprise was almost painful when I saw a man cleaning the windows in the drawing room only an hour before an afternoon reception. It did not mean that they had been forgotten, or that the house was carelessly run--far from it--it was merely the day for window cleaning and the man whose business it was to do it went from room to room and cleaned them, making no disturbance and leaving no trace.
I make my protest against carpets for the reason that it is impossible to clean them in an unobtrusive way, and because they are the inspiring evil genius of cleaning done with _emphasis_--done, not for the sake of health and happiness, but for the sake of appearing to be a particular housekeeper.
Nonetheless, if we have carpets they must be cared for. Before the sweeping is begun, something should be scattered over the carpet to keep the dust down. Some of the things used for this purpose are damp tea leaves, sawdust, bran, corn meal, and shreds of newspaper. There are also patent substances for the purpose. One must be careful that these things mentioned are _damp_, not wet. Tea leaves should be wrung out hard before they are scattered, and never used on any delicately coloured carpet. Newspaper also is not safe for very delicate colours.
Any of these substances may be used in sweeping a tiled or painted floor; and any for an unpainted wooden floor except tea leaves.
When preparing to sweep, make the room as light as possible. Sweep the cracks along the walls and the edges of the carpet first, then sweep as much of the room as possible in the same direction, that direction being with the nap of the carpet, not against it. Sweep with short, light strokes--it is sweeping, not digging. When the dust is gathered into as small a pile as possible, take it up in a dustpan.
After sweeping it is good to wipe the carpet with a cloth wrung out of warm, soapy water in which is a little ammonia. Turpentine is even better than ammonia for carpets, but not for hands. Do not wet the carpet, wipe it lightly and quickly, rinsing the cloth often, but wringing it out hard.
One can to some extent combine this wiping process with sweeping by dipping one's broom now and then in water in which there is a little salt, ammonia or turpentine. Shake the broom lightly before applying it to the carpet, or the first stroke will leave a wet spot. Salt, ammonia and turpentine brighten the colours of a carpet, and the latter two are objectionable to moths. It is better not to dampen carpets in any way on rainy or humid days.
Rugs, when they cannot be carried out of the room, may be swept according to the directions for carpets and then rolled up, or folded round some piece of furniture difficult to move, until the floor has been cared for. The pleasantest and best way to clean rugs, however, is to take them out of doors and beat them on the grass or on a clothes line. Beat them with a furniture beater, or light cane, or stick, first on one side then on the other, then lay flat and brush the surface with a broom. Beating is better than shaking, both for the rug and for the shaker. When they are shaken, however, it is advisable to hold them by the side instead of the end; they are then less likely to tear or ravel.
Matting should be swept with especial care for cracks and edges, and crosswise of the breadths as far as possible. It should be wiped occasionally with salt and water, which cleans it and keeps it from becoming brittle. Many people prefer to use a hair broom for sweeping matting.
_Shades and Curtains._--All the cleaning that shades need can be given them by drawing them down to their full length and dusting them first on one side then on the other with a short-handled mop, or a duster if you can reach the roller with it. The side next the window is the more dusty as it is the outside of the roll. When the shades have been dusted they should be rolled to the top of the window until the cleaning of the room is finished.
If they do not roll up tightly and at once, take the shade from the socket, roll it up evenly, then hold the flat piece of metal which projects from one end of the roller between your thumb and fingers and turn the roller round and round with the other hand until it is very hard to turn. See that the little ratchet has fitted into the notch for it in the piece you are holding, to prevent it from flying back when you let go. Then the shade is ready to be replaced in the sockets. Shades which fly up unexpectedly are wound up too tight.
Curtains should be shaken and brushed, with a whisk if they are of heavy material, with a softer brush if they are delicate. They should then be put in bags made for the purpose, or folded over the rod and covered with a dusting sheet until the room is clean.
_Furniture._--Upholstered furniture should if possible be put out on a veranda where it can be aired and brushed. If this is not possible it should be beaten or brushed when we are preparing the room for cleaning. All creases and tufting should be carefully explored with a whisk and the furniture afterward covered with a cloth until the other cleaning is finished. Furniture upholstered in leather should be wiped, not brushed, and occasionally rubbed with vinegar, and sweet oil--proportions, one tablespoonful vinegar to three of oil. In time this slightly darkens the colour of the leather, but it keeps it from cracking.
On regular cleaning days polished furniture should have its carvings and cracks brushed out with the paint brush used for the woodwork of the room, and should then be rubbed with a very soft cloth. About once a month--oftener if the wear is hard, less often if it is easy--it should be rubbed with a good polish. The old furniture in France has usually been rubbed for generations with sweet oil and vinegar, in the proportions given above for leather furniture; probably few things are better. Two of the polishes suggested for floors, are equally good for furniture:
½ turpentine to ½ crude oil.
1 part kerosene to 2 parts linseed oil.
Also, equal parts turpentine, linseed oil and vinegar.
I believe that the best care an amateur can give to a very highly polished piece of furniture like a piano, is to wash it, when it becomes clouded, with luke-warm soapsuds. The soap should be mild, good soap. Wash a bit of the furniture at a time and dry it carefully, using very soft cloths; when it has all been dried, polish it with chamois and as much energy as you can conscientiously spare.
If painted furniture looks dingy, rub it with a little kerosene. Kerosene will usually remove spots from painted furniture--finger-marks from white enamelled beds, for instance.
_Windows._--The woodwork of windows should be brushed and wiped free from dust before the washing of the glass begins. It is better not to use soap for washing windows or glass of any kind; it sometimes clouds it, sometimes gives it a blue tinge. Put ammonia or borax in the water used, or else rub the glass with whiting, or a scouring soap which is not gritty. If one of these, or whiting, is used, it should be allowed to dry and should then be rubbed off with a dry cloth or a newspaper until the glass shines. Newspaper is as good as anything you can get for polishing windows. There is nothing especial to say about cleaning windows with water except wash the panes clean and dry them dry, one at a time, beginning with those nearest the top of the sash. Do not try to wash all the windows in a house with a pint of water and a wristband, but the opposite extreme is as bad--worse for your dwelling. Any method of cleaning windows by dashing quantities of water on the panes, breaks the putty, loosens the glass, spoils the paint on the woodwork and soaks the wood itself with water.
Mirrors should not be wet. Fly-specks and finger-marks can be removed with a damp cloth or alcohol, and the mirror polished with whiting and chamois.
Pictures, also, should not be wet. The frames and backs may be brushed and wiped, and the glass cleaned with a damp cloth or with a little alcohol.
_Brass._--Brasses, such as andirons, lamps, jardinières, candlesticks, sconces and the like must be divided into two classes for cleaning. Those things which are lacquered must only be washed and then polished with flannel or chamois. Any sort of cleaning other than this will soon remove the lacquer entirely. Unlacquered brass may be polished as energetically and severely as any substance in the house.
Wood ashes are a good brass polish, especially pine ashes.
The bath-brick with which people clean knives will also clean brass.
An old coloured woman, who lived with me once, polished the andirons with salt and vinegar.
These things are not as quick or as easy to use as many patent brass cleaners which one can buy nowadays. It is just as well, however, to know what one could do if separated from modern conveniences.
_Tiles._--Glazed tiles may be wiped with a cloth wrung out of warm soapsuds, but water should not be put directly upon them. It tends to soften the cement in which they are laid. Unglazed tiles are restored to colour and cleanliness by a rubbing with linseed oil.
_Lamps._--Lamps used every night need care every day. They should be kept full of oil for two reasons. One is, that if we then happen to use them for an unusually long time they will not burn out; the other, is, that if a lamp is full of oil no space is left for vapours rising from the oil, which otherwise may become compressed in the bowl and ignite when a match is applied to the wick. If there is a little screw-topped opening in the lamp where it can be filled without unscrewing the burner, use that opening for filling it. The burner should not be unscrewed unless it must be. Great care should be taken not to fill lamps too full; the level of the oil should be just below the lower side of the little opening, otherwise the oil will ooze out on the lamp and catch dust and give off a disagreeable odour.
It is better to _rub_ off the hard burned crust of a wick than to cut it off. This leaves the wick more even and wastes it less. When it has been rubbed smooth and soft, see that it turns up and down easily and, if a round wick, that it is even. A flat wick should be slightly rounded, the middle being the highest point, like this diacritic ˘, not this ̑ one. To be perfectly sure, light the lamp for a moment, put on the chimney, and if the flame is not the right shape alter the wick. When this is finished, wipe the burner inside and out, above and below, as carefully as possible. An old water-colour brush is good for cleaning intricate burners.
The time when a lamp needs a new wick is a good time to boil the burner. Remove the old wick and put the burner into some receptacle not used for food, with water and washing-soda: one teaspoonful soda to one quart water. Then boil it well. This is a good thing to do whenever a lamp smells or gives a poor light. If a new wick and a boiled burner do not help the matter, either the oil is poor or a new burner is necessary.
If a new lampwick is a little too wide for a burner, draw out two or three strands at one side. A wick should fill the opening for it, however, quite closely, especially if it has not yet been wet.
One should have a special place for cleaning lamps, and for keeping the oil and everything else used in their care. Nothing used for lamp cleaning or for applying kerosene should be used for any other purpose. Newspaper is good for cleaning lamps because when the work is finished it can be burned. It can be used to protect the table on which the cleaning is done, wicks can be rubbed and lamps wiped with it, and nothing cleans chimneys so well. Chimneys polished with newspapers rarely have to be washed. Washing is not good for them, it clouds them and makes them break more easily.
The catches which hold the chimney must not press very tightly, for this breaks the expanding glass; they must, though, be tight enough to keep the chimney from falling if the lamp is moved.
When a lamp is put in its place ready for lighting, the wick should be just visible above the socket in which it moves. It should be lighted while still at this level, then turned higher when the chimney has had time to heat. When the light is to be put out, turn the wick down until it disappears into the socket. This keeps the wick from smoking and thereby smelling. Turning a wick down, however, does not always put out the flame; be sure that it is out before leaving the lamp for the night.
_Plants._--It seems not unreasonable to say that plants should not occupy the most agreeable windows of the living room, nor prevent the proper airing of the house in winter. This does not happen as often as it used to, but it does occasionally even now. In very few houses is there room for more than three or four plants, if it is remembered that the family have the first right to the light, and air, and window space.
There is also the consideration that few plants can receive better care than many. House plants ought to be immaculate. They should be in neat pots standing in saucers or jardinières, and should have all withered or unsightly leaves removed and the other leaves kept free from dust. If this is not done, they become that greatest eyesore, a degenerated ornament.
They should be put in a bathtub or sink when the rooms are cleaned, and sprayed and sponged and soaked. This helps to offset their unnatural life in warm, dry rooms. Plants thrive on attention. They love to be stirred, and watered, and sponged, and petted, and made much of. If we have only a few, we can treat them in this way, to their pleasure and our own.
_The Process._--We have spoken of the substances which more usually require the care of the housekeeper outside the kitchen and pantry, and of ways in which they can be cared for. It will be well now to describe the order in which cleaning is done, and to say a word about the appliances used.
The first thing when cleaning is to be done is to gather the appliances needed for the work. If possible one should have a broom closet in which all the objects used in cleaning can be kept, then no time is wasted in hunting them up. Two rows of hooks, one high and one low, in some secluded spot will do instead of a closet.
I do not say that one cannot clean a room with merely a broom and a duster. One can sweep everything with the broom, dust everything with the duster, and take the dust up on a newspaper. Good appliances, however, make work more thorough, more easy, and more interesting. Those which I suggest here are merely such as I know to be useful. As a woman learns her work and becomes more and more interested in it she will choose and invent appliances for herself.
[Illustration: Photograph by Helen W. Cooke
The Broom Closet]
The following are the things I like to have to clean with:
A short step-ladder, not heavy. A wool mop head with two handles, one long, one short. A hair broom. A mop handle with two heavy floor cloths. A broom of medium weight, with a slim handle. A furniture beater. A long-handled dust pan. A flat paint brush. A whisk. A piece of chamois skin. Two cheese-cloth dusters, one damp, one dry. Two flannel dusters. Several dusting sheets.
Dusters and dusting sheets can be made of very inexpensive or old material, and they are things in which it is well not to stint oneself.
Wool-headed mops are usually called, in shops, piano dusters, but why should pianos have a monopoly of anything so comfortable and convenient? They are rather expensive but they last a long time, and can be washed perfectly clean. One can get along with one head and two handles, if necessary, by dusting the high things first, using the long handle, then the lower things and the floor, using the short handle. After this the head must be washed, for the floors will make it too dirty to use for walls. Wool gathers and holds dust more than any other substance I know.
Other appliances which are used for wiping walls and floors are string mops, broom bags, and heavy cloths attached to a mop handle. String mops scatter lint and it is impossible to wash them entirely clean. Broom bags are good because they can be washed easily, and because they make a broom into a combination appliance useful either for sweeping or wiping. They are said to be better made with a ruffle. Mop handles with attachments to hold the cloths are easily obtainable and much better for all purposes than string mops. In choosing one, see that the attachment is neither heavy nor intricate. Cloths can be easily attached to a mop stick if a deep groove is cut in the stick two or three inches from the end. Hold the stick with the grooved end up. Lay over it two or three heavy cloths--in the way one would put an unfolded handkerchief over the end of one's finger. Draw them down and tie a string tightly round them in the groove. Then reverse the handle and the mop is ready for use. Patent handles are better than this homely contrivance in all but one respect: in using them one must guard against striking furniture or baseboards with the metal piece which holds the cloth.
Here are a few important principles of cleaning.
1. Prepare the place which is to be cleaned.
2. Begin at the top. A house is cleaned from garret to cellar, a room from ceiling to floor, a staircase from top to bottom.
3. Do not flap round with a cloth or a feather duster. The object of cleaning is to remove dust, getting as little into the air as possible.
4. All necessary shaking and brushing must be done before the floor is cleaned; afterward, only _wiping_ should be done.
We will now go over the process of cleaning a room as if we were prompting ourselves for the actual work.
Remove the plants to the sink.
Remove and carefully dust the ornaments, putting them on a tray which can be carried into an adjoining room, or put them on a stationary piece of furniture, which has been dusted to receive them, and cover with a dusting sheet.
Shut the doors into adjoining rooms.
Open the windows.
Dust the shades and roll to the top of the windows.
Shake, brush and cover the curtains.
Remove the upholstered furniture and rugs if possible.
If not, brush the furniture and cover it, sweep and roll the rugs.
If there is a fireplace in the room remove the ashes and lay the fire.
Wipe the ceiling, walls, woodwork, light fixtures and pictures.
Wipe the floor, not forgetting the baseboards, or sweep the carpet.
Whatever is done to the floor is the climax of the cleaning. After that we restore the room to order. This is the period when everything should be done by wiping.
Clean rugs and furniture which have been put outdoors.
Wipe furniture, mirrors, picture-glasses, windows and tiles.
Restore the rugs, furniture and ornaments to their places.
Bits of special cleaning like polishing brasses, washing windows, caring for lamps, and the like are best done at some other time than that appointed for cleaning the room. If these jobs are included, they make the regular cleaning too heavy and too long.
This process has been written out as if the work were to be done by one person, which frequently is not the case. It is the logical order of the work, however, whatever the number of workers. The outline of the process is this:
First all brushing and dusting--everything which gets dust off other things on to the floor.
Then the cleaning of the floor.
Then wiping away all dust made by the cleaning and restoring order.
One cannot effectually do this or any housework with one's mind on something else. The processes are intricate and logical and require thoughtful organization beforehand, and intense attention at the moment. If we can think about our neighbours, or brood over our grievances while we are cleaning, we can be quite sure that we have not done the work as well nor as quickly as we could.
"UPSTAIRS work" is, I believe a colloquialism for making beds, tidying bedrooms, and caring for washstands and bathrooms.
_The Sequence._--A reasonable order for this work is the following:
Shut the door of the room unless the weather is warm.
Roll the shades to the top of the windows.
Open the windows top and bottom.
Open the closet doors.
Take the bedclothes from the bed and spread them across two chairs set far enough apart to keep the clothes from lying on the floor. Spread the lower sheet in a place by itself and remember which it is. Turn the mattress over the foot of the bed, or turn it up on edge.
Do these things in all the rooms which are to be cared for, carefully shutting the doors of each.
If there are washstands in the rooms, now remove the waste water and put the stands in order.
If there are not, make the beds, beginning with the one first opened.
Dust and put the rooms in order.
Put the bathroom in order.
If the bedrooms are on more than one floor, it is well to do a floor at a time, and the bathrooms after all the rooms are finished.
The upstairs work is then finished until the beds are opened and the rooms put in order for the night.
_The Description._--The first five actions in this order of work are done for the sake of letting as much light and air as possible into the rooms and the beds.
The washstands are put in order next because this gives the beds a longer time to air, and because it is desirable to get the waste water out of the rooms as soon as possible.
_Washstands._--For this work one needs a pail for waste water and a newspaper or some such thing for it to stand on; two cloths; a stiff brush; and some sort of soap or powder which has been found good for cleansing toilet china. Borax, ammonia and yellow soap are old standbys for this purpose. Where there is not running water, one must add to these a pail of water for rinsing. Many people think that the water for this purpose must be hot, but I have found that hot water tends to roughen and crack the glaze of toilet china, and to incline the articles used for waste water to give off an odour. When water is left in the pitchers it is well to use it for rinsing as this lessens the amount of water to be carried, and insures that the water in the pitchers is fresh each day.
Empty all the waste water into the pail brought for it. Pour a little clean water into each thing emptied. Do not use all the clean water for this first rinsing. With one of the cloths wipe the objects on the washstand which have not been wet; rinse, and with this same cloth dry the tooth mug, soap dish, pitchers and bowl. If one of the pitchers contains water you need, attend to it after the other china is finished. Wash the slop jar and chamber with the cleaning substance or soap and the stiff brush. Rinse them with the remaining clean water and dry them with the _other_ cloth. Never use for these articles the cloth which in the next room will be needed for the cleaner china. To have the two cloths of different materials helps the worker to remember this. Fill the pitchers with fresh water, carry away soiled towels, neatly spread or fold once used ones which are to be retained, and leave everything in its place.
The daily care of a stationary basin consists merely in washing or dusting the objects on the edge of the basin or on shelves over it, washing and drying the basin and the frame which holds it, and wiping dust from the pipes and fixtures underneath.
Whether the care of washstands is difficult or easy depends on the water used, and on whether the work is done nicely every day. In spite of daily care, very hard water will encrust the china. These encrustations can usually be removed after they have been soaked with vinegar for a few hours.
_Bed Making._--Making a bed is an art worth knowing, it gives such comfort.
If the spring or other parts of the bedstead need dusting, that should be done first, then the mattress replaced. This should be turned each day, sometimes from end to end, sometimes from side to side, and given as many thumps and punches as are needed to make it level and even with the springs.
If a pad or cover of any kind is needed over the mattress, that is put on first and spread very smoothly, or, if wide enough, it is drawn very tightly and tucked under the mattress.
Then put on the under sheet, right side up, with the hems at the top and bottom, the selvages at the sides and the middle crease in the middle of the bed. Turn the sheet smoothly under the mattress at the head and foot. In the case of the under sheet, this turn should be a few inches deeper at the head than at the foot; in the upper sheet the deeper turn should be made at the foot. The person who sleeps in the bed naturally pushes the under sheet down, and pulls the upper sheet up.
To fold the corners, stand at the foot or head of the bed. Keeping the fold even, hold the sheet straight out from the side of the bed. Put your other hand under the corner of the mattress and run it round on the fold of the sheet until the thumb is even with the upper edge of the mattress. Hold it there. Then fold smoothly under the mattress the part of the sheet you have held out and withdraw your hand which you will find is in a sort of little pocket. This is sometimes called a pie corner, and it is rather like the fold for a mitred corner in a hem. When finished, the under sheet should be tight stretched and smooth.
Spread the upper sheet on the bed wrong side up, then when the hem is turned back at the head of the bed, it will be right side out. Turn the sheet under at the foot twelve inches if possible. Turn the corners at the foot but do not turn the sides under nor the corners at the head. See that the sheet lies straight, and smooth out all wrinkles.
[Illustration: Photograph by Helen W. Cooke
Straight and Smooth]
Put on the blankets, their upper edges reaching to the place where you intend to make the backward fold in the sheet. Fold them under about twelve inches at the foot, not at all at the sides; smooth them carefully.
If two people sleep in a bed or if the blankets are narrow, put a single blanket on crosswise, placing one of the selvages even with the edge of the mattress at the foot of the bed, then the ends will hang some distance over the sides. Some people fold double blankets evenly, some prefer to fold them with one binding a good way below the other binding. This preference depends on whether one likes the upper part of the bed covering thick or thin, and also whether the blanket is long enough to turn under at the foot when folded evenly. The fold, not the bindings should be at the foot of the bed, in order that, if too warm, one thickness of the blanket can be easily thrown back.
When all the bedclothes are on, with the exception of the spread, turn back the edge of the upper sheet over the blankets, leaving about a foot of the under sheet exposed. Then fold all the coverings neatly under the mattress at the sides, drawing them smooth and straight.
The spread is put over the whole bed. It should hang over at the sides and foot, far enough to hide the mattress, springs and all under parts of the bed which are not of the same material or finish as the upper parts.
Bolsters are laid flat either under or over the spread at the head of the bed. They are not so invariably used as in times past.
If there is no bolster, two pillows are sometimes laid flat in its place, and two pillows set on edge upon them. If there is a bolster, the pillows are set edgewise upon it. They must be well beaten, smoothed and set up securely.
If shams are used they should be spread over the pillows and bolster as smoothly as possible. They are usually supported by tapes fastened across the upper corners of the shams on the wrong side, and slipped over the corners of the pillows.
In places where dust and smuts must be constantly guarded against, one must either use shams or else cover the pillows with the spread. This last is often not an agreeable arrangement to the eye, but it is better than smirched and dingy pillows.
Bed linen is changed according to the quantity of linen the housewife possesses, the amount of laundry she can have done, and her own taste in the matter. The common tradition is a sheet a week for each bed, and a pillowcase a week for each pillow regularly used. In this case, the upper sheet becomes the lower sheet during the second week of its wear. This change is made because it is more agreeable to have the cleaner linen nearest one's face, and turned out to view when the bed is opened for the night.
If you do not sleep long and soundly after reading this description of bed making, I am sure it isn't my fault.
When the bed has been made, the room should be put in order; clothes put in the closet and the closet door shut, the sweeper run over the rugs if needful, all visible dust removed, articles on bureaus and tables put in their accustomed places, all drawers tightly closed, faded flowers and burnt matches removed, and everything _straightened_. Then partly close the windows, draw the shades to the same level at each window, and go on to the next room.
In extremely damp or extremely cold weather, one may have to get along with less airing, but it should not be lessened except for grave cause. In some houses, it will be more convenient to make all the beds before doing any dusting. If there are people in the house who do not leave their rooms until after breakfast, or who wish to occupy them very soon after breakfast, such rooms will have to be done separately and later or earlier than the others.
In the evening, bedrooms should be prepared for the night. Waste water should be carried away, pitchers filled, washstands tidied and beds opened. Shams and spread are removed from each bed and neatly folded. Leaving the sheet folded over the other bedclothes as it is already, turn them all back until they make a straight wide fold across the bed a little above the middle. Then straighten the coverings at the sides and tuck them under the mattress again, making everything very neat and straight. Put the pillows on the bed as the person who occupies it likes to have them. This can sometimes be discovered by noticing in the morning how the pillows are placed, unless the person is so exemplary as to open his own bed for airing. If you are preparing the bed for a stranger put the bolster and pillows back on the bed and allow the guest to arrange them later.
The night clothes and wrapper belonging to the occupant of the room should be laid across the foot of the bed or over a chair, and bedroom slippers put beside them on the floor.
This part of the upstairs work adds exceedingly to the comfort of a family, but I think it is one of the things to be left undone in households where the work is heavy and the workers few.
_Bathroom._--The bathroom, like other rooms, needs some daily care and some periodical care.
Daily the stationary basin must be cared for as previously described.
The tub and its fixtures must be washed, and wiped entirely dry. For this it is good to have a stiff brush with a handle and a soft cloth. Both these conveniences should always be kept hanging on a hook near the tub. It is only common decency after one has used a bathtub to rinse and wipe it for the sake of the next person. If a brush and neat cloth are kept near the tub, the good-intentioned will find it easier to cleanse the tub, and the lazy will have less excuse for not doing it.
The wood and metal parts of the closet should be wiped, first with a damp cloth, then with a dry one. The china parts should be scrubbed thoroughly with soap and one of the long-handled brushes made for this purpose. When the scrubbing is finished, flush the closet and rinse it with the brush, then flush again. Leave the cover open. The bathroom should be thoroughly aired and as much sun as possible let in while the upstairs work is being done.
Once a week, or twice a week, the bathroom will need a more thorough cleaning. Wipe the ceiling and walls with water if the finish permits. If not, with a dry cloth or mop. Wash all the fixtures, the woodwork and the floor with soap and water, and carefully dry them. Do not forget the outsides of the tub and basin. If the fixtures are nickel, they should be polished when they really need it, not oftener, with some patent nickel polish or with whiting. The woodwork of the closet should be rubbed with oil, especially if the finish begins to be worn. This prevents the wood from absorbing impurities.
If there are rugs in the bathroom, they should be washed as soon as they show need. No rug which cannot be washed should be allowed in an ordinary bathroom.
Many people recommend flushing waste-pipes now and then with a strong hot solution of washing soda. The overflow pipes should be included in this performance. Good, new plumbing, however can probably be spared treatment of this sort.
[Illustration: Photograph by Helen W. Cooke
Air, Sun, and Water]
Bedrooms are cleaned every week or every fortnight in the same way that other rooms are. They are apt, however, to contain closets and these require some special care.
_Closets._--When a room is being prepared for cleaning, the floor and baseboards of the closet should be wiped with a dry mop or cloth--anything which will not make a dust--and the door tightly closed. Once in a while, before the cleaning of the room if there is time, if not, on some other day, the clothing should be removed from the closet, the walls wiped, and everything washed which can be,--hooks, wire hangers, the rods on which these hang, shelves and floor should be washed with water in which has been put a generous quantity of ammonia, borax or boracic acid. These things are not liked by the various small insects which annoy housewives. They also help to prevent mustiness and "close" odours. After the washing, everything should be carefully wiped dry, and as much light and air let into the closet as possible. The contents should not be put in again until this drying and airing is finished. Do not wash closets on a rainy or humid day. If they have a musty or unpleasant odour, a few drops of oil of lavender put on a shelf or on the floor will help to remove it. A little chloride of lime, poured into a saucer and set on the floor of the closet, will also remove odours. Little bags of lavender or rose-geranium leaves laid on closet shelves add much to the daintiness and freshness of the clothes kept there. The shelves should be covered with white paper cut, not folded, to fit the shelf. Folds afford harbourage for insects. Floors should be left without covering of any sort. Ideally, they are of hard wood like the floor of the room.
Clothes get more air, and are less creased and rumpled if they are hung on hangers suspended on a pole or wire, than when they are hung one piece on top of another on hooks fastened into the wall. Even in a wall closet, not more than ten inches deep, one gains space by stretching a strong wire from opposite hooks, and putting hangers on this. Four or five waists or dresses will hang without crushing on such a ten-inch wire. A closet with a shelf in it offers better hanging-space if hooks are put at intervals into the under side of the shelf. A hook like two J's, back to back, is made especially for this purpose.
* * * * *
It is well to give bedrooms a look of peacefulness. Some things which help in this are: perfect cleanliness, few decorations, few colours, a bed which looks like a bed, a regard for the occupant's wishes to have personal possessions one way rather than another, and something else--I have no name for it, but it is there because the housewife has wished, as she made the bed and arranged the room, that the person who sleeps there may have rest and quiet of heart.
She has folded into the sheets perhaps this prayer:
_And four great Angels guard this bed, Two at the foot and two at the head._
DINING-ROOM AND PANTRY WORK
THE dining room is put in order daily and cleaned periodically in the same way that the other rooms in the house are cared for. The daily care of this room, however, has to be a little more thoroughly and thoughtfully given. It should be noticeably neat, carefully aired, and a trifle cooler than a living room. Pure air and the restfulness of order are favourable and refining to appetite.
To allow fruit or any kind of food to stand in the dining room is a poor custom. Such things attract flies, create an odour of food in the room, and encourage the indulgent habit of eating bits now and then between meals.
The plant or flowers used on the table need a little care each day. Water in which flowers stand, quickly becomes discoloured enough to show dark against a white cloth, and soon gives off an unpleasant odour. Even when there is little time for looking after such things, one can take the flowers out, holding them in position, quickly clip off the ends of the stems and the leaves that are wet, and put them back into fresh water. A plant should be watered each day and have dust and withered leaves removed from it.
The hours for meals should be times of rest and social pleasure, they cannot be if disagreeable sights, sounds, or smells accompany them. Keep the dining room neat, aired and cool. In a clean, well-kept room there will be less fault-finding, scolding and gloom than in a neglected one. Such a room will also help people to be agreeable, attentive and interesting, in harmony with their surroundings.
_The Table._--If the dining table has a polished top it will need special and frequent care. Some people prefer a table of which the top is a plain white wood because it does not need special care. Such a table must of course be kept covered with a linen cloth at meals and a table cover at other times.
A polished table must be constantly guarded from heat and scratches, and must be polished at regular intervals. Where very hot dishes are to be placed the table should have added to the usual protection of an undercloth the further protection of asbestos or basketwork mats. These can be hidden, if you wish, with linen carving cloths or doilies.
Rub the table briskly for a few moments every day with a soft cloth or a piece of chamois skin. About once a week polish it more carefully. Before either of these performances remove any stickiness or greasiness with a damp cloth.
The mixture of sweet oil and vinegar recommended for furniture is excellent for a table. (1 tablespoonful of vinegar to 3 of sweet oil.) A mixture of equal parts sweet oil and turpentine is also good. Rub the table thoroughly with a soft cloth dampened with the mixture, then rub it with a clean cloth.
Dull spots occasionally appear even on the most carefully guarded tables. Long and frequent polishing will sometimes remove these. If the finish is seriously injured, however, amateur efforts to restore it are more likely to make it worse than better.
On account of frequent rubbing and unavoidable wear, the table-leaves in use should often be changed for those not in use, the whole table will then be of the same colour and in the same condition.
_Table Setting._--Before beginning to set the table, see that it is the right size. Neither people nor dishes should be crowded if this can possibly be avoided; it is also undesirable to have the table too large for the number at the meal.
For dinner the table is first spread with a cotton-flannel or felt undercloth. This is not only to save a polished table from injuries; it improves the appearance of any table and prevents noise. Over it is laid the linen cloth, the middle crease running the length of the table exactly in the middle.
In some households a smaller, lighter tablecloth is used for breakfast and luncheon. In others, a luncheon cloth of embroidered linen, lace or drawn work is used for these less formal meals. In others, the table is left bare and doilies spread where plates and dishes are to be set. Many people who use doilies or a luncheon cloth for luncheon prefer a covered table at breakfast. These are all matters of taste or economy with one exception. It is the custom to spread the table for dinner with a cloth which entirely covers it.
When the tablecloth has been laid, a centrepiece of linen or lace is sometimes placed upon it in the centre of the table. If carving is to be done, a carving cloth is placed at the foot of the table in such a position that the platter will stand in the middle of it.
All the table linen, when removed, should be refolded in the creases made by the iron. Centrepieces and doilies should be laid flat in a drawer or the former rolled on a roller. A little care in this matter keeps the cloths fresh longer and protects delicate linen from too frequent washing.
A napkin is laid at each place, on the right or in the centre. Napkins should match the tablecloth but this is not always possible because they have to be changed more frequently than the cloth. Fresh napkins every day at dinner is the agreeable and not extreme method of changing them; to have fresh ones at every meal is rarely possible or necessary except in hotels; a change twice a week is the minimum at which any degree of comfort can be maintained.
When all the linen necessary is on the table, place exactly in the middle of the linen centrepiece the vase of flowers, plant or dish of fruit which is to be the centre decoration of the table. It makes variety and daintiness if this decoration is flowers or a plant or even a silver or glass vase rather than food in any form. A pretty thing helps to remind us that eating is not the only thing for which we come together. It may also afford a topic for pleasant conversation.
[Illustration: Photograph by Helen W. Cooke
Order and Daintiness]
After the centre decoration is placed put on candlesticks or lamps, carafes, decanters, salts and peppers and any large objects which are to be used, leaving places for bread plates, relish dishes and the like. These things should be arranged symmetrically, not as if they were men on a checker-board, but with the sort of symmetry which the leaves on a vine have. If there is not some evidence of design in the arrangement of a table, it will look littered.
Add now to the napkin at each place, everything which will be needed during the meal, or until the serving of the sweet at luncheon or at dinner, or until the serving of fruit as a last course at any meal. The finger bowl, doily and silver needed for these courses are frequently arranged on the plate to be used and brought to each place at the beginning of the course.
At the left of the place lay the forks in the order in which they are to be used; at the right lay the knives in the same order with their edges toward the plates; at the right of the knives lay the soup spoon. If the dessert spoon is put on the table it is placed at the right of the knives and the soup spoon. Spoons are laid on the table with the hollow of the bowl up, and forks with the ends of the tines up.
Besides the silver each place needs a glass for water--glasses are turned up, not down--and others suitable for any beverages which are to be served. A salt cellar will be needed if individual salts are used. These are not regarded favourably at present but are tolerated if each has a spoon. And either a small butter plate or a bread and butter plate and butter knife are put at each place except sometimes at dinner when butter is not served. When meals are formally served a plate is put at each place which is removed when the first course is brought.
One cannot lay places correctly without knowing the menu for the meal. The food to be eaten determines the objects needed for eating it.
When the table is set with the exception of the food, the sideboard or serving table, or both should be arranged. On these are put dessert or fruit plates arranged with finger bowls and silver, all the china not to be heated which will be needed for the courses of the meal, any seasonings or bottled sauces which the family are in the habit of asking for, a crumb tray and napkin or scraper, a small napkin or doily with which a spot of gravy or fruit juice could be quickly removed from the tablecloth, a water pitcher and a serving tray. If after-dinner coffee is made on the table, it is convenient to set out all the articles needed for this on a tray on the sideboard. Room must be kept on the serving table for the vegetable dishes which are usually left there during the course to which they belong.
A few minutes before a meal is served is the time to place food such as pickles, jelly, bread, butter and milk on the table or the serving table and to fill the glasses with water. If ice is put into each glass it should be done carefully with a spoon. It adds to the appearance of butter balls and helps to keep them cool if a lettuce leaf is laid in the dish under them. They keep their shape and firmness better if kept in a bowl of water when in the refrigerator. At luncheon or breakfast bread is served on a plate or tray, or the loaf, board and knife are put on the table. At dinner a piece of bread is laid by each place or tucked into each napkin. Hot biscuits keep hot longer if a napkin is spread over the plate and folded over them. Cold bread or crackers, also cheese, are often served on a folded napkin, they look better so than on a plate.
In laying the table, time, steps and thought can be saved by taking as many things as possible from one place at one time. That is, after the linen is on the table. First put on everything needed from the sideboard, then everything needed from the china closet, then everything needed from the pantry. All the articles from each place can sometimes be brought in one trip with the help of a tray. If the flat silver is kept in a basket, it is better to carry the basket from place to place and take out what is needed. This saves steps and some handling of the silver.
When the places where the dishes and silver are to be kept are first decided upon, and when the order in which the table is set is first learned, both should be done with the thought of saving steps and of opening drawers and doors as seldom as possible.
Tables should be set without noise. Not only because it is disagreeable to hear the rattling of dishes but because thumps, and clatter, and jingle mean scars on the table, nicks in the china, scratches on the silver and a lack of that dainty carefulness without which a table is never perfectly set.
_Waiting._--"Waiting" requires more "head" than other household employments. One can keep accounts slowly and laboriously, one can sweep without possessing much tact, one can even cook without possessing a great degree of administrative ability, or do laundry work without a good memory. To "wait" cleverly requires all these qualities.
The object of waiting is that the needs and wants of those seated at table shall be supplied without effort, often without consciousness on their part. It also preserves the orderliness of the table, and makes inquiries about people's wishes unnecessary. One occasionally hears the objection made to careful waiting that it makes people thoughtless for the comfort of others. I would suggest that conversation made agreeable and amusing to others requires greater and more continued thoughtfulness than passing the beans and the butter.
The waitress should have in her mind a plan of the meal including not only the food but also the china, silver and linen needed for serving it. If a meal is more than two courses long, it is often better to have the plan written out. This is a little trouble, but saves mistakes, and the necessity of stopping to think when one has not time to think.
The waitress is expected to be in the dining room when the family enter for the meal. She should be ready to serve the first course as soon as they are seated. If this course is oysters or grape-fruit or some such thing, plates containing it are set before each guest. Two plates can be brought at once if there are no plates already on the table; if there are, the waitress can only bring one plate for she must remove the empty plate before she can set the other down. When the plates are all on the table she will then pass anything which accompanies the course. Sometimes various small relishes and biscuits such as are required with raw oysters can be put on the tray and all passed at the same time.
When the course is finished the soiled plates are removed two at a time and after that anything from the table belonging to the course. The soup plates are then brought and set before the hostess if the soup is to be served on the table. The tureen is placed before her, uncovered, and the cover deposited on the serving table. The waitress stands at the left of the person serving, takes each plate as it is ready and places it before a guest. If the soup is served from the pantry or the serving table, the plates are brought two at a time, as for the former course.
With a few changes in detail to be noted below, courses are served as one or other of the two described. This is an outline for serving a course.
Remove the food of the preceding course.
Remove the plates.
Remove relishes, biscuits, etc., belonging especially to that course.
Remove unused plates and silver belonging especially to that course.
Bring the plates for or containing the next course.
Bring the chief dish of the course.
Serve each person.
Pass anything which completes the course, like sauce or gravy.
Pass anything which accompanies the course, like vegetables, or sometimes, a salad.
See that glasses are filled, and guests supplied with butter.
Listen for the answer when any one is asked to accept a second helping or consulted about his wishes.
After an interval, pass a second time anything of which a second helping may be taken, provided there is none of it on the plate.
Detail (_a_).--It is the custom for the host to serve the fish and do the carving. Perhaps it is a survival from the days when these things were the trophies of his hunting and fishing. The hostess serves the soup, salad and dessert.
Detail (_b_).--If the family is large the plates for the meat should be put on the serving table and one placed before the carver at a time. The waitress stands beside the carver with the next plate in her hand and puts it before him when she removes the one which is ready to pass. Or if the waitress is too much occupied to do this, three or four plates can be put before the carver, then three or four more.
Detail (_c_).--A vegetable requiring a separate plate, such as asparagus or corn on the cob, is served after the other vegetables. A plate for it is first put at the left of each place and then the vegetable is passed. Salad, when served with the meat course, is arranged for and passed in the same way.
Detail (_d_).--Everything to which a guest is to help himself is passed to him from the left side that he may comfortably use his right hand. Things which he has already accepted, like a serving of meat or a cup of coffee, are placed before him by the waitress.
Detail (_e_).--Some authorities say that the people on one side of the table should be served in the order in which they sit, then the people on the other side in the same order, without regard to sex or precedence. This is well enough for a table full of people of about equal age and importance, but in an ordinary family there are apt to be guests or a grandmother to whom all slight deferences are due. I took a meal with a family not a great while ago at which the two small children were served before the guests and their mother. Extraordinary spectacle!
The question whether the hostess shall be served first or not is much discussed. I can only say that I have never yet seen a "guest of honour" who would not have been glad if the hostess had been served before her.
The outline for serving a course, with the addition of the suggestions above, holds good until dessert. At the end of the course before dessert, the table is cleared of everything except the decorations and glasses. The carving cloth is lightly folded together and carried away. Crumbs are removed and any disarrangement restored to order. Then the dessert plates, arranged with finger bowl, doily and silver are brought from the sideboard. As soon as one is placed before each guest the dessert is served. If it is served by the hostess the waitress takes the first plate from before the hostess as soon as it is ready and replaces it with an extra one which she has in her hand. She brings back the one she removes from before the guest whom she served and places it before the hostess when she removes the one filled in her absence.
The conventional dress for a waitress is a plain black frock with white collar and cuffs, a large white apron with a bib and shoulder straps, and a small cap. At breakfast she usually wears a light-coloured cotton frock instead of the black one as this is more suitable for the work she does in the morning. Her shoes should be comfortable for her own sake, and noiseless for the sake of others. The same cleanliness and daintiness which are necessary in her work should also be hers personally. I cannot believe that it is ever very difficult to persuade a girl to this. Probably a mistress need only express an interest in her waitress's hair, and teeth, and hands, and pretty looks and they will soon be well cared for. Such interest on the part of the mistress is not merely requited with an improvement in the appearance of her waitress. A girl who can put a dainty collar on herself has taken a long step toward being able to put a dainty collar on a chop-bone; if her hands are clean and soft, she will not like disgusting dishwater or soppy glass-towels any better than her mistress does.
Waiting and elaborate methods of serving meals may easily become a nuisance and a burden instead of a help and a pleasure. To try for "appearances" to which the skill and strength of a waitress or a maid-of-all-work are unequal is to produce a worried hostess and nervous, wearied guests. A certain degree of order, daintiness and formality should characterize every meal, but these things do not depend upon the number of courses, nor upon the presence of a waitress.
In a household where there is no maid, thoughtfulness beforehand can prevent any getting up from table except between courses. All the food and accessories for a course must be placed on the table and served by some member of the family, and the plates must be passed from hand to hand. Sometimes two or even three courses can be agreeably put together, as when a salad is served with the meat course, or fruit and coffee are brought with the dessert. Often in this way a dinner can be acceptably served with only one or two clearings of the table, which under other circumstances would have been five or six courses long. A large tray on the serving table upon which the plates and dishes can be put and all removed together is a great assistance. Upon such a tray, also, everything necessary for a whole course can often be brought from the kitchen at one trip. The article known as a dinner wagon is even better as an assistant than a tray.
In a small family it makes less confusion if only one person does the necessary waiting. A daughter rather than a mother should do this, or the person who has not done the cooking rather than the person who has. In a large family two people should do the waiting, partly for speed, partly because it is hard work. There is the further advantage that work done by two people is much more cheerful than work done by one. I have little patience with families in which one sister does all the housework for a week or a month, and then another takes it for the same length of time. It is well enough to divide the work into departments and sometimes exchange those, but no sister should rock on the veranda while the other washes the dishes alone. In the first place it is not economic--two could do the work more quickly and then both could rest. And besides, what a loss of companionship! The most helpful and intimate talks I have ever had with one of my sisters have been while we were washing dishes together.
In households where there is but one maid, it is wise to make her duties as waitress few and simple. She is probably not trained for the work, and besides, if she has cooked the meal, she is hot and tired just at the moment when she should be fresh and alert. Under such conditions the waiting is not likely to be well and quickly done. If the maid does those things which prevent any getting up from table, that is really enough for her to do. If, however, you wish her to pass plates and vegetables, at least serve the sauce on the platter with the fish, have the gravy for the meat and the sauce for the pudding placed where the server can help them, and depend upon those seated at the table to pass the bread, butter, pickles and jelly which are before them.
In clearing the table, the large tray mentioned before is an aid which should be allowed to one maid. Any piling of dishes as they are removed, however carefully done, looks unpleasant; taking two plates to the pantry at a time costs many steps. The large tray on the serving table is a compromise between these alternatives which I have found good.
Waiting, like table setting cannot become excellent unless it is characterized by an almost exaggerated carefulness. Whether the meal is elaborate or extremely simple, evidences should never be lacking of minute thoughtfulness and of the use of careful hands.
_The Pantry._--A pantry is like a tea basket, or a handy box, or a ship's cabin. It is a small space containing a great variety of useful things. The one virtue necessary above all others in such a space is orderliness. Without it convenient compactness becomes crowded confusion.
Things not connected with pantry work should have a place found for them elsewhere.
Things most frequently used should be on the shelves and in the drawers which require least reaching and stooping.
Things of the same kind should be grouped together except when this violates the previous rule. That is, for the sake of keeping all the platters together, it is not necessary to use precious space on the most practicable pantry shelf for a platter only used at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
_Dish Washing._--Dish washing is such a frequent and important part of pantry work that it deserves a few words of description, perhaps of praise.
Dish-washing accessories should be within arms' reach as one stands at the sink. They are: a dishpan, soap, borax or ammonia, towels--soft ones for the fine dishes, coarser ones for the heavier dishes--a dish drainer, a sink strainer for scraps. To these may be added a mop and a dishcloth if you feel you must have these articles, but I wish I could convert you to the use instead of a small-sized whisk, or a little fibre broom such as is sold for cleaning sinks. Broom straws softened by warm water will not scratch cut glass and yet are stiff enough to use for washing pots. The little broom can be scalded and dried through and through on the back of the stove. It does not smell, and dish washing done with it is as different from dish washing done with a cloth, as eating with a fork is different from eating with your fingers.
In a pantry where many dishes are washed a folding table is a serviceable accessory to dish washing. It can be set up to receive the dried dishes, and folded again when no longer needed.
The list of accessories for dish washing done where there is no running water is slightly different. One must then have one or two kettles of hot water on the fire. The dish drainer must have a tray to stand on or be replaced with pans. The sink strainer will not be needed. A bowl can be used instead, but not a tin receptacle, for scraps of food sometimes combine to form acids which eat or discolour tin.
_The Preparation._--For the work of dish washing, first get yourself ready. Put on an apron, preferably one with a bib. If your sleeves are long, either turn them back or cover them with half-sleeves which button tightly round the wrist.
Next put away all food.
Then prepare the dishes. Gather the glass together. Empty the tumblers which have contained water, but fill with water those which have contained milk. Collect the cups and saucers, emptying the cups and rinsing out dregs or tea leaves. Scrape the plates thoroughly with a spoon, not with a knife, and pile each kind together. If there is much gravy or sauce upon them, rub them off quickly with a discarded crust or a celery stalk. Put the silver into a bowl or pitcher and pour water upon it. Platters should be scraped like the plates. Fill cream pitchers, gravy boats and vegetable dishes with water.
All this preparation is not old-maidishness and a waste of time. It saves time, and dishes, and disgust.
_The Process._--When the dishes have been made ready for washing, pour a generous supply of hot water into the dishpan. Put into it a little borax, or a larger supply if the water is hard. Lay in two or three glasses. They should be put in edge first, wet inside and out at the same moment, and not laid close enough to touch each other. Take them out one at a time and immediately wipe them dry and bright. They become streaked if allowed to drain. Replace those taken out with others to be washed. Set the wiped glasses in a space prepared for them on a shelf or table, or if there is little room in the pantry put them on a tray which can be carried at once to the cupboard. After the glasses, wash and wipe any other glass which is not greasy, but leave anything which is until after soap has been put into the water.
Neither the glass nor any of the dishes should be touched with one's bare hand after it is lifted from the water, but should be held always with the cloth, wiped and polished with the cloth and set down at last with a hand still covered.
When the glass is finished, put soap into the water with the aid of a soap shaker or any other contrivance which prevents the soap from lying in the water or from being stuck on a fork. Make good suds, but not strong suds, for this injures colour and gilding.
Dishes are usually washed in the order of greasiness, therefore the cups and saucers come next after the glass and after these any plates which are but slightly soiled. These cleaner dishes often need no rubbing with cloth or brush, but can be lifted out of the water and placed in a drainer or pan, the cups on their sides, the plates on edge. Rubbing, however gentle, at last wears off decoration. Dishes must never lie soaking in the dish-water because this also injures their decorations. A few of the same kind should be put in the water at a time, washed and immediately removed. This is the chief preventive of chipping and breaking, and it also allows room enough in the water for thorough washing.
The silver is the next thing to wash. If the water has cooled by this time it should be changed, or if one has to be economical, it can be partially changed and more soap added. Usually the flat silver can all be put into the water at once, then washed a few pieces at a time and laid carefully in a drainer or pan. Some housewives prefer to wipe the silver, like the glasses, immediately from the dish-water, but as it has to be washed with soap, there is a good reason for rinsing it. Larger pieces of silver must be put in like the dishes, a piece or two at a time, to prevent dents and scratches.
Next wash plates, never allowing small ones and large ones in the water together, then platters, vegetable dishes, milk pitchers, salad bowl and gravy boat, putting not more than one or two in the water at a time.
As often as dishwater becomes cool or greasy, change it. This is a fixed rule for those who have an ample water supply. If however, it is necessary to be extremely economical with water, it is better to stint the dishwater than the rinsing water.
There are two extreme ways of rinsing dishes and a middle way. One of the extremes is to immerse the dishes in a pan of hot water and wipe them therefrom. This is indeed cleanly but it takes much water and many towels. The other extreme is to arrange them in a drainer and either pour scalding water over them or immerse them for a moment in scalding water and then leave them to dry by their own heat which they do almost instantly. A zealous housewife finds it hard to believe that this is as good as wiping, but the smooth, shining dishes which result from it convince her.
The middle way is to set the dishes in a drainer and pour scalding water over them as in the other case, but this time to complete the work by wiping each piece. They are so nearly dry that the wiping is but a small act, often little more than a keen inspection and a rub for good measure.
Delicate china must not be rinsed with extremely hot water as a sudden change of temperature sometimes breaks it as it does glass.
The rinsing method first described is best for silver for it should be thoroughly rinsed in very hot water and dried with a cloth and vigorous rubbing. Any evaporating process leaves it dull and spotted. As one wipes it, any piece discoloured or dull should be laid aside for special attention. Egg stains can be removed with a little salt, or often just with rubbing them with a cloth which has been used to apply silver polish. If one has no covered shelf or table on which the silver can be laid as it is wiped, it is well to spread a towel to receive it. This saves noise and scratching.
Carafes, decanters, vinegar cruets or any narrow necked articles can be cleaned with chopped white potato, or with crushed egg shells. A combination of crushed egg shells, ¼ cup of salt and ½ cup of vinegar is also good for this purpose. A slim paint brush--the kind used to paint window casings, not pictures--is excellent for washing bottles. The brush end will do the washing and the handle end with a towel over it will do the wiping. There are regular bottle brushes but I have found a paint brush better than any one I have yet tried.
Steel knives, whether plated or not, need special care. They should never, _never_ be laid in water but held in the dish washer's hands while they are washed, then wiped perfectly dry. If they are silver plated they are polished like the rest of the silver except that they are wet as little as possible. If not plated they must be scoured as often as used. This helps to keep them sharp as well as bright. Rest the blades flat on a board when cleaning them, otherwise they may be bent or even broken. After they have been scoured, they must be washed with the same care as before and dried thoroughly. Avoid anything, whether hot water or excessive friction, which greatly heats the blades, for this breaks the handles by expanding the steel pieces which run up into them.
Discoloured knife handles will sometimes whiten if scoured with a piece of lemon dipped in salt and washed off quickly with hot soapsuds. Powdered pumice also whitens them.
After the dishes are washed and wiped, all the cloths and brushes used should be thoroughly washed in hot suds, then carefully rinsed. If they can be hung out in the sun, that is best, but if not, they should be hung where they will dry before they are needed again. One may not be able to spare time to wash or even rinse the towels after every dish washing, but they must positively be washed once a day. Sticky and unpleasant-smelling table appointments quickly result from neglected towels and dishcloths.
And what can be said in praise of dish washing? Well, it is making things clean and there is always satisfaction in that; it is a sign that one more thing is finished and there is satisfaction in that, even though another begins at once; and, personally I like dish washing because it is work that after a little practice can be done almost entirely with hands and eyes, and so the time it takes may be a rest time, or a thought time, or a prayer time as one wills it.
_Silver Cleaning._--Some people say silver must be cleaned once a week, others once a fortnight, others contend that once a month is enough. A general rule cannot be made, however, for a thing which depends entirely on particular climate, particular light and heating apparatus and particular standards of care and orderliness. One can only say polish it as often as it needs polishing and not oftener.
Those silver polishes which are intended to be rubbed on the articles and then removed with very hot water are the more desirable. A silver polish which is hard on hands is to be avoided, not merely for the hands' sake but for the silver's.
To clean silver, one requires a soft cloth and a soft hair brush for applying the polish; also several other soft cloths, a piece of chamois skin and a clean, soft brush for polishing.
Rub the polish on smooth surfaces with a soft cloth, on filigree or engraving with a soft brush. Wash in very hot water, wipe with soft cloths, polish with chamois skin and a soft brush. Never touch the silver with bare hands after it comes out of the hot water. To wear a pair of chamois gloves while doing this work is an excellent help and protection.
If silver not constantly in use is kept in canton-flannel bags in a box where there is a piece of gum camphor, it will be as bright when it is taken out as it was when it was put in. The bags are better than tissue paper, for this sometimes contains chemicals which discolour the silver. New silver usually comes in such bags, but the time and money necessary for making bags for older pieces, are saved again and again by the unaided care they take of the silver committed to them. _White_ canton flannel is not good for this purpose, it soils easily and the chemicals used for bleaching it discolour silver.
There remains but to say that ideal dining room and pantry work combine military order with a daintiness which puts pansies into finger bowls. That simple loveliness and devoted thoughtfulness are more necessary in table service than heavy damask and beautiful china. And that, above all, one must not think that care and work expended upon meals are put to a poor use. Family meals are deeply hallowed by long custom and by sacred associations. We shall not be wrong to try earnestly and gladly to make the meal hours times of loveliness and thankfulness and laughter.
KITCHENS have shrunk in size since the days of our grandmothers, not so much because we know more than our grandmothers as because conditions of living have changed. Kitchens are no longer used to store winter supplies which must be kept from the cold, nor are they now used for laundry and dairy work, spinning and sociability. A house in which there are many workers, in which there is bountiful providing and constant hospitality, still needs a large kitchen; on the contrary, an apartment in which the dining room will barely permit six at table may well have a kitchen in which everything is within hand's reach.
Many of us have no opportunity to choose whether our kitchens shall be large or small. In building a new house, however, the opportunity sometimes presents itself, and some of the things to consider in making the choice are the number of people who are to work in the kitchen, the size and elaborateness of the meals to be prepared there, whether there is to be also a pantry and a store room, whether the laundry work is done in the kitchen and whether the servant or servants have any other place to sit. In regard to these two latter considerations, it may be safely said that a small kitchen and a small laundry are almost invariably better than a large room for both purposes; and that a tiny kitchen and a tiny servants' sitting room are better both for health and comfort than a combination. If it is possible, the kitchen should be used only for cooking, and should contain only such things as are needed for that work.
As a kitchen is a place where especial cleanliness is necessary, soap and water should be no enemy to its contents. Probably a room lined with glazed tiles is the best kitchen, but as yet these are rare.
_Walls and Woodwork._--Hard-finish plaster painted some light colour and given a final coating of enamel paint is a satisfactory but somewhat expensive finish for kitchen walls.
There are several kinds of wall covering of the nature of oilcloth which look rather like tiles and may be wiped with water. They are not so good as a finish which becomes part of the substance of the wall.
Oil and varnish rubbed into plaster walls make them light yellow in colour, protect them from being discoloured with steam, and produce a surface which may be frequently washed. A coating of oil followed by a coating of shellac has much the same result.
Old, rough walls are better covered with a light-coloured, very inexpensive paper. If this is coated with shellac the walls may be wiped with a damp mop. Otherwise the paper should be changed frequently. This is the reason it should be inexpensive. It is well always to get a little more kitchen paper than is needed, that when necessity arises badly soiled pieces may be stripped from the walls and new ones fitted into their places.
I once had a whitewashed kitchen and liked it, but it might have looked odd had it opened on a fire-escape instead of the wood-pile.
Two things are chiefly desirable in the finish of kitchen walls and woodwork; it ought not to be hurt by soap and water and it ought to be light coloured. The room is frequently filled with smoke or steam which contains some greasiness; this can only be removed from the walls and ceiling by washing them. People have been known to paint kitchens a dark colour with the idea that they showed dirt less. Dirt _should_ show. Then there is a better chance that it will be removed. Light colours are needed in the kitchen also to prevent dark corners, and to increase the light from the windows. Much sun is a disadvantage to a kitchen; much light is a great advantage. A yellow kitchen cheers my soul, but many housewives like blue or green better. If you do your own work, by all means have the kitchen the light colour most becoming to you, and get your frocks to match; it's a great help.
_Floors._--The kitchen floor is a greater problem than kitchen walls. Even tiles have one disadvantage, they are cold to stand on. There are a variety of substances resembling mosaic or tiling in appearance which are put down somewhat like cement or concrete. They are without cracks and easily mopped, but have the same disadvantage of being hard and cold.
A hardwood floor such as one might have in other rooms is easily spotted and injured with the things which are rather likely to be spilled or set upon it. This is true also of a painted floor, with the added objection that heels and chair-legs quickly mar painted wood.
Linoleum is easily cared for and with reasonable usage lasts well. Oilcloth is less expensive than linoleum but is in no way so good. Neither of these floor coverings, nor paint, should be washed with very hot water or with any strong or gritty cleaning substance, nor should they be scrubbed with a stiff brush. Such treatment breaks and spoils glossy surfaces. Wash them with a cloth wrung out of mild luke-warm suds. Wipe them dry, otherwise they will be streaked.
When linoleum begins to show wear a coat of spar-varnish or carriage varnish will restore it satisfactorily. These varnishes are not injured by water, and they dry quickly. A floor varnished at night in dry weather may be walked on as much as necessity requires the next day. It is better in such a case to lay down papers to walk on, and move them often to prevent sticking.
Sheets of newspaper or brown paper should be laid all over a floor before linoleum is put down, otherwise it is almost impossible to get it off the floor when it is worn out.
I wish to copy here a suggestion for finishing a kitchen floor, for which I would gladly acknowledge my indebtedness, but I have merely the paragraph signed G. D. which has been cut from some paper.
Plain, boiled linseed oil is a good finish for the kitchen floor. It should be put on when the floor is new or clean of other finish, and applied as needed afterward. Such a floor will have a pleasing, light-brown colour, will not show marks or scratches, and, kept well oiled, will not spot with grease. Heat the oil and apply at night, rubbing it in well. In the morning wipe with cold water, and the floor is ready for use. Wash it with warm water dashed with a little kerosene.
Just a plain floor is a convenient kitchen floor on all days except on those when it must be scrubbed. Such scrubbing is hard, dirty work and takes a good deal of time. And I know of no alleviation; one must down on one's knees and go at it with a scrubbing brush or it will look all the time as if it needed scrubbing.
_Rugs._--Rugs are needed in the kitchen wherever much continued standing is done, as in front of the sink and the range or beside the table. They prevent linoleum or oilcloth from becoming worn in one or two spots, they are sometimes needed for warmth, and they are always needed to spare the feet and back of the person who does the kitchen work. It makes as much difference whether one stands for hours on a soft thing or a hard one, as it does whether one sleeps for hours on a board or a mattress. It is as well if kitchen rugs are of so little value that they may frequently be thrown away without regret. A good doormat too shabby to put before the front door is a treasure to lay before the washtubs.
_The sink._--If the kitchen sink is under or beside a window, the pots and pans will more surely be clean, and the dish washer will not have the irritation of working in her own light. Sinks are apt to be set too low. For comfort and for health the rim should be about even with the dish washer's waist. It is convenient to have draining boards on both sides of the sink, but by no means always possible.
Whatever material the sink is made of it will need careful cleaning once every day with scouring soap or soap-powder and a scrubbing brush. This is not only good for the sink but for the waste pipes, especially if a pan of hot soapy water is prepared for the scouring and emptied down the pipes when the sink is finished. This will do much toward keeping the pipes from becoming grease clogged. Porcelain or enamelled sinks are, of course, more easily kept clean than iron or tin ones.
_Tables._--In a kitchen where there is no sink, the substitute should be a steady table placed as far from the stove as possible. If a definite place is appointed for dish washing even to the choice between two ends of a table, the appliances needed can be hung within reach, and one will naturally pile soiled dishes in that place and go there to wash them without taking thought about it.
Besides this table another will be needed on which cake and bread can be made, or food can be set without fear of contact with soiled dishes or dishwater. This table is equally necessary in kitchens where there is a sink. Sometimes in small kitchens its place is taken by the shelf of a dresser, the tops of the tubs or a board which, when not in use, folds down beside the wall or the dresser. The point is to have some place other than the draining boards where food can be prepared.
You will read in magazines that it is lovely to have kitchen tables covered with white oilcloth. Unfortunately the statement is not always followed by its complement, namely, that such a covering must be protected from being scorched and cut by means of pot boards, asbestos mats or folded newspapers. Several practical cooks and housekeepers have told me that there is nothing so good in the kitchen as a zinc-covered table. It is not pretty but one need never spare it any usage, and at rest times its ugliness may be covered with a cloth. Spots on zinc which will not yield to soap and water can sometimes be removed with vinegar.
Plain wooden tables are hard to keep in satisfactory order. They are easily scorched, easily stained, and they require daily scrubbing.
A pretty kitchen is a pride and delight, but the serviceableness and practicability of its furnishings must be the first consideration in selecting them. Things which have to be constantly remembered and guarded take too much thought and strength to be in place in a workshop. A kitchen should be bright, orderly and noticeably clean, but I think the less it looks like a sitting room the better. Wherever it is possible, maids should have some other place to sit.
_Chairs._--For much of the kitchen work a woman needs the reach, muscular leverage and alertness which she gets from standing. There are, however, some things such as preparing fruit and vegetables, stoning raisins and beating eggs which she can do as well sitting down. If the kitchen is as it should be, a workshop, stools are the best seats with which to furnish it. They may be scrubbed, they take up little room, and they afford an opportunity to rest, without an accompanying temptation to loiter. "Sittin' back" is in some places an equivalent phrase for "inactive." It picturesquely explains why people work more alertly sitting on stools than in chairs.
If the kitchen is also the maids' sitting room, it must have comfortable chairs in it. But they should be made of _scrubable_ materials, and cushions should be covered with wash fabrics. Rocking chairs are the worst possible kind for a kitchen, they are especially irritating to the ankles and temper of the cook.
_Shelves._--Shelves are necessary for kitchen comfort. They are for dishes, crockery, utensils which can not be hung up and for stores if one has no store closet. As it is easier to have things stand one deep on shelves, more narrow shelves will be needed than wide ones. Some people get along with a few shelves for the sake of having them shut in with glass doors; others have many shelves like open book-cases and keep the pans, dishes, cups and bowls turned upside down. Stores have to be kept in tightly closed receptacles in either case. Most utensils are the better for being kept on open shelves or hung on hooks in the light and air. That is a rare pot closet which is quite agreeable either to eye or nose.
Shelves painted white, or covered with white oilcloth or white paper, are neat and pleasant to look at. Painted ones are probably the least care, they have only to be occasionally washed and few things injure them. Plain wooden shelves ought always to be covered, as they are easily stained and become darkened with dust.
A special shelf or a special place on some shelf is needed for receipt books.
_Hooks._--Each utensil which is to be hung up should have its own hook. If two or three are hung on the same hook, it is difficult to take down the undermost article. Rows of hooks should be so arranged that the hooks alternate instead of coming directly under each other. Pots and kettles which are hung up should be turned bottom outward as this protects the insides from dust. The lids of pots and kettles may be easily hung up on a string stretched tightly across the inside of a closet door, or against the wall between two hooks. The handles rest on the string and hold the lids up.
Either a roller for a hand towel or a hook on which one can be hung is a necessary fixture in the kitchen, for a cook needs to wash her hands many times a day.
_Curtains._--Shades are necessary to modify the light and to draw at night, but the case seems to be against curtains in the kitchen, even against sash curtains. There should be nothing at the windows to intercept light and free currents of air, and nothing in the room anywhere which catches dust and smoke as curtains do.
_Light Fixtures._--Light fixtures are better overhead. An additional side light by the sink, or near both sink and range when possible is a valuable convenience.
_Clock._--A good clock should be part of the kitchen furniture for the sake of punctuality. An alarm attachment which can be turned off before it has run completely down is a help to a cook's over-burdened memory. If it is set for the time when the eggs will be boiled, or the bread or a cake must be looked at, or the meat will be roasted, there will then be one less thing to remember and absence from the kitchen will not so invariably cause disaster.
_An Ornament._--If you or the cook would like an ornament in the kitchen, the delightful thing to have is a copy of a Delia Robbia terra-cotta. Bright coloured and washable, like the rest of the kitchen! You will laugh perhaps at the idea of carrying the matter of brightness and cleanliness so far, but do you not know how dingy and depressing the kitchens of otherwise clean and lovely houses often are? It is because things which might be cheerful coloured are dull coloured, and because many things are half soiled for the reason that they cannot be easily washed. Sometimes too, it is because nobody cares whether the kitchen is pleasant or not.
The number and size of kitchen utensils depend upon the space in which they must be kept and the number of persons in the household. Their quality and, to some extent, their number depend on what we are able to pay for them.
If the space for keeping utensils is small, their number must be kept down to the minimum. Even with ample space, it is well now and then to weed out superfluous or inadequate utensils, for each adds a straw's weight to the work of the kitchen. It is only a straw, but you know what happened to the camel.
One woman who entertains a large family at Thanksgiving and Christmas, and at other times has a household of two with an intermittent maid, buys each year at the five and ten cent store the large utensils and serving dishes needed for the Thanksgiving dinner. She keeps them until after the Christmas dinner, then gives them away and returns to her usual outfit of small things. Perhaps you ask, why not use the big ones all the time instead of having two sizes? Because they take more time, more food, and in the case of the serving dishes, make a poor appearance. A household which constantly changes in number needs two sizes, one small and one large, of each thing in frequent use. Of certain things there should be two or three in any kitchen; such are, bowls, mixing spoons, platters, paring knives, saucepans and double boilers. It is well to get such things of different kinds and of graduated sizes because they are for various uses.
_Materials._--The kitchen is prettier if all the utensils are of the same colour and in general of the same material. Expense and practical usefulness, however, must be considered before good looks. If the kitchen is blue, do not buy a bowl with a pink band round it, a cake turner with a red handle and a brown agate pot, when you can perfectly well get them in suitable colours. On the contrary, if the brown pot is a more convenient shape and size than a blue or white one, get the brown one; if a thick iron frying pan cooks food better than a white agate one, take the iron one.
Enamelled utensils are neat, pretty, seldom acted upon by chemicals in the food and are cared for more easily than those of any other material. They are expensive, but last well if they are not abused.
Tin articles are light to handle and cheap, but soon become discoloured and require a good deal of scouring to keep them in fair condition.
Iron utensils are heavy, hard to keep clean and rarely necessary.
Pots and pans are now frequently made of aluminum. It is a luxury to lift them and they are pretty, but they are also costly and easily injured.
Copper utensils have become rare; their chief recommendation is beauty. A College kitchen in Oxford glowing with rows and rows of copper platters and dish covers and pots and kettles remains in my memory as a glory and a splendour. But, my stars! what generations of scourers have toiled to see their crooked images appear in those red-gold surfaces!
Copper articles have a disadvantage beyond requiring much care. If used for food they should be tin lined and the lining kept in good condition, for sometimes chemicals in food form a poisonous combination with the copper. Our ancestors did not have to worry about copper pots. When they were poisoned, they drowned a witch or went on a pilgrimage, and recovered or not according to their constitutions.
Wooden conveniences for the kitchen, such as rolling pins and pastry boards are also gradually giving place to those made of other materials, for the reason that they are less cleanly and less cool than articles made of glass or metal.
_Selection._--The cook's personal preferences should be considered whenever kitchen utensils are bought. Many housewives consult their cooks before purchasing new articles. I know one who sends the cook to the shop to do the purchasing. That such thoughtfulness and care are not always exercised is evidenced by the fact that some excellent cooks own a number of cooking utensils themselves because they do not find them in the kitchens in which they work, and can seldom persuade their mistresses to buy them.
The most satisfactory way to get a kitchen outfit is to buy a few things at a time. They will in this way be more carefully selected, the expense will not fall heavily on one week or on one month or even on one year, and there will be things new and old. To have all new things is only a little less inconvenient than to have all old things.
To give a list of appliances most necessary for the kitchen is to make every one who reads it wish to improve it. That may be a good reason for giving it. Be that as it may, here is such a list:
A teakettle A dishpan A frying pan A coffee pot A tea pot A broiler A colander A meat chopper A pail A pastry board A rolling pin 3 mixing bowls A meat pan A pudding dish A bread board A bread knife 2 and 3 qt. saucepans 2 and 3 qt. double boilers A cake tin 3 tins for layer cake 3 bread tins A cake turner A can opener A lemon squeezer A corkscrew A fine-wire strainer A potato masher An egg beater A nutmeg grater A graduated quart measure A graduated pint measure A few spoons of different sizes A few plates, cups and saucers A cake box A bread box Tin boxes or Glass jars for flour, meal, sugar, coffee, etc. A scrubbing brush A sink strainer A soap shaker A holder for scouring soap A whisk for dish washing A pin cushion which can be hung up A memorandum pad which can be hung up 3 pie plates 2 jelly moulds An apple corer A few knives and forks A large wooden spoon A large agate spoon A knife for potatoes A large tray A salt box A pepper box A flour dredger 1 doz. dish towels 6 scrub cloths 2 pudding cloths 6 cloths for pots and pans Scissors
Does it seem a very long list? You would not cook one day in a kitchen fitted with these things without thinking of something else you would like to have. This is an austere list. It contains none of the luxuries which one's heart desires, such as tongs for hulling strawberries.
_Care._--Pots and pans require thorough washing and wiping. Wash them with a brush, good hot soapsuds, and occasional applications of a scouring soap. Wipe them with squares of cheese cloth or old flour and sugar bags washed and hemmed for the purpose. These cloths are better than finer or heavier ones for they take up water quickly and are no great loss if they are darkened by tin or iron utensils. The dishcloth is the poorest thing with which to wipe pots and pans, for it cannot possibly be free from soap and grease.
Scouring soap is not intended for direct application. A brush or cloth should first be rubbed on the soap, then on the article to be scoured.
Only utensils made of iron may be scraped. Such treatment quickly defaces and wears out other substances. Scraping may be entirely avoided if every utensil is filled with water as soon as it is no longer needed in cooking. Very greasy things should be filled with warm water and kept warm. If a pot has been burned put a tablespoonful of washing-soda into it and fill it with water. Set it away for a day or a night, or for both, and at the end of the time no scraping will be necessary to get it clean. This must not be done if the pot is made of aluminum, in that case, soak the pot without soda.
Stains may usually be removed from aluminum pots with silver-soap. Whitening such pots with acids is not a very wise thing to do. The better way is to reserve them for delicate uses, they will then not become seriously discoloured.
Do not wash articles made of wood in water in which other things have been washed, for wood absorbs grease. Nor is it well to scour them with a brush or a soap coarse enough to roughen their surfaces.
Iron pots and pans cannot be scrubbed too vigorously. Scrub the frying pan until the inside feels like wet, black satin; it is then truly clean. Both powdered pumice-stone and salt are good for scouring iron or tin articles which are smoked or stained.
Unless precautions are taken, food fried or baked in new pans will stick to them, and will not brown. A new iron frying pan should be scrubbed hard with soap and sand or ashes, and should then have water boiled in it. New cake and bread tins should be scoured, greased and baked.
If you find that the kettle is becoming encrusted with lime from the water, boil vinegar in it. This quickly removes the encrustation if it has not been allowed to grow thick before the attempt is made.
A careful housewife does not wash coffee pots and tea pots in dish water. She empties them, rinses them, scours them a little if they need it, rinses them again, scalds them and finally wipes them dry.
The care of some kitchen contrivances begins before they are bought. That is, when buying such articles as potato mashers, egg beaters and their like, notice whether they have intricacies which will be hard to keep clean. Do not be dazzled by the marvellous mashing or beating performed by a demonstrator, but take the thing in your own hand and see whether it is smooth and simple, and whether there is a way in which it can be easily washed.
It can be said of kitchen dish washing even more emphatically than of pantry dish washing, that going into it up to one's neck is no virtue; better keep out of it as much as possible. To make the work easy, to divest it of disgust, and even to find satisfaction in doing it, are evidences of skill and cleverness.
If one does not take the satisfaction in making things clean previously referred to, or if one has not pleasant thoughts to think while washing pots, then one may pass the time like a rhythmic black mammie and croon and croon a tune which has no end.
THE CELLAR, FIRES, PLUMBING, ETC.
IT IS more healthful to have a cellar--a _clean_ cellar--under a house than not to have one.
Soil has air in it. Sometimes it is good air, sometimes bad air. The soil newly turned up in the fields gives off a fragrance of its own. The earth thrown out on the city pavement by a man looking for a leak in a drain gives off an odour which makes one hurry one's steps. The soil under a house gives off vapours and gases in the same way, good or bad according to location. Inasmuch as we cannot watch the air under the house as we can that in a room and would not always know its quality if we could, it has been found better to dig out a chamber under the house and line it with stones or cement, or even leave it just a hole in the earth into which air can be admitted. For this allows a circulation of upper air under the house which is safer to have there than air from the soil.
The more we can shut out the breath of the soil in towns and cities the better, for such soil is full of drains and gas pipes, and the dirt of streets and crowded houses, and sometimes has buried in it cess-pools and leaking sewers. Unpleasant to think of? Yes, but the thought does very well as a spur to make one keep the cellar clean and dry.
A cellar sealed with cement is the best kind, because the soil-air is shut out unless there comes a crack in the cement. Walls of stone laid in cement are good but not so good, and brick walls are not nearly so good. Stones are a little porous and bricks very porous. Sooner or later moisture comes through either. In the country one often sees cellars with hard earth floors and they are fairly sanitary as long as the soil surrounding the house is used only for cleanly purposes. But before plumbing is put into the house or a sewer into the neighbourhood the cellar should be cemented.
I have seen cellar windows which would not open. They ought to open easily and one at least should be opened for a while every day that it is not snowing or raining. They ought also, to be kept as clean as other windows are, for light is necessary to the healthfulness of the cellar. Have the window openings covered with wire netting, strong enough on the one hand and fine enough on the other to exclude cats and flies.
Every cellar without any exception whatever should be white. White!
They may be painted white or whitewashed white. There are also substances of the nature of calcimine which are somewhat crystalline, and are therefore especially good for whitening dark cellars.
Whitewash is often decried because it rubs off upon things which touch it and also because flakes of it fall upon the floor and into uncovered receptacles. If a little size or thin glue is put into whitewash its objectionableness in these ways is much lessened, and comes to weigh little against its excellent recommendations; it is purifying, it destroys the eggs of insects, it is inexpensive and it requires no special skill to apply it. There are a few words on this last point in the chapter on housecleaning.
Whatever is done to the cellar walls should be done over again once or twice a year. There is much dust, much dampness and much need for more cleanliness even in the cleanest cellars.
It is more convenient if the cellar is divided into rooms, that food and stores of various kinds may be kept separate from the furnace and the fuel. If this is not possible, the next best thing is to have the coalbin enclosed, for the coal makes the worst of the cellar dirt. There should be a window in the coalbin through which the coal can be put in.
One needs shelves in the cellar and receptacles for vegetables. The shelves are better fastened to supports attached to the ceiling than put against the walls. There are then no cracks and corners, for dust, and the shelves are removed from the possible dampness of the wall. Some people advocate the building of bins for vegetables. This is probably advisable if one must store many. For keeping only a few, neat boxes or baskets which may be moved about, are better. If one keeps food in the cellar, a cupboard or safe made of wire netting is a convenience. It should stand on legs which raise it two or three feet off the floor. If preserves and jellies are kept in the cellar, it is desirable to have a cupboard more completely enclosed than the safe, to protect them from dust, quick changes of temperature and dampness.
Shelves, cupboards, bins and partitions should be as white as the walls.
The housewife pays a visit to the cellar now and then with no errand except to look at it. The survey may give her housewifely satisfaction, and it may give her something to do or to have done. She should go with nose alert and eye keen.
Is there any odour noticeable beyond that slight unavoidable cellar smell? If there is, is it a spoiled sweet potato, or clam, or a working jar of canned fruit, or--what? Find it; never rest while there is an objectionable smell in the cellar.
Is there a damp spot on walls or floor? If there is the cause must be found and put an end to. If there is one near the place where the waste pipes leave the house which cannot be accounted for, send for a plumber.
Is there any article out of its place? Is there any pile of things which might be looked over and in part thrown away? Is there any rubbish? Is the wood piled evenly? Is the coalbin swept up? Are the vegetables in boxes or bins and not on the floor or in corners? Are there cobwebs? Does the floor need sweeping? Are the windows clean and some of them open?
If, in spite of everything one can do, the cellar smells a little musty, some unslacked lime put in a box on the floor will help it. In a cellar with an earth floor it is well sometimes to sprinkle lime in the corners and in out-of-the-way places where it will not be walked upon.
Things which must stand permanently in the cellar are the better for having racks to stand upon. Barrels, ashcans, kerosene cans and cases containing bottles sometimes ooze moisture, sometimes absorb moisture from the floor; their bottoms thus become sodden and mouldy.
Slats nailed on cross-pieces and laid on the floor for such things to stand upon, make the cellar and its contents more cleanly and more dry. They are a contrivance of great use and simply obtained. It is, of course, pleasant to have them made by a carpenter, but three discarded bedslats nailed on the flat sides of some short pieces of floor joist make a rack that will hold two barrels, and small racks can be made in a few minutes from the boards of a box cover nailed on the cleats that have held the box together.
When the cellar floor is swept be sure to use something, preferably not water, to lay the dust. This is especially necessary when the furnace is in use. Dampened sawdust is good for this purpose.
Before settling down to live in a place, one should know where the water supply comes from, and where waste water goes. If the water supply in a city or town comes from a far away stream or an artesian well, and the health of the community is fairly good, one may rest content. If, however, the water is notably or probably polluted, one should boil or at least filter water for drinking and cooking and in every way possible safeguard the family health from this source of danger.
A sewerage system which does not carry the waste a long distance away from any dwelling is not a very good system. If one must depend upon such a system it is well to do and say everything possible to have it improved.
If you live in a country place and must depend on a surface well for water, you must guard it. Have it cleaned at regular intervals; have the cover or platform over the mouth such that no creatures can get in, nor water or dust fall through; allow no rubbish nor waste water to be thrown near it; keep it well pumped off and see that pigpens, barnyards, poultryyards and closets are as far off as possible. The custom of keeping butter or other food cool by hanging it down the well is picturesque, but I can think of no other recommendation of the practice. Keep everything out of the well from frogs to custard pies.
Certain very simple natural laws have been taken advantage of in getting water in and out of houses. It is an old axiom that water will not run up hill, and one would not expect it to run up a house, but another old axiom saves us from carrying rivers upstairs in pails--namely, water seeks its level.
If water is poured into a U-shaped tube, it will stand just as high in one side of the U as in the other, will it not? When a house is supplied with water from a spring on the side of a hill, we have a big irregular U-tube like this dotted line. As even the garret of this house is lower than the spring, the water will have _force_ when it comes from the pipes, that is, it could yet go higher because it has not run as far up in the U on the house side, as it is on the spring side. Sometimes, as we approach a town, we see a water tower on a hill, or a tall iron stand-pipe. They are one side of a U in a water system. Water is pumped into the tower or the stand-pipe, then it runs into the houses of the town through many pipes which are the other side of the U. There is a library of books one may read about this U performance--its relation to other laws, its limitations and the thousand uses to which it has been put. But all there is to the simple, extraordinary fact, can be seen in a bent glass tube which you can hold in your hand.
The side of the U which comes into a town is no longer one pipe but many water mains in streets and multitudes of little pipes in each house. These last are part of the house plumbing. A plan of the house with the position of all the pipes indicated should be one of the housekeeper's possessions. She may not be able to do much about disordered plumbing--in fact, she had better not try to do much; it is not a safe direction for amateur effort--but such a plan is of use to workmen who come to do jobs in the house, and it may keep some zealous husband or brother from driving a nail into a gas pipe in an effort to hang a picture.
Water is frequently got out of the house by giving it a good start and then letting it run down according to its nature. Waste pipes are as far as possible perpendicular, and the start is given the water by the weight of a basin or a tubful, or by the sudden emptying of the tank of the closet.
That principle of the U, however, is used also in the disposal of waste water. It is the principle on which many traps are constructed. Traps are contrivances for closing the connection between a house and the public sewer. If you have an imagination, or if you will read Victor Hugo's description of the Paris sewers in "Les Misérables" as a help to imagination, it will not be necessary to explain why this connection should be closed.
To make a trap with what is known as a water-seal, the U pipe is turned into an S fallen forward, [symbol s fallen forward]. Under the basin in the bathroom one can see the waste pipe and can imagine where the water is inside. It flows out of the basin into the first loop of the S, rises into and flows over the other loop until the basin and pipe are emptied as far as _a_. The water has then no power to force itself beyond the loop _b_, and stays in the first loop, forming a water seal between the sewer and the outlet of the basin. Through that loop water gases and odours cannot come, and across the loop at _b_, impure substances and water cannot force their way back from a lower level.
It is well to rinse a basin, sink or tub after it is used, and one must be particular that the closet flushes generously, for the water left in the loop should be clean water. If one merely allows the water from tub or basin to sink through the outlet some of that water remains in the loop, and it is water which contains impurities washed from clothes or bodies. You see the practice of rinsing bathtubs and basins has more in it even than courtesy.
Occasionally, clean, hot, strong suds should be emptied down basins, tubs, sinks and closets and allowed to stand in the loop, as this cleanses the pipe from impurities or grease which may have adhered to its sides. Disinfectant may be used in the same way when it is thought to be needed. Strong disinfectant should not be left long in a trap as it may eat the joints or even the substance of the pipes. On the other hand, in judging the quantity to use, allowance must be made for the fact that disinfectant poured down pipes goes into water, into a good deal of water in the case of the closet.
Two things sometimes make traps ineffectual. One is that the loop may not be deep enough. An S like this, for instance, is useless. So much water can flow out that an air passage is left at _a_, and the pipe is not sealed. The other thing is that sometimes the suction of water rushing down from an upper story will draw the water out of the traps it passes on the way. Either of these difficulties can only be remedied by an alteration in the plumbing arrangements. The concern of the housekeeper in the matter is not to rest if the waste pipes give off the least odour, and to get as reliable a person as possible to inspect them. To have good plumbing is worth going without much. In truth, it is the last thing in which to exercise economy. In building a new house, it is better to have no rugs, no table-linen, and to leave two rooms unfurnished or unbuilt than to put in _cheap_ plumbing.
Besides the traps under basins, sinks, etc., there is usually a trap wherever a drain-pipe runs out of the house to the street sewer. This doubles the protection. These traps are sometimes outside the foundation wall, sometimes in the wall and occasionally inside the cellar. One should know where they are in case anything is the matter with them, and also in order that one may not put up a shelf for milk, or a bin for potatoes directly over the spot where a trap is.
Drainage systems always have to be ventilated. A pipe which extends out of the roof of the house, or runs up the side beyond the eaves, or comes up from the foundation or the lawn with a hood over it, is a ventilator for the drainage. They help to make the air pressure right in the pipes and they prevent the gathering of foul explosive gases. As they are vents for such things, one does not want them close to a roof window, nor under a veranda, nor anywhere except in the open upper air.
_Ashes and Garbage._--To say that only liquid substances should be poured down waste-pipes seems a needless repetition of what everybody knows, yet it is knowledge constantly disregarded and sometimes forgotten even by careful people. Waste substances not suitable for the pipes have to be somewhat classified. Cities and towns have different regulations for the disposal of waste and sometimes one is required to do a good deal of sorting in compliance. There are, however, three general classes of waste; ashes, garbage and trash.
Nothing should be put into ashcans except ashes. Garbage is the waste from food, or any substances which are wet or subject to decomposition. Trash is papers, cans, bottles, egg shells, glass, hair, dust, broken objects of all sorts and kindred things. This class may have to be subdivided several times for the convenience of people who remove it, but the three main divisions in house waste are made not on account of requirement but for the sake of neatness and decency.
For all these things it is preferable to have covered cans; for garbage it is necessary. In a house, ashcans will usually be kept in the cellar convenient to the furnace. Trash receptacles can be kept there also. They should be covered, and large enough to hold the trash without spilling. Garbage cans should be kept outside the house if possible. Often a little place can be built for them close to the back door, enclosed in an area or on a back porch. Such an enclosure needs some means of ventilation and should be periodically scrubbed, then disinfected with chloride of lime or some such thing. In flats or apartments, where the garbage can must be kept in the kitchen, it is a good plan to wrap the garbage in many thicknesses of newspaper and put these bundles into the can. When this method is employed the can is less unpleasant and less difficult to clean. This cleaning is disagreeable work but it must be done or the can will become exceedingly offensive. One is fortunate if such work may be done out of doors. First rinse the can with cold water and, if necessary, assist the process with a wad of newspaper tied on a stick. Pour the rinse-water on the ground or through a sink strainer. Then pour into the can a liberal allowance of hot water and put some strong washing powder into it. Rub the sides and bottom of the can with an old brush or broom kept for the purpose. Pour out the water, rinse the can with clean water and ammonia and begin its usefulness again by putting into it the contents of the sink-strainer or the scraps that you gather off the ground where the first rinse-water was poured.
The disposal of various forms of house waste in country places usually requires more care and attention than the same matter in cities and town. One gets little outside help, and the customary methods are often untidy and unsanitary.
Water may be poured on grass or flower beds or on the ground, if one is careful not to put it in the same place with any frequency. Soapy water thrown on garden paths will help to keep the weeds from growing. Water from an ice-cream freezer is good for the same purpose. Wash water, or water carried down from bedrooms should never be thrown on a vegetable garden. One cannot be sure that the earth, and the air, and the rain will take up the impurities soon enough to keep the vegetables from being contaminated.
Some garbage can be buried; some can be burned. A weekly bonfire is an excellent thing in places where there is no regular means for disposing of waste. Into it can go most of the trash and some of the garbage in the shape of vegetable husks and parings, and other things not very moist.
A little care on the part of the housewife will make an outdoor closet an entirely sanitary convenience. It should be made as cleanly as possible inside and out by means of paint or calcimine, and frequent scrubbing of all its wooden fittings. One of these fittings should be a good-sized box with a scoop or fire shovel to go with it. This box should be kept filled with earth--not ashes--of which a liberal quantity should be put down the closet whenever it has been used. An earth closet, as it is called, if carefully looked after, is never offensive. No waste water should ever be emptied down such a closet, and depth should not be obtained by digging out the ground under the building, because rain water will gather in the depression thus made. The interior of the closet should be shallow and earth-covered. These two characteristics make frequent removals of the contents necessary; this is troublesome but sanitary.
To make and manage fires one must understand them. They are simple and easy to understand, but they are also capable of giving a person who is unacquainted with their ways great trouble and anxiety.
_A Wood Fire._--A wood fire on the hearth is the simplest one in a house. Can you make it? One must have in the first place, a hearth, a flue and a draught. The hearth is merely a place in the floor laid with stone or brick to put the fire on. A flue is a chimney or a part of a chimney over the hearth to carry off the smoke and to increase the draught. The desperate aborigine who sprang up weeping and choking with smoke and chopped a hole in his new bark roof, discovered that it not only let out the smoke but made the fire burn better. It made a draught. The draught is the air that draws up the chimney. It is caused chiefly by the fact that warm air rises. The air in a room draws up the chimney if it is warmer than outside air, and when a fire is lighted and the air at the bottom of the chimney becomes very hot, it draws up hard and quickly. Sometimes when a fire smokes people say, "The chimney is cold," that is, the chimney is so cold that the hot air ascending becomes chilled and heavy before it reaches the top of the chimney, and does not draw out hard and quickly enough to make a strong draught. So the smoke stays down instead of going up, and the fire does not burn well. The remedy is to burn as much paper and light, dry wood on the hearth as you can until the chimney is warmed a little.
If there are a hearth, a flue and a draught, the next thing to observe is whether there are ashes on the hearth from a former fire. If there are a few, brush them together into a neat, flat pile under the flue and against the back of the chimney. If there are many, remove some, but never all unless you do not expect to have a fire again for a long time. Ashes hold heat. They are soon warmed by the new fire, and help to keep the coals hot. Just as a "cozy" keeps heat in a tea pot and a fur coat keeps heat in you.
Place the andirons straight and close enough together to support the average length of the wood. If one can get a big heavy piece of wood, that should first be put in at the back of the hearth.
On the bed of ashes between the andirons or on the bare hearth put paper crushed into soft balls.
If the kindling is little sticks, lay the fire by the pig-sty method. That is, on the soft paper balls lay two little sticks parallel with the andirons, then two more little sticks with their ends crossing the ends of the first pair, [#] keep on doing this, laying the sticks first in one direction then in the other until the sty is two or three rails high. Then lay two larger sticks in an X on the top and the fire is ready for lighting.
If the kindling is blocks and shavings scatter them loosely over the paper balls, keeping it all in a small space but not packing or crushing it together in the very least.
When we light a fire or blow a fire, we do so from the bottom because it is the draught sweeping up through the fuel which makes it ignite and burn. The fuel should therefore be laid loosely with many cracks and holes for air. The advantage of making paper into balls is that one cannot pack balls closely.
Light the fire from a light or from another fire or with a match. This is the shortest and simplest act in fire making, but the most extraordinary. It would take some one wiser than three philosophers, four scientists and twelve owls to tell you what the flame is which springs up on the hearth. A springing flame has remained through all time such a mystery and wonder, that the poet, the musician and the devotee have woven it into rhythm, and music, and worship--and what is more, a boy and a fox terrier will keep still before it for half an hour.
When the fire is lighted, first the paper burns easily and quickly, then the small pieces of kindling light more slowly and burn more slowly, and from them the small pieces of wood light yet more slowly and burn yet longer, and when they are really burning one may put on the ordinary sticks, leaving always cracks between for the air and flames to draw through. Three sticks are needed to keep a good fire; a heavy one at the back, in front of it a stick almost burned through and a fresh one.
The person who lays the fire, unless she is expert, should light it. There is no way of learning how to lay it, nor of finding out the peculiarities of the fireplace and the fuel, except by seeing how the fire acts when it is lighted.
_A Coal Fire._--The coal fire in the kitchen in no way differs in principle from the wood fire on the hearth. The arrangements for it, though, are different. A range or a stove holds the fire instead of the hearthstone. The smoke and draught, instead of going directly up the flue, are led to it by a stove pipe. The draught must get into the stove in order to go up through the fire into the chimney.
The reason that a fire in a stove is more difficult to understand is that we have several contrivances for regulating and utilizing the heat. Most of these are called draughts or dampers. One knows from the words what they are for; the draughts let in draught at the bottom of the fire, the dampers in some way damp the ardour of the fire.
Stoves or ranges even of the same make are rarely exactly alike, but one can learn to manage the draughts and dampers in a few minutes' examination by keeping in mind the fixed principle that a stream of air enters under the fire, flows through the fire and passes out through the chimney. That to make the fire hot, we do our utmost to remove obstructions from the stream; that to deaden the fire, we obstruct the stream as much as we can. If we want the range hotter, we open a door or slide open some slits which will let in air _underneath_ the fire, and we open the damper in the stove pipe, that is we make as much passage-way for draught through the pipe as we can. If we want the range less hot, we let in air _on top_ of the fire, and shut the pipe damper, that is, the space for the draught to go up the pipe is made smaller and air coming in on top of the fire meets and checks air coming from underneath.
The terms used in regard to regulating fires are confusing. When people say _open_ the draughts, they mean let the stream of air flow unobstructed, but it is often accomplished by shutting something, such as the slits at the top of the fire, and any opening in the stove pipe. The reverse is also true. _Shutting_ the draughts means obstructing the stream of air, and often requires opening places which let in air going in a contrary direction to the regular draught, such as, openings in the pipe and at the top of the fire. This is the reason that it is better to get the principle of the draught thoroughly in mind and then work the dampers and draughts in accord with it, rather than to follow blindly directions which may utterly mislead.
Pipe dampers are sometimes inside the pipe with only a little handle outside. Such a damper is a circle of iron with a small hole in the middle. When the handle is vertical, the circle is vertical and the pipe is open. When the handle is horizontal, the circle is horizontal, and the pipe closed except for the small hole in the circle.
Besides dampers which regulate the amount of heat, there are oven dampers which regulate its direction. An oven damper is a contrivance by which heat is directed over or under or around the oven. When the oven is to be used, the heat is directed there; when it is not, the heat is allowed to concentrate elsewhere. These oven contrivances are not usually visible, and are worked by a handle on the outside of the stove. Sometimes directions for moving the handle are on it; if not, one must experiment to find out what happens.
No one can cook with any certainty until she thoroughly understands the stove or range used. This is best done by "making it work"; opening everything which will open, turning everything which will turn, finding out what everything is for, taking things apart and putting them together again with "'satiable curiosity." If one does this before the fire is lighted, and then lights the fire, there will be few mysteries left unsolved.
Though the principles to be remembered in lighting a coal fire in a stove are the same as those which govern the lighting of the wood fire on the hearth, there are some variations in the process and some additional acts to perform.
If there are ashes in the stove they must be dumped and removed. They cannot warm the coals as in the hearth fire, and if left under the grate they obstruct the draught. The fire maker is fortunate if the grate of the stove is so constructed that the ashes may be dumped. If this is not the case the grate must be shaken until it is empty. That as little dust as possible may come out into the room, close all the openings in the stove before beginning to shake the grate and do not open them again until a few minutes after the shaking is over.
Lay in the grate of the stove a wood fire like the one on the hearth: balls of paper, loose kindling, larger sticks crossed, and all with many cracks between. But in addition sprinkle over the top a fire-shovelful of coal. Be generous with kindling and wood: it takes strong heat to ignite coal.
Just before lighting the fire see that the stream of air is unobstructed; all the openings at the bottom of the fire open, all the openings at the top shut, the pipe unobstructed, and the heat directed _away_ from the oven.
Light the fire from below; this is often most easily accomplished by crushing up a sheet of newspaper, putting it under the grate and lighting it. When the sticks are really burning, put on another shovelful of coal and as soon as this begins to ignite, put on two more. Much coal put on at a time smothers the fire.
In spite of frequent and terrible accidents people persist in lighting fires with kerosene. It is more sensible never to do it, but if you sometimes do, at least do it in a sensible way, that is, soak wood or paper in the oil and put it into the grate, then lay the fire as usual. Never, _never_ bring the oil can near the range at any time or for any purpose. Almost invariably the use of oil to light the fire is an indication of laziness or ignorance.
It is more economical of time and fuel to keep the kitchen fire over than to let it out every night. In a good stove, fire which is properly raked and cared for can be kept week after week, month after month, just as it can be kept in a furnace.
The daily care required by a coal fire is outlined below:
At night, the fire should be thoroughly raked and coal enough put on to last until after breakfast. Leave the draughts open a few minutes until the gas has burned off, then shut them for the night.
The first thing in the morning, open all the draughts and get the fire well up. It ought not be necessary to put on coal.
After breakfast, rake the fire thoroughly, put on coal and empty the ashes.
After luncheon put on as much coal as will be necessary to produce a good fire at dinner time.
When a hot fire is needed for many hours feed it with a few coals at a time; this will not deaden the fire and yet will keep it from burning out. A fire which shows red underneath and has a few black coals on top is in a healthy condition. As soon as all the coals are red the heat begins to wane.
_The Furnace Fire._--The ability to run the kitchen fire will enable the housewife to tend the furnace occasionally. If, however, she wishes to care for it regularly, she will need to seek instruction from some competent person who can show her the use of the particular draughts, gauges, thermometers and other indicators by which the fire and the steam or water are regulated.
A skilled person's aim in managing a furnace is perfect regularity. Necessary care should be given it every day at the same hours, and the fire should be kept as far as possible in the same condition. It is injurious to the fire and to the furnace to attend to it too often or not often enough; and the house will never be evenly heated if the fire is first allowed to get very low and is then urged to an unusual height.
Stoves, furnaces and chimneys need occasional cleaning. Furnaces should be cleaned when the fire is let out in the spring, and carefully looked over in the fall by a competent man. Ranges which are not used in the summer should be treated in the same way. Other ranges should be cleaned and looked over once a year.
At some time when the kitchen fire is out the inside of the stove should be swept, and the dust removed through an opening for the purpose in the back or side of the stove.
About once a year all the flues in the house ought to be cleaned. This is for two reasons, one, because the soot with which they become coated is a non-conductor of heat and keeps the chimneys from warming quickly; the other, because soot is inflamable. When we say a chimney is on fire, we mean that the soot on the inside is burning. It makes a terrifying roar, but don't stop to listen to it. Shut all the openings in the stove. Throw salt on the fire. If there is a fireplace instead of a stove at the bottom of the chimney close the opening in some way. This may sometimes be done with a rug or a thick newspaper held tightly stretched over the opening of the chimney. It must cover the whole opening and must not be allowed to draw in on the fire. The point is to keep the air from rushing up the chimney to feed the fire. This is done by shutting out the air and by sending up gas from the burning salt which is inimical to fire.
_Gas Range._--A gas range is a much simpler matter from a mechanical point of view than one in which coal is burned. There is little to do except keep it clean. It is lighted as any gas burner is lighted, though preferably with a taper instead of a match, for in that case your hand is not near enough to be burned by the first leap of the flame. Fix firmly in mind which one of the little cocks supplies each burner, and also that the cocks turn to the left to supply the gas, to the right to turn it off. If when a burner is lighted, it "burns back" with a roaring noise, turn the gas off and wait a moment or two before lighting it again. It will then light in the usual way.
The iron sheet under the top burners needs washing about once in two days, oftener if anything is spilled or boils over into it. More occasionally the burners should be washed and the holes all made clear with a wire or a broom straw. It does not hurt any part of a gas range to wash it; it does it good. Some people prefer not to black their ranges. The loss in appearance is made up for in the comfort of not having the range rub off black on hands or cloths.
The rack and drip pans for broiling must be washed every time they are used; otherwise, the grease left on them will smell and smoke and sometimes catch fire if the oven burners are lighted. It is well to rub the grease off the grate and the drip pan with a paper while they are still hot, it makes them easier to wash.
Sometimes the fat in this drip-pan catches fire while the broiling is yet going on. Usually people draw out the pan and blow out the blaze, but this is dangerous. Milk poured directly on the flame with a big spoon will quench it.
LIGHT AND WATER
Watch the bills which come in for light and water. If they vary considerably and for no discoverable cause, or if they seem unreasonably large, have some one come and see if there are leaks, if the metres register correctly, and if they have been correctly read and the bills made in accordance with the readings.
Light bills naturally increase from June to December and decrease from December to June. They will be larger in a stormy month than in a bright one, and in an apartment with dark rooms than in one without. Water bills will be larger if the washing is done in the house than if it is not. Both light and water bills will be somewhat larger if the number of people in the household is increased. These things and any other household changes must be considered in accounting for variations in light and water bills.
The cost of both these commodities can usually be kept within bounds by avoiding waste, such as burning a reading light by which no one is reading, or five lights in the ceiling, two of which would not be missed, or neglecting to turn off range burners until five or ten minutes after the cooking is finished, or leaving faucets half turned on, or running the tub and basin over every time they are used. Sometimes a reasonable carefulness in such things saves the necessity of stricter economy.
The man who comes to read your gas, water or electric metres will usually be willing to teach you how to read them, if you ask as if you wanted information and not as if you wanted to catch him in a mistake. I might say here that plumbers, carpenters and furnace men if approached in the same way often prove very instructive. They are human, and can rarely resist the treat of giving information when the chance is offered to them. One can learn a great quantity of useful mechanics from them, besides things about their wives and children, both amusing and edifying.
These are pictures of a gas-metre at the beginning and end of a month.
The hands on the dials move in the directions the arrows indicate. Read the number last passed by the hand on each dial, beginning with the one farthest to the left and add two ciphers. _x_ reads 57600; _y_ reads 63800. The difference is the amount of gas used in the month.
If you cannot take the two ciphers on faith, there is another way of reading the metre. Observe the words over each dial. Dial _c_ is in the hundreds moving toward "1 thousand," it therefore reads 600. Dial _b_ is in the thousands moving toward "10 thousand," and therefore reads 7000. Dial _a_ is in the ten thousands moving toward "100 thousand," and therefore reads 50,000. Together they amount to 57,600, the number obtained by the other method.
This is the picture of an electric metre:
To read the metre:
Each hand moves in the direction indicated by the arrows.
Read the figure that the hand has actually passed, beginning with the dial to the left.
755 K. W.'s
Subtract last month's reading from this reading and the difference will be the amount consumed.
Viz: 755 726 ---- 29 K. W.'s.
The dials here are a simpler arrangement, as they merely represent the usual numeration--units, tens, hundreds, thousands.
This metre is in an especially instructive condition, because the 1,000's dial gives no reading. The hand has not yet reached 1.
A refrigerator serves its purpose better if it is placed in a pantry or on an enclosed porch. If it must be put in the kitchen, it should have the place farthest from the fire.
The drain pipe of the refrigerator, which carries off the water from the melting ice, sometimes empties into a pan, sometimes connects with other pipes which carry the water out of the house. It should never connect with the other drainage of the house, nor lead to any well or sewer which receives other drainage. No traps or plumbing contrivances are perfect enough to protect food which is shut up closely with the opening of a pipe connecting even remotely with the drainage system. Properly the drain pipe of the refrigerator should empty into an open basin or sink in the cellar, which in turn drains off into the ground.
The next point of importance after the disposal of its drainage, is to keep the refrigerator clean. Guard against spilling things on its shelves, wash the ice before it is put in, if it is not clean, and do not keep in it things with a strong or penetrating smell--An innocent dish of cold-slaw unthinkingly put into the refrigerator produces an odour which will startle the person who next opens the door.
A refrigerator needs cleaning once or twice a week. It should not be cleaned oftener than is necessary because cleaning wastes the cold. For this same reason wash it with cold water unless something greasy has been spilled in it, and never leave the doors open one second longer than is necessary.
Collect beforehand everything required for the cleaning, that, when the work is once begun, it may be finished quickly. One needs cold water in which there is baking soda, borax or boracic acid (2 oz. to the qt.), a brush for scrubbing, cloths for wiping, something long and slim with which to clean the drain pipe and a tray or pan to hold the ice while the ice compartment is being cleaned.
Take the food out of the refrigerator, then the ice. Quickly but thoroughly scrub and wipe dry the compartment for the ice, not forgetting the drain pipe. In many refrigerators the drain pipe can be removed for cleaning. Replace the ice and shut it in. Then scrub and wipe the other compartments or shelves, and include the pan and the floor under the refrigerator in this cleaning.
It is hardly necessary to say that rubbish and unsightly objects ought not to be tucked away behind or under the refrigerator. Its surroundings should be as clean and well-aired as possible.
A refrigerator is at its best when it is full of ice. To keep it full is usually found economical as well as sanitary. If the ice is gone and it will be some hours before a new supply will be brought, keep the doors of the refrigerator open until it can be refilled. Without ice the refrigerator becomes the very worst sort of crowded, unaired food closet.
If one has difficulty in keeping an old or poor refrigerator sweet, one or two pieces of charcoal wrapped in gauze and laid in the corners will help. They will need renewing frequently. No disinfectant, however odourless and harmless, should be put into the refrigerator or into the water with which it is washed. Soda, borax or boracic acid answer the same purpose and hurt nothing.
This chapter has concerned itself with what might be called the household genii. They have always, as old tales will tell you, been powerful and troublesome servants, yet withal valuable and fascinating. And, nowadays, we have many inventions for keeping them in order which would have made life easier for old-time sorcerers and magicians who sought to govern them by rubbing lamps and saying rhymes.
MENUS AND MARKETING
HUMAN beings must eat. Under ordinary circumstances this is neither a disagreeable nor a despicable duty. Just now, however, it is a duty which is being made unduly conspicuous. Even those of us with good digestions and excellent appetites can hardly sit down to a meal without taking some thought concerning nutritive values and the use of beverages, things which should not be thought of except by housewives, doctors and nurses, whose business they are. People watching their own symptoms and doctoring themselves, people constantly observing their own thoughts and feelings, and people studying their own diet and digestions are all in the same class--they are all made ill by too much personal attention.
Mr. G. K. Chesterton has said a wise word on the subject of keeping good health. It is: "The one supreme way of making all those processes go right, the processes of health and strength and grace and beauty, the one and only way of making certain of their accuracy, is to think about something else." He supports this idea with the command: "Take no thought what ye shall eat or what ye shall drink."
The only person in a household who should busy herself with matters of diet is the housekeeper. The other people ought to be too busy and too interested to think of diet and digestion between meals, and too courteously occupied in being agreeable at table to think of them then.
Knowledge concerning diet and digestion, both valuable and useless, can be had without asking.
The grocer sends you with your purchases a pamphlet on nourishment; a restaurant menu furnishes a few thoughts on mastication; warnings against coffee drinking glare at you in the street cars; library shelves are crowded with books on health, food, and so on. When we go out to luncheon or have guests to dinner, matters of diet and digestion are talked of so freely that we seem to eat with a chart of the digestive tract before our mind's eye, and we suspiciously watch while innocent food, which unobserved might have given vitality and cheer, becomes a cause of weariness and depression.
To know enough to feed a family wisely, agreeably and economically without becoming over-careful, or perhaps a faddist in regard to food is indeed very difficult. For one thing, avoid fixed rules and arbitrary ideas in catering. Digestions are as different as noses and thumb signatures; one can, therefore, neither invariably forbid one thing nor insist upon another. On the contrary, digestions are as alike in general as noses and thumb signatures, and it is, therefore, unnecessary and harmful that any member of a family should be especially provided for and cooked for unless that person is an invalid living upon a prescribed diet.
I believe a simple and successful rule for those who have nothing to do with the meals except to eat them is: Eat what is set before you and find something amusing to say or to think about. It is a little difficult at first, both to eat things one does not especially care for, and to think up something amusing, but it soon becomes a habit. Meals are not times for stoking an engine, even with the most thoughtfully selected fuel, but times for the renewal of life. There is a meditative by-path which leads off from this thought concerning the reasons that meals are in some cases the most sacred and spiritual rites of religion. We must not wander there, however, but may note in passing the reason for saying Grace at meals which is suggested by this thought. A Grace blesses a gift of new life and is a thanksgiving for it.
But that meals shall fulfil their office of renewing life and gladness, it is necessary that the woman who selects and arranges them shall have some knowledge and shall expend some care. It need not be elaborate knowledge, nor burdensome care, just a usual quantity of each.
It has been discovered that human bodies are composed of chemical elements just as are cabbages and doctors' prescriptions. Some of the elements of which we are composed are oxygen, hydrogen, carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulphur, iron, potassium, calcium, and there are others yet. It would seem a simple matter to find out just how much of each of these things we contained and then to keep up the supply by eating or inhaling them in the required quantities, but you can be sure there is nothing as dull and matter-of-fact as that in this interesting creation. We are not doctors' prescriptions, we are even a bit more remarkable than cabbages, and it is not just correctly measured proportions of oxygen, nitrogen and potassium that we need, but energy, and heat, and flesh, and blood. Therefore, it is that when we consult some wise table of statistics in which the nourishing value of food is given, we do not find it given in terms of oxygen and hydrogen and the rest, but in terms which indicate heat, energy and building material.
Tables of the composition of foods are usually made in the following terms: Refuse, Water, Protein, Fat, Carbohydrates, Ash. Added to these there will often be a division headed "Calories." The calorie nevertheless is not a food substance, it is the unit by which energy-giving heat is measured. Just as a ribbon is measured in yards and molasses in cupfuls, so heat is measured in calories.
"Refuse" means that part of food which cannot be eaten or which could not be used by the body if it were eaten, as bones, fibres, seeds, parings, pods and shells.
"Protein" is an inclusive word for the chief substances in food which the body can use in rebuilding itself as use wears it out.
"Carbohydrates" are the fuel of the body. They are converted at once into heat and energy, or if there is a surplus they are often stored in the body in the form of fat to be used when nourishment is less abundant.
"Fat" is also fuel, a more concentrated form of fuel than the carbohydrates. A certain quantity is stored in the body as a reserve heat supply.
The word "Ash" in food tables stands for the mineral matters which are used in our bodies for building bones and teeth, and for a few other purposes; these minerals are for the most part building materials, but are not so important as protein and are needed in smaller quantities.
Human bodies are constituted to withstand adversities and to bear the experiments and mistakes which we make; therefore it is that though these food substances usually serve the purposes attributed to them above, yet when need arises the body is able, for a time at least, to use one for the other. This is a provision, however, for special and adverse occasions. Ordinarily food should be supplied in the variety and proportion which will enable the body to use each class of nourishment for its own purpose.
Roughly estimated, an average person's diet should be about one-fifth protein, one-fifth fat and three-fifths carbohydrates. That the carbohydrates exceed the others in quantity is easily accounted for. They are not such concentrated fuel as fat, therefore a greater quantity is needed; they are consumed to make heat instead of being built into the body as protein is; therefore, we need more carbohydrates, just as we need to renew the coal supply in a house more frequently than to renew the carpets.
The foods from which we derive protein are chiefly meat, fish, milk, beans, peas, bread and other articles made of wheat, corn, oats, and like grains.
Vegetables, with the exception of beans and peas, furnish chiefly carbohydrates.
Fats are derived for the most part from the animal food which we eat. Butter, for instance, is chiefly fat, and the proportion of fat in bacon is more than half.
But because nearly every kind of food contains other constituents besides the one which is chief, the housekeeper who wishes to make wise menus will need more and more detailed statements of food values as she is able to get and understand them. If she has hitherto thought little about such matters, she will probably not know that the United States Government has very kindly employed people to make years of experiments and to write books and pamphlets for her help, nor will she know that she may have these last merely by asking the Department of Agriculture for them. They are not made into attractive booklets, but they are by no means dull reading. Farmers' Bulletin No. 142, for instance, called "Principles of Nutrition and Nutritive Value of Food," and written by Dr. W. O. Atwater, is brief, helpful and most interesting. The figures in the table given below were taken from this Bulletin. But there are things which may be derived from this and the many other food pamphlets issued by the Government which are quite as important as definite statistics. They are things which give the housewife a feeling of comradeship with many people who are working earnestly with and for her; things which increase her interest in her own small part of the work and which give her a helpful sense of its dignity.
For many reasons it is impossible for a housewife to make an _exact_ calculation of the amount of nourishment which she gives her family. The figures in even the most carefully made tables are, of necessity, averages or approximates, for food varies in quality in different localities and at different seasons. Moreover, the figures in the various government reports upon food values and in books giving such statistics differ somewhat, nevertheless, there is sufficient general agreement upon which to base an intelligent effort to make wise as well as agreeable menus.
On this account, a housewife who is neither very learned nor very experienced can yet wisely regulate her menus by keeping in mind the general character of a day's nourishment and helping out her lack of chemical knowledge with a table of food values such as the one below. The general aim in providing food, as has already been said, is to furnish all the varieties of nourishment which the body requires and the chief ones in about the proportion of a fifth protein to a fifth fat to three-fifths carbohydrates. That is, either the per cent. of protein or the per cent. of fat multiplied by three should about equal the carbohydrates. This is, of course, a very rough and general way of estimating, but I believe it to be a practical way to begin the study and application of a branch of difficult and as yet slightly established knowledge.
================================================================== |_Refuse._ | | _Water._ | | | _Protein._ | | | | _Fat._ | | | | |_Carbohydrates._ _Food Materials._ | | | | | |_Ash._ ________________________|______|______|______|______|______|______ | Per | Per | Per | Per | Per | Per | cent.| cent.| cent.| cent.| cent.| cent. BEEF: | | | | | | Chuck ribs | 16.3 | 52.6 | 15.5 | 15.0 | .... | 0.8 Ribs | 20.8 | 43.8 | 13.9 | 21.2 | .... | .7 Rib rolls | .... | 63.9 | 19.3 | 16.7 | .... | .9 Round | 7.2 | 60.7 | 19.0 | 12.8 | .... | 1.0 Rump | 20.7 | 45.0 | 13.8 | 20.2 | .... | .7 Shank, fore | 36.9 | 42.9 | 12.8 | 7.3 | .... | .6 Porterhouse steak | 12.7 | 52.4 | 19.1 | 17.9 | .... | .8 Sirloin steak | 12.8 | 54.0 | 16.5 | 16.1 | .... | .9 | | | | | | Corned beef | 8.4 | 49.2 | 14.3 | 23.8 | .... | 4.6 Canned corned beef | .... | 51.8 | 26.3 | 18.7 | .... | 4.0 Dried and smoked beef | 4.7 | 53.7 | 26.4 | 6.9 | .... | 8.9 | | | | | | VEAL: | | | | | | Breast | 21.3 | 52.0 | 15.4 | 11.0 | | .8 Leg | 14.2 | 60.1 | 15.5 | 7.9 | | .9 Leg cutlets | 3.4 | 68.3 | 20.1 | 7.5 | 1.0 | | | | | | MUTTON: | | | | | | Flank | 9.9 | 39.0 | 13.8 | 36.9 | | .6 Leg, hind | 18.4 | 51.2 | 15.1 | 14.7 | | .8 Loin chops | 16.0 | 42.0 | 13.5 | 28.3 | | .7 | | | | | | LAMB: | | | | | | Breast | 19.1 | 45.5 | 15.4 | 19.1 | | .8 Leg, hind | 17.4 | 52.9 | 15.9 | 13.6 | | .9 | | | | | | PORK: | | | | | | Ham | 10.7 | 48.0 | 13.5 | 25.9 | | .8 Ham, smoked | 13.6 | 34.8 | 14.2 | 33.4 | | 4.2 Shoulder | 12.4 | 44.9 | 12.0 | 29.8 | | .7 Shoulder, smoked | 18.2 | 36.8 | 13.0 | 26.6 | | 5.5 Loin chops | 19.7 | 41.8 | 13.4 | 24.2 | | .8 Bacon, smoked | 7.7 | 17.4 | 9.1 | 62.2 | | 4.1 Salt pork | | 7.9 | 1.9 | 86.2 | | 3.9 | | | | | | SAUSAGE: | | | | | | Bologna | 3.3 | 55.2 | 18.2 | 19.7 | | 3.8 Pork | | 39.8 | 13.0 | 44.2 | 1.1 | 2.2 Frankfort | | 57.2 | 19.6 | 18.6 | 1.1 | 3.4 | | | | | | POULTRY: | | | | | | Chicken, broilers | 41.6 | 43.7 | 12.8 | 1.4 | | .7 Fowls | 25.9 | 47.1 | 13.7 | 12.3 | | .7 Goose | 17.6 | 38.5 | 13.4 | 29.8 | | .7 Turkey | 22.7 | 42.4 | 16.1 | 18.4 | | .8 | | | | | | FISH: | | | | | | Cod, dressed | 29.9 | 58.5 | 11.1 | .2 | | .8 Cod, salt | 24.9 | 40.2 | 16.0 | .4 | |18.5 Halibut, steaks | 17.7 | 61.9 | 15.3 | 4.4 | | .9 Mackerel, whole | 44.7 | 40.4 | 10.2 | 4.2 | | .7 Shad, whole | 50.1 | 35.2 | 9.4 | 4.8 | | .7 Herring, smoked | 44.4 | 19.2 | 20.5 | 8.8 | | 7.4 Salmon, canned | | 63.5 | 21.8 | 12.1 | | 2.6 Sardines | 5.0 | 53.6 | 23.7 | 12.1 | | 5.3 | | | | | | SHELL FISH: | | | | | | Oysters | | 88.3 | 6.0 | 1.3 | 3.3 | 1.1 Clams | | 80.8 | 10.6 | 1.1 | 5.2 | 2.3 Crabs | 52.4 | 36.7 | 7 | .9 | .6 | 1.5 Lobsters | 61. | 30.7 | 5.9 | .7 | .2 | .8 | | | | | | EGGS: | 11.2 | 65.5 | 13.1 | 9.3 | | .9 | | | | | | DAIRY PRODUCTS: | | | | | | Butter | | 11.0 | 1.0 | 85.0 | | 3.0 Whole milk | | 87.0 | 3.3 | 4.0 | 5.0 | .7 Skim milk | | 90.5 | 3.4 | .3 | 5.1 | .7 Buttermilk | | 91.0 | 3.0 | .5 | 4.8 | .7 Condensed milk | | 26.9 | 8.8 | 8.3 | 54.1 | 1.9 Cream | | 74.0 | 2.5 | 18.5 | 4.5 | .5 Cheese, full cream | | 34.2 |25.9 | 33.7 | 2.4 | 3.8 | | | | | | FLOUR, MEAL, ETC.: | | | | | | Entire wheat flour | | 11.4 | 13.8 | 1.9 | 71.9 | 1.0 Graham flour | | 11.3 | 13.3 | 2.2 | 71.4 | 1.8 Wheat flour, roller | | | | | | process, high and | | | | | | medium grades | | 12.0 | 11.4 | 1.0 | 75.1 | .5 Low grade | | 12.0 | 14.0 | 1.9 | 71.2 | .9 Macaroni, vermicelli, | | | | | | etc. | | 10.3 | 13.4 | .9 | 74.1 | 1.3 Wheat breakfast food | | 9.6 | 12.1 | 1.8 | 75.2 | 1.3 Buckwheat flour | | 13.6 | 6.4 | 1.2 | 77.9 | .9 Rye flour | | 12.9 | 6.8 | .9 | 78.7 | .7 Corn meal | | 12.5 | 9.2 | 1.9 | 75.4 | 1.0 Oat breakfast food | | 7.7 | 16.7 | 7.3 | 66.2 | 2.1 Rice | | 12.3 | 8.0 | .3 | 79.0 | .4 Tapioca | | 11.4 | .4 | .1 | 88.0 | .1 | | | | | | BREAD: | | | | | | White | | 35.3 | 9.2 | 1.3 | 53.1 | 1.1 Brown | | 43.6 | 5.4 | 1.8 | 47.1 | 2.1 Graham | | 35.7 | 8.9 | 1.8 | 52.1 | 1.5 Whole wheat | | 38.4 | 9.7 | .9 | 49.7 | 1.3 Rye | | 35.7 | 9.0 | .6 | 53.2 | 1.5 | | | | | | SUGARS, ETC. | | | | | | Molasses | | | | | 70.0 | Honey. | | | | | 81.0 | Sugar, granulated | | | | |100.0 | Maple syrup | | | | | 71.4 | | | | | | | _VEGETABLES_: | | | | | | Beans, dried | | 12.6 | 22.51| .8 | 59.6 | 3.5 Beans, lima, shelled | | 68.5 | 7.1 | .7 | 22.0 | 1.7 Beans, string | 7.0 | 83.0 | 2.1 | .3 | 6.9 | .7 Baked beans, canned | | 68.9 | 6.9 | 2.5 | 19.6 | 2.1 Beets | 20.0 | 70.0 | 1.3 | .1 | 7.7 | .9 Cabbage | 15.0 | 77.7 | 1.4 | .2 | 4.8 | .9 Celery | 20.0 | 75.6 | .9 | .1 | 2.6 | .8 Corn, green, edible | | | | | | portion | | 75.4 | 3.1 | 1.1 | 19.7 | .7 Cucumbers | 15.0 | 81.1 | .7 | .2 | 2.6 | .4 Lettuce | 15.0 | 80.5 | 1.0 | .2 | 2.5 | .8 Mushrooms | | 88.1 | 3.5 | .4 | 6.8 | 1.2 Onions | 10.0 | 78.9 | 1.4 | .3 | 8.9 | .5 Parsnips | 20.0 | 66.4 | 1.3 | .4 | 10.8 | 1.1 Peas, shelled | | 74.6 | 7.0 | .5 | 16.9 | 1.0 Peas, canned | | 85.3 | 3.6 | .2 | 9.8 | 1.1 Potatoes | 20.0 | 62.6 | 1.8 | .1 | 14.7 | .8 Rhubarb | 40.0 | 56.6 | .4 | .4 | 2.2 | .4 Sweet potatoes | 20.0 | 55.2 | 1.4 | .6 | 21.9 | .9 Spinach | | 92.3 | 2.1 | .3 | 3.2 | 2.1 Squash | 50.0 | 44.2 | .7 | .2 | 4.5 | .4 Tomatoes | | 94.3 | .9 | .4 | 3.9 | .5 Tomatoes, canned | | 94.0 | 1.2 | .2 | 4.0 | .6 Turnips | 30.0 | 62.7 | .9 | .1 | 5.7 | .6 | | | | | | FRUITS, BERRIES, ETC.: | | | | | | Apples | 25.0 | 63.3 | .3 | .3 | 10.8 | .3 Apples, dried | | 28.1 | 1.6 | 2.2 | 66.1 | 2.0 Bananas | 35.0 | 48.9 | .8 | .4 | 14.3 | .6 Grapes | 25.0 | 58.0 | 1.0 | 1.2 | 14.4 | .4 Lemons | 30.0 | 62.5 | .7 | .5 | 5.9 | .4 Muskmelons | 50.0 | 44.8 | .3 | | 4.6 | .3 Oranges | 27.0 | 63.4 | .6 | .1 | 8.5 | .4 Pears | 10.0 | 76.0 | .5 | .4 | 12.7 | .4 Raspberries | | 85.8 | 1.0 | | 12.6 | .6 Strawberries | 5.0 | 85.9 | .9 | .6 | 7.0 | .6 Watermelons | 59.4 | 37.5 | .2 | .1 | 2.7 | .1 Apricots, dried | | 29.4 | 4.7 | 1.0 | 62.5 | 2.4 Dates | 10.0 | 13.8 | 1.9 | 2.5 | 70.6 | 1.2 Figs | | 18.8 | 4.3 | .3 | 74.2 | 2.4 Raisins | 10.0 | 13.1 | 2.3 | 3.0 | 68.5 | 3.1 | | | | | | NUTS: | | | | | | Almonds | 45.0 | 2.7 | 11.5 | 30.2 | 9.5 | 1.1 Chestnuts | 16.0 | 37.8 | 5.2 | 4.5 | 35.4 | 1.1 Cocoanuts | 48.8 | 7.2 | 2.9 | 25.9 | 14.3 | .9 Cocoanut, prepared | | 3.5 | 6.3 | 57.4 | 31.5 | 1.3 Hickory nuts | 62.2 | 1.4 | 5.8 | 25.5 | 4.3 | .8 Peanuts | 24.5 | 6.9 | 19.5 | 29.1 | 18.5 | 1.5 Walnuts, black | 74.1 | .6 | 7.2 | 14.6 | 3.0 | .5 Walnuts, English | 58.1 | 1.0 | 6.9 | 26.6 | 6.8 | .6 | | | | | | Chocolate | | 5.9 | 12.9 | 48.7 | 30.3 | 2.2 Cocoa, powdered | | 4.6 | 21.6 | 28.9 | 37.7 | 7.2 ----------------------------------------------------------------
A table given as this one, in percentages instead of quantities, may seem at first sight too indefinite to be of much service to a housekeeper who naturally wishes to know the quantity of food to give her household as well as the proportions of its composition. I have purposely avoided giving a food table which deals with quantities because I believe this one to be more useful to a beginner. One's first calculations in food values can hardly be other than approximate and inexact. Not many girls, when they begin their housekeeping, have either the time or the ability to make the calculations which even the simplest schemes for computing a dietary require. Besides, an effort to provide scientifically correct meals on the part of a housewife to whom the effort is unfamiliar and difficult is apt to produce monotony in the meals, worry in her, and disregard and forgetfulness of the family's particular tastes.
A first and simple step for her to take is to make herself familiar with the chief value of different articles of food and of the more usual combinations. When she takes this last matter into consideration she will find that many combinations which are traditional, which were probably made merely by instinct, are, when tested, palatable wisdom. For instance, bread is a very complete food in itself except that it is a little lacking in fat, but people have been spreading butter on it for centuries, and thereby completing it.
Consider the traditional combination of baked beans and brown bread. Referring to the table we find beans a fairly well-balanced food, but a little lacking in fat. In brown bread neither the protein nor the fat come anywhere near being a third of the carbohydrates. Therefore, when we combine these two articles we shall be a little lacking in protein and a good deal lacking in fat. Butter on the bread will help this last difficulty and the wisdom of our ancestors will help out the rest. What did they combine with these two? Codfish cakes, to be sure. And in these there is codfish which has a good deal of protein in it; egg which has protein and fat; butter which is chiefly fat and potato which is chiefly carbohydrates. We might make a diagram of it, like this:
Cod fish Protein Egg Protein Fat Butter Fat Potato Carbohydrates
As a dish to combine with two articles somewhat lacking in protein and fat, we may feel ourselves content with this.
In many people's minds the word "sausage" is just naturally followed by the words "buckwheat cakes." Is there sanction for this? From the food table we learn that sausage has a fair percentage of protein, almost no carbohydrates, and is almost half fat. Buckwheat cakes have in them, beside buckwheat flour, a little milk and often some wheat flour or corn meal. This table will, perhaps, represent the matter better than an explanation.
_Protein._ _Fat._ _Carbohydrates._ Sausage 13.0 44.2 1.1 Buckwheat flour 6.4 1.2 77.9 Milk 3.3 4.0 5.0
The table says to the eye, too much fat. One cannot remedy the defect by increasing the protein and carbohydrates to match the fat, for we should then have as much food at one meal as we should need for three. The real remedy is to balance this meal with others during the day in which the percentage of fat is very low. Another remedy is to serve meals with a large percentage of fat on very cold days; in that case the weather will help to balance the excess of heat production.
Pursuing this matter of tradition, why are peas served with lamb, and why is pork so often accompanied with "greens" of some sort? The percentage of protein in lamb is low enough to allow, perhaps require, some supplement from the vegetables. The excess of fat in pork is offset by the excess of water in greens, and also by certain medicinal qualities they possess which are represented in the percentage of "Ash." One might almost say that the combination known as "hog's jowl and turnip greens" is providential. I am sure it has saved bodily suffering and even lives in certain pig-raising localities.
One can see from looking thoughtfully at this food table that the dinner at which we have lamb, veal, poultry, or fish is the occasion upon which to have a substantial vegetable, such as macaroni, lima beans, parsnips or sweet potatoes, or an especially substantial dessert such as a boiled pudding or a pie. It is also evident that when we have beef, mutton or pork it is healthful to combine them with vegetables like spinach, cabbage, lettuce, tomatoes and turnips, which contain a large percentage of water. The dessert for such occasions may well be a jelly or fruit in some form--something light and cool.
The day on which we have roast pork is not the occasion to have apple dumpling or any dessert with a percentage of fat; the meal at which we serve beef steak and mushrooms is not the one to complete with mince pie, for we should then have more protein than we should know what to do with. On the contrary, the day on which the main dish at dinner is made from yesterday's meat, or is fish, is not the time for a watery or a fluffy dessert, unless we are purposely planning a day of abstinence. If it happens that the family diet includes little meat, care must be taken that protein is supplied from other sources, otherwise we shall be running an engine at full speed in a building which is never decently repaired and which will one day fall round our ears.
There are several questions which frequently arise in the mind of a person who begins to study food values. One is, why are articles included in the menu of almost every meal which have almost no value as nourishment? In many cases such articles are appetizing and refreshing; such are lettuce, celery, muskmelons, cucumbers and many soups and desserts. They also contain much water, of which the body has great and constant need. They also give bulk to our food, which is a necessity because some of the processes of digestion do not begin until the organs to which they belong are expanded.
A housewife who is bewildered or disheartened will sometimes ask why we cannot take our food in capsules, or why an ideal dietary cannot be made and used over and over again. She will not be the first person who has thought of these expedients, but it has been fairly well proved that highly condensed food, as also "predigested" foods, not only lack this element of bulk of which we have been speaking, but have an even worse defect. They give us something for nothing, which is always bad for us. That is, they furnish us with nourishment without requiring any effort to speak of from the digestive organs. As a result the digestive organs grow flabby and useless from having nothing to do. A child in school who is never given anything difficult to do grows flabby in mind and character and soon _can't_ do anything difficult; so it is with a digestion.
The objection to the use of an ideal dietary is, in the first place, that such a dietary has not been discovered. People claim to have discovered it, but that is different from really doing so. But the chief objection to the use of such a thing is that the body requires a variety of food, that a variety of food has been provided for it on the earth and that the part of us which is not body will not stand eating the same thing every day or even every week. Have you ever lived in a boarding house or in an institution where there was an invariable week's menu. It is a mechanical contrivance which soon stirs up rebellion, and rightly.
Probably a word more needs to be said on this subject of variety, for it is a saving grace in menu making. If one can give one's household _real_ variety of food, not merely that which is made by different methods of serving and cooking, but that which is actually a difference in constituents, mistakes in selection will then never get very long or thoroughly established. If one cannot be right all the time, by means of variety one can be fairly sure of being right some of the time. Variety is also made necessary by changes in season, in occupation, in state of health, and I think I may add without making a loop-hole for pampering people unduly, that it is made necessary at times by change of mood.
A trivial thing comes to my mind which none the less illustrates what I am trying to say about variety. So often I have seen a woman, whom I like to be with, a woman who has many, many things to do, take a few moments to make the last bit of her cookie-dough into an elephant or a rabbit of extraordinary figure. The cheering effect of this animal upon the boy who comes in from school very tired and perhaps cross or discouraged, is delightful to see. I repent that I called it a trivial thing, for this puffy, blunt-legged animal is to the child pleasant food, an amusing sight and the assurance that some one has thought gladly of him during the long school hours.
Variety in menus gives to the grown-up mind the same pleasurable feelings which the cookie elephant gives to the mind of the child, with this practical addition, that such feelings of pleasure also quicken the appetite and the energy and digestive powers of the body, thus enabling it to profit more by the nourishment varied foods convey.
Making a wise menu does not by any means produce a meal. It is a first step in the process, the next is to buy the food which is required by the menu.
Many women like to shop, and even more like to have it thought that they know how to shop. For some unknown reason shopping for food does not usually excite the same interest nor is it so coveted an accomplishment. I wonder if it seems less interesting because the things shopped for are not "to keep." If this is the reason, one has but to remind oneself that they are "to keep," only they must first be transmuted into the flesh and bones, work and laughter of the family.
A large city market is a "sight" in the same sense that a museum or an aquarium or a menagerie is. It is also to some extent a "sight" in the way that an art gallery is. I would like to give as a reward to good housekeepers a visit to the market in Venice. It is spread in heaps and piles of colour on gray stones, and shaded with gay awnings. Women wearing fringed shawls and high heels and high combs go to it in gondolas, and the market-stuffs are brought to it in boats which glide up to the steps through thousand-coloured ripples.
Often, however, marketing is done in ugly little shops instead of in one big market. But though small shops are not so spectacular, they are often easier to market in, and the customer usually receives an amount of personal attention which is useful if one has many things to learn.
One of the best reasons for going to a market or to provision shops every day or two is that there is so much to be learned there. An incidental reason is that going to market takes the housewife out of doors more often than she might otherwise go. Another reason for going is that it helps in making varied menus; one sees things which would never have been thought of at home. The housewife who goes to market can also take advantage of special prices.
Wise marketing, like wise shopping, requires of us two moral qualities, judgment and self-restraint. One must ask oneself and answer wisely and truly:
Is this what I want?
Is its price reasonable for me to pay?
Is it good of its kind?
Is it in good condition?
Is it a suitable size or quantity?
If any of it is left to-day will it fit into my plans for to-morrow?
Is this what I want? That is, is it what I have reasonably planned to get or just something which momentarily appeals to me. On the other hand, is it perhaps better for my purpose than the thing I had planned to have?
"Reasonable," used in regard to a price, has two interpretations, and the housewife is concerned with both. She must consider whether the price of an article is "within her means" as people say, that is, whether she can buy this thing which she wants without sacrificing something equally or more important. She must also consider whether the price is a reasonable value for the nourishment and enjoyment which it represents and not a fictitious price caused by unseasonableness or an unusual demand.
Is it good of its kind? And is it in good condition? Are questions which may well be considered together. We can only learn to answer them by experiment and experience. Especially is this true in regard to meat. One cannot easily recognize the different pieces from another person's description, and it is often difficult to do so from pictures. Even the names of the pieces differ considerably in different localities, and a knowledge of the quality of meat is impossible to obtain except from actual experience. The best and easiest way to learn about meat is from a good butcher. Three or four minutes of his time appropriated by you every time that you go to his shop will make you into a skilful marketer. Do not hesitate to ask him questions nor be afraid of betraying your ignorance. For whether you know much or little, it is well to put a good deal of responsibility upon him in selecting meat, then if it is not satisfactory he can fairly be taken to task, but if you do the choosing without his help, a mistake is your own fault.
If the housewife is not sure of the names given to pieces of meat in the locality in which she is marketing, or not very sure of such names anywhere, she may easily explain her wishes by designating what she means to do with a piece of meat, as, "a piece of veal for roasting," "about a pound and a half of lamb for stewing," "a piece of beef for soup," and the like phrases.
Her receipt book will probably give her pictures and the names of pieces of meat, or she may again apply to her paternal government for Farmers' Bulletin No. 34: "Meats: Composition and Cooking," in which she will find placid animals divided into numbered sections, and considerable explanation of ways in which these sections may be used.
Because the names of pieces of meat and the methods of cutting them vary considerably, I shall give but a brief and general table here. This diagram of a side of beef will give some idea of the position of the several pieces.
1. Hind Shank 2. Lower Round 3. Round 4. Aitch Bone 5. Rump 6. Loin 7. Flank 8. Navel 9. Plate 10. Ribs 11. Brisket 12. Cross Ribs 13. Chuck 14. Neck 15. Shoulder 16. Fore Shank ]
_Beef._--The neck, shin or shank and navel are usually used for soup stock.
A variety of pieces known by a variety of names, such as cross ribs, plate or Rattel rand, brisket, shoulder, rump, thick flank, aitch bone and the butt or vein, are used for boiling, braising, stewing, corned beef, pot roasts and spiced beef.
The upper round, occasionally called the buttock, is used for round steaks.
The lower round is good for beef-tea, hamburg-steak, meat pies and any purpose for which good chopped beef is needed.
The chuck ribs are those nearest the neck; they are frequently used for stews, chuck steaks and ragout. Sometimes the ribs are removed and the meat rolled and tied; this makes a tender and well-flavoured roast.
The prime ribs, of which some people say there are five and others six, are used for prime roasts. They are divided into first, second and third cuts; the last is considered least desirable.
From the part of the animal known as the loin are cut porterhouse, sirloin and short steaks; from this part also comes the tenderloin, sometimes called the fillet.
The parts of the loin and the prime ribs are the most expensive and are considered the most desirable parts of the animal. The housekeeper whose purse will not permit her to buy them may comfort herself, though, with the fact that they contain no more nourishment than some less popular pieces.
Other meats are divided into somewhat fewer cuts than beef. The more general divisions are given below.
_Veal._--The loin is used for roasts and chops.
The fillet for roasts and cutlets.
The better parts of the neck and the breast are used for roasting and chops.
The less desirable parts for pies, pot roasts and stews.
The shank, which in veal is known as a "knuckle," is used for soup and broths.
_Mutton or lamb._--The leg is used for roasting or boiling.
The shoulder for baking and roasting.
The loin for chops and roasts.
The ribs, which are often called the "rack," are used chiefly for chops.
The breast may be roasted, baked or stewed.
_Pork._--Hams and shoulders, the back and front legs of the animal, are eaten either smoked or fresh.
The loin, ribs and sparerib are used for roasts, chops, stews and baked dishes.
Pieces used for salt pork and bacon are cut from the almost clear fat of the back and sides.
Almost all parts of the pig are used for food, but as they are usually known by names which indicate what they are, they give the housewife little trouble in remembering them.
The use of your eye, sometimes of your hand, is required in judging the condition of the food you are buying.
Meat which is without fat is probably tough. Fat of beef should be pale yellow and dry, the lean, bright red and firm. Mutton, veal and pork should have pure white fat, the lean of mutton should be bright red, of veal, pink, of pork, a somewhat more delicate pink.
Chickens should have soft, moist, yellow feet, smooth, thick legs, and tender skin. The end of the breastbone should be pliable. Plump, very bright yellow chickens are fat and are better for stews or pot-pie than for roasting.
Turkeys should have smooth, black legs and white, plump breasts. If the flesh of their legs is purplish they are probably old.
Geese and ducks should have soft feet, hard breasts and pinkish beaks.
Fish in good condition have bright eyes and scales, stiff fins and flesh so hard and firm that it will not retain the mark if pressed with a finger.
It is not a difficult matter to tell whether fruit and vegetables are fresh and good. When such things are wilted, withered, bruised or lacking in firmness, they are not good for food unless they are merely wilted as lettuce and asparagus sometimes are on a hot day, or when they have been carried through the sun.
I know of no way of judging butter except by tasting it. There is little also by which to judge eggs; their shells should not be shiny or very smooth and they should feel both light and heavy--if you can tell what I mean by that.
The last two questions on the marketing list are also usually considered together. Both are really questions concerning quantity.
Food so often comes in quantities too large for one meal that it is usually better to make menus for two days at one time and then revise the second day's menu when the second day comes.
Under these questions of quantity comes a class of articles a little different from those which we have just been mentioning: articles like sugar, flour, salt, coffee, tea and the like, which are bought in bulk. In what quantity it is wise to buy such things depends upon the size of the household, the place where these articles may be kept, the distance from the place where the supply can be renewed, the income of the family and whether the housewife or a reliable servant dispenses them for use. I think it is pretty generally admitted that households which are living on small means do better to buy food supplies in small quantities. The advantages of doing this are, that if the commodity is injured in any way, the loss is small; that no large outlay of money is required at any one time; that the smallness of the quantity possessed is a continual guard against its lavish use. These advantages usually amply offset the fact that it is a little cheaper and a little more comfortable to buy in large quantities.
Because it is easier, housewives sometimes fall into the way of dealing at just one or two shops. This is a good thing to do usually, a poor one to do invariably. To go occasionally to other shops gives one the chance to find better things and pleasanter conditions; it also makes your regular shopkeeper more anxious to please if he knows you go elsewhere when you are not pleased. An advantage in cities of going here and there, is that one can often take advantage of a difference in prices in different localities. This must be done, of course, with judgment; otherwise one makes oneself a fit subject for one of those jokes about women who save two cents on a head of lettuce and spend ten in carfare going to get it.
Women who take the same sort of trouble about marketing as they do about buying their clothes usually succeed well with it. It is really not a difficult form of shopping and interest in it grows as one learns.
OUR Brother the Sun gets up every morning to cook, cooks all day, and seems to enjoy cooking. The cooking processes which we engage in are many of them imitations of his. When we use water and heat to soften and break up starch cells, it is only a copy of the process by which the sun makes the dry starch laid up in a seed in the damp earth into food for the first little leaves of a plant. Long before we ever thought of cooking, the sun was changing starch into sugar by heating apples and pears and peaches through and through every day. One might even venture to say that he had warmed milk for all the mammal babies ever since the first one was born. Every once in a while, people appear who try to persuade us to "go back to nature" and eat our food uncooked, not realizing that they are asking us, not to go back to nature, but to our own first ignorance of what nature is doing.
[Illustration: Photograph by Helen W. Cooke
The dictionary says that "to cook" is "to prepare food by subjecting it to heat"; a brief and simple definition including some thousands of processes ranging from the universal cooking done by the sun to that performed by an accomplished French chef.
The object of cooking is to make food more digestible and more attractive. For changes occur in food when it is subjected to heat which make it more easily used by the body and which make it more agreeable in flavour--more "appetizing." An incidental but important benefit from cooking is that great heat kills the animal organisms which food sometimes contains.
1. THE PROCESSES
The most usual processes of cooking are broiling, boiling, stewing, braising, frying, roasting and baking.
_Broiling._--Food is broiled by being held close to a fire of glowing red coals. The utensil needed for doing this is a wire broiler, which should be greased before the meat is laid in it, preferably with a bit of fat from the meat. In broiling, the chief object is to keep the juices of the meat from running out. For this reason the meat is laid close over the red coals for about ten seconds, then turned with the other side to the coals that both may be seared almost at once. Afterward it is turned frequently to prevent burning. Broiled meat is not seasoned until it is done because salt draws out its juices. Care is also taken not to cut or pierce the meat while it is cooking.
Steaks and chops are almost always broiled; fish, chicken and oysters are frequently cooked in this way.
Broiling may be done in a frying pan heated intensely hot, and greased as the wires of the broiler were with a bit of fat from the meat--a tiny bit. The meat is laid in the pan, first on one side for a few seconds, then on the other. It is turned, as when broiling over the coals, often enough to keep it from burning.
Articles of food which are thin need a hotter fire, or to be laid nearer the fire than thicker ones. This assures that the time required to brown the outside will be too brief to dry the article through and through.
A thick piece of meat will not cook through to the middle for some time and should therefore be exposed to a slower fire that the outside may not be hard before the inside is cooked. These principles apply also to the roasting and baking of thick and thin articles of food.
_Boiling._--As only liquids can boil, we mean when we say we boil potatoes, that we cook them in boiling water. When water is heated, tiny bubbles of steam rise in it, which at first break before they reach the surface; this is "simmering." As the heat increases, the bubbles rise more quickly and higher, and break at the surface; this is boiling. Water boils at 212° F., and, though its motion may be increased by heat to a "gallop," it gets no hotter, for the steam escapes when the little bubbles burst. Liquids which have a greater density than water, such as salt water, syrup, grease and oil, do not boil until they have reached a higher temperature than 212°. Milk boils at a lower temperature than water. The reason it "boils over" so easily is that what one might call the texture of the milk bubbles which enclose the steam is less delicate than that of the water bubbles, therefore instead of breaking when they come to the surface, they pile up one upon another.
Boiling water hardens and toughens some of the protein substances in food, but softens and makes digestible most of the substances included under the head of carbohydrates.
Cold water softens and dissolves into itself some of the protein substances, and also soaks out the nourishing qualities of carbohydrates.
These facts are extremely useful in deciding upon the best method of boiling food. For instance, if we have a piece of meat or fish which we wish to boil and serve whole, it should be put into water which is already boiling; this hardens the outside sufficiently to keep the juices inside. This hardening is accomplished in about eight or ten minutes; at the end of that time, the temperature of the water should be allowed to fall a little below the boiling point that the inside of the article may be cooked without being hardened. Water into which fish is put should be just boiling, not rapidly boiling, as the motion sometimes breaks the fish into pieces.
If we wish to make soup, broth, or beef-tea, we cut meat into small pieces and put it into cold water, which is then gradually brought to a high temperature. The cold water dissolves the substances of the meat, which it has a better opportunity of doing from many small pieces than from one large one, and gradually becomes highly and agreeably flavoured. Meanwhile, the meat becomes more and more tasteless and colourless and is, at last, fit only to be thrown away.
Salt is put into the water in which meat is boiled. In cold water it helps to draw out the juices of the meat. In boiling water it draws them out a little, but the heat of the water converts them into a thin albuminous coating for the meat which assists in keeping in the juices.
Nearly all vegetables should be put into boiling water instead of being put on the fire in cold and allowed to come to the boiling point. This is in order that the changes which are made in the cells and fibres may be made at once, before dissolvable substances like starch and sugar are soaked out into the water which is to be thrown away. Some watery vegetables, such as tomatoes and spinach need extremely little water, sometimes no more than adheres to them after they have been washed. These things are really stewed, not boiled. White potatoes should be boiled gently, that the outsides may not break and fall off as they soften.
In most cases, the boiling water in which vegetables are put should be salted, in the proportion of a tablespoonful of salt to two quarts of water. This not only seasons them but makes the temperature of the water somewhat greater. There are some exceptions to this, however; green corn is one of them; salt yellows and toughens it. Many authorities will tell you not to salt peas until they are nearly cooked.
As soon as vegetables are tender they should be drained. Potatoes, whether boiled or baked, should not be covered after they are drained or taken from the oven. They should dry in the air, not soak in their own steam.
_Stewing._--Stewing resembles boiling. It is boiling done in the juices of the article cooked increased with a little water. As we wish some of the juices to flow out, we put food to be stewed into cold water. When it has been brought gradually to the boiling point, the heat should then be lowered to the simmering point and the food allowed to simmer for a long while. Stewing is a slow method of cooking but it makes digestible and appetizing meat and coarse vegetables which otherwise would be hard fare. To food which is neither coarse nor tough, it imparts a particularly delectable flavour. Stewed mushrooms are a good example of this.
_Braising._--Braising is rather like stewing done in the oven. A tightly covered pan or earthenware dish is required for it and a "slow" oven. The meat is shut in the pan with seasonings and a little water, and cooked long and slowly in the oven.
Braising is sometimes done in a closely covered dish set in a moderately heated place on the top of the stove.
_Frying._--Frying is done in two ways, by immersing the article to be fried in deep, hot fat and also by laying it first on one side then on the other in a pan in which there is a little hot fat. This latter method is often called sautéing.
The object of frying is quickly to form a crisp, brown crust round the oyster, croquette, doughnut or whatever is being cooked, which will not allow the flavour and constituents of the food to escape into the fat, nor the fat to penetrate into the food. Provided this is accomplished, frying is an entirely defensible mode of cooking, but imperfectly done it is a particularly unwholesome method.
The temperature of the fat is the point for chief concern. If it is much below 380°, it will soak into the articles put into it, and the result will be food which is unpleasant to look at and hurtful to eat. If the temperature of the fat is much above 380°, food put into it will become almost instantly dark and hard.
Fat at the right temperature for frying is perfectly still and smokes a very little. An inch cube of bread dropped into it will become brown in one minute.
Articles which are to be fried should be as dry as possible because water lowers the temperature of the fat and makes it sputter. They should also not be very cold as this likewise cools the fat.
Lard, suet, drippings, olive oil and combinations of these things are used for frying because they can be raised to a very high temperature. We cannot fry in water because it can never be made hot enough to crisp anything. Fried articles must be carefully drained, it is well if they can be laid on a paper or a netting for this purpose.
_Roasting._--Roasting, strictly speaking, is now rarely done. It is the method of cooking joints of meat by hanging them before an open fire. Roasting done in the oven is really a form of baking. The process requires a very hot oven that the outside of the meat may be incrusted with melted fat and albumen which will keep the juices inside. Meat for roasting is first rubbed with flour and salt; the salt starts the juices, the flour combines with them and helps in the incrusting just mentioned. It is well to put a few spoonfuls of drippings or some fat from the meat into the pan, for this, as we have noted, becomes hotter than water. If the piece of meat is very large, or requires thorough cooking as in the case of pork and veal, water may be put in the pan as soon as the outside is incrusted. This will reduce the temperature and make the roasting slower and more thorough. It is most satisfactory to have a rack in the roasting pan, that the meat may stand over, not in, the water.
Roasting meat must be often "basted," that is, spoonfuls of the hot fat or water in the pan must be poured over the meat now and again to keep the outside from hardening and charring. The occasional opening of the oven door for this purpose also lets fresh air into the oven and thus improves the flavour of the meat.
_Baking._--Because we have come to use the word which meant cooking meat before the fire for cooking it in the oven, we more usually apply the word baking to the cooking of bread, cake, vegetables, puddings and the many other things which we cook by shutting them up in the dry heat of the oven.
None of these articles require as high a temperature as meat. You cannot bear to put your hand into an oven which is ready for a roast of meat; in an oven ready for bread you can hold your hand a minute or two. The reason for this is that the juices and steam are to be kept inside meat, but the gases in bread are to be let out, the crust must not therefore harden at once. One of the things which must be guarded against when baking bread in a gas range is the danger of having the oven so hot at first that a hard crust is formed on the bread before the crumb is sufficiently baked.
It is not always possible to regulate the heat of the oven with dampers. Should this be the case and the oven is too hot at the top, lay a paper or a pie-plate over the article which is baking. If it is too hot on the bottom set the pan containing the food on an oven rack or on an inverted pie-plate. While bread or cake are baking the oven door should only be opened when necessary and then quickly closed, for cold air sometimes ruins such things.
Things which are merely to be browned are set on a grate near the top of the oven. Things large or thick, which are to be baked through slowly are set on the bottom of the oven. Some substances dry a good deal during the process of baking; such are breads, cakes and puddings. The pans or dishes for such articles must be greased. Tins for cakes which require long baking are often lined with stiff greased paper, as this makes it more certain that the cake will not stick to the pan.
A housewife should have a standard cook book to refer to for the details of cooking. Besides this, it is well for her to gather from books and magazines serviceable receipts and suggestions about household matters. These may be copied into an indexed blank book, though I believe something in the nature of a card catalogue would be better for the purpose.
2. THE PREPARATIONS
Food usually needs some preparation for the processes of cooking. Though it requires nothing more, it is almost invariably first washed in clean, fresh water.
_Meat._--Fresh meat should be rinsed quickly in cold water. Meat which has been smoked or salted often needs scrubbing with a brush as well as rinsing, and salt meat frequently requires to be soaked for several hours.
_Poultry._--Poultry is usually sent to the market killed and plucked, and is sometimes "drawn" before it is sent from the market to the buyer. In country places it is often brought to the housewife alive and though this has inconveniences it has also the great advantage that the poultry can then be drawn immediately after it is killed, which seems the more clean and more reasonable method.
To the housewife who finds herself in the predicament of having a live chicken when she needs a dead one, I can say from experience that beheading is the least offensive method for the unskilled to employ. Use a sharp axe or hatchet and strike hard. Do not be distressed by the convulsive movements which follow, they do not indicate suffering. They happen because the intense throbbing thing, we call life cannot be snuffed out like a candle. Even in a small creature it is a tremendous rush and swirl which cannot be stopped on the instant. This is a piece of work which it is not necessary for a housekeeper to learn to do; she need only know that she can do it if she must. I have found in my own housekeeping that it is more economical to hire my neighbour, black Caroline to kill the chickens, because she can walk out of the kitchen door with two chickens in her hand, kill them, and come back again without interrupting the camp-meeting hymn she is singing and I am afraid I must admit that I cannot do the same thing without shivering and tears.
A few minutes after the poultry is killed it should be plucked. Some people scald it to make the feathers come out more easily; others, on reasonable grounds, heartily disapprove of this performance and insist on "dry picking." Hold the fowl by the feet and pull the feathers out toward the head, unless the skin proves to be very tender; in that case pull the other way. Carefully remove all the little black pin-feathers. Put a screw of paper on the stove, light it and singe the chicken quickly to remove hairs and down. If the head has not previously been removed, cut it off about an inch from the body. Just below where the neck and body join you will feel through the skin a rough movable lump. This is the crop and should be removed by loosening the skin from the neck and drawing up the crop between the two. Cut it off close to the body. Cut off the legs at the joint and cut out a little oil bag which you will find on top of the tail.
When chickens are split down the back for broiling, or cut into pieces for fricasseeing or frying, it is a simple matter to remove the internal organs. If, however, they must be drawn for roasting, it takes some skill to do it. It is an assistance to remember that the organs lie more or less bound together in the cavity of the body, somewhat as the seeds lie in the cavity of a cantaloupe. The organs should be disordered as little as possible in the removal, as some of them, notably the gall-bag of the liver, contain substances which affect the taste of the meat if they touch it. As the chicken lies breast up, make a short crosswise slit in it a little distance from the tail. Put one or two fingers into this opening keeping them close to the walls of the cavity, and gently loosen the organs, gradually working them out at the slit. Some strength is needed for this, but it should be applied gently.
Be sure that all the organs are removed, then wash the fowl under the faucet or in a pan of cold water. Wipe it dry with a clean cloth. The washing should be done with especial thoroughness if the fowl has remained long undrawn.
Carefully separate the heart, liver and gizzard from the other organs. Cut the veins from the heart. Trim the fat from the gizzard, cut a slit in the thick part and draw the slit open; the inner lining must be removed, unbroken if possible. Wash these giblets carefully, put them at once on the fire in cold water and simmer until tender.
_Eggs._--Eggs should be washed when they are brought into the house; the shells are then clean to be used for clearing coffee or soup.
When preparing eggs for cooking, do not break them one after another into the bowl in which they are to be beaten, but put each one into a cup and them slip it into the bowl. If this precaution is not taken, an egg unfit for use may be dropped into a bowl with several fresh ones and all will be wasted.
Some people separate the white of an egg from the yolk by cracking a small piece from one end and pouring out the white, leaving the yolk in the shell until last; others break the egg through the middle by striking it on the edge of the cup and pass the yolk back and forth from one half-shell to the other until all the white has run into the cup. Whatever method is used, care must be taken that no yolk runs into the white as this prevents the white from frothing. It is on this account that the whites and yolks are beaten separately when we want eggs especially frothy. Eggs also froth better when they are very cold.
They are beaten before they are used because we sometimes wish to put air into a mixture by this means.
_Fish._--Large fish are usually prepared and sold in pieces by the fish dealer. Small fish are usually left whole and should be cleaned as soon as possible after they are bought. First remove the scales by scraping them toward the head with the back of a knife. Hold the knife flat that it may slip under the scales. Have a pan of cold water at hand in which to rinse the knife frequently. Cut off the head just below the gills. Slit the body at the thinner edge and remove the entrails. Run the point of the knife along the backbone to remove the blood which lies there. Cut off the tail last, as it is a convenient handle. Shad containing roe must be slit very carefully, that the roe may not be cut or broken. Fish which are to be served with heads and tails on are slit from the gills half way down the body and the entrails removed as before described.
After fish are cleaned, wash them carefully in cold water--some people prefer to use salted water--then salt inside and out and lay them on a plate in a cool place--not the refrigerator--until it is time to cook them. Wash off the salt and season them again before cooking.
If a piece of fish which is to be boiled is wrapped in a thin cloth the motion of the water will not break it.
_Shell-Fish._--Receipts for cooking oysters or clams which begin, "Open the oysters"--or "Take two dozen clams from the shells"--are rather amusing when one remembers what an exaggerated pleasure in retirement these creatures take. They do not open their shells when one reads a receipt at them.
_Oysters._--When oysters are cooked in their shells heat opens them; otherwise, some one must open them by hand. A small thin knife with an iron handle is best for this work. The hand in which the oyster is held should be protected with a heavy glove or mitten. If you can find no place where the thin point of the knife can be pushed between the shells, rap the edge of the oyster with the handle of the knife until some little crack is made into which the point can be thrust, then gently but firmly work the shells apart. Put the oysters into a bowl. The opening should be as cleanly a performance as possible, for the oysters are the better for not being washed. Instead of washing them, lift them one or two at a time from one bowl to another, looking them over carefully for any bits of shell. It is better to wash them if they have not been opened in the house. If oysters are to be cooked or served in their shells, the shells must be thoroughly scrubbed.
_Clams._--Clams, whether thin shell, or hard shell, should be scrubbed, rinsed, and laid in a pot with not more than a half-cupful of water. Not more, because the juice from the clams should be diluted as little as possible. Cover the pot closely. As soon as the shells open the clams are cooked. When hard shell clams are taken from the shells, clip off with scissors the hard rim from each one. The clam juice should be saved and put aside to settle, the clear liquor can then be poured off. It is used to some extent in nearly all dishes made from clams.
If an oyster or a clam has its shells open, pick it up in your hand. If it closes it is all right, if it remains open throw it away for it is dead. Only death prevents these creatures from shutting their doors.
_Scallops._--Scallops as we see them on the table or as they come prepared from the market, are really the muscles of the scallop which hold its shells together. Whole scallops are boiled and the muscle removed when the shells open.
_Lobsters._--Lobsters are sometimes bought alive, sometimes already boiled. They are not exactly green or brown or blue when alive, but are bright red when cooked. A boiled lobster is opened by splitting the body and tail lengthwise and cracking the claws. The firm white and red meat and a bit called the "coral" are the parts to be eaten. The head, a sand-pouch near the throat, the stomach and intestines and the tough, feathery gills on the under side of the body must not be used.
_Crabs._--Hard shell crabs are cooked by plunging them into salted boiling water for fifteen or twenty minutes. They change in colour as lobsters do. If you wish to open them, first remove the little flap which folds down on the under shell, then, placing your thumbs at the place where the flap was fastened on, draw the upper and lower shells apart. A little, grayish sand pocket sometimes adheres to one shell, sometimes to the other. This and the gray, spongy fingers attached to the lower shell should be removed and thrown away.
Before soft shell crabs are cooked, the sand-pocket and spongy substances under the edges of the shell should be removed. The upper shell is soft enough to be turned back for this purpose.
_Vegetables._--Almost without exception, vegetables are prepared for cooking by being washed and laid in cold water to be freshened. Some kinds require no other preparation; others must be also scraped or peeled or shelled or husked.
Those vegetables which require no preparation for cooking except washing and freshening are: asparagus, beets, cabbage, cauliflower, spinach and sweet potatoes.
Cress, celery, endive, lettuce and radishes require this same preparation, but are not usually cooked.
One must be careful not to break the skins of beets and not to cut their tops too close, that the juices may not flow out and leave the beet colourless and tasteless.
Salt should be put in the water in which cabbage and cauliflower are freshened and the cabbage heads should be divided into quarters that the small insects which these vegetables are apt to contain may be driven out.
The washing of spinach requires especial care. It is well to use two pans that the spinach may be lifted back and forth from one to the other and the sand left in the bottom of the pans. A little salt should be put into one of the waters to expel insects.
Vegetables which require also to be scraped are, carrots, oyster plant, parsnips and new potatoes.
Vegetables which require to be peeled as well as to be washed and freshened are: cucumbers, egg plant, mushrooms, onions, white potatoes, squash, turnips and tomatoes.
Egg plant is sliced, but the slices are not always peeled. It is freshened in salted water.
Cucumbers and tomatoes are laid in water before they are peeled instead of afterward. Thick pieces should be cut from the ends and sides of cucumbers as the skin contains unwholesome juices.
Onions are less unpleasant to peel if held under water during the process.
Vegetables which also require shelling or husking are: lima beans, green peas and green corn.
Corn silk may easily be removed from the ears with a brush.
_Dried_ beans and peas require many hours of soaking to make them ready to be cooked.
String beans are prepared by a process peculiar to themselves. Some people cut a thin strip from each side of the pod; others cut the pointed end toward one side, the stem end toward the other and draw away the strings with the cut pieces. The point of importance is to get rid of the strings absolutely.
Rice is prepared by thorough washing. A good way to accomplish this is to put the rice in a coarse strainer and lower it into a pan of water. Lift and stir the rice, then raise the strainer from the pan, change the water and repeat the washing process. Continue to repeat this until the water remains clear.
_Fruit and Berries._--Fruit should be washed and wiped dry when it is brought from the market. It is then ready for use in any way that may be desired. Thick skinned fruits such as pears and apples are peeled before they are cooked. Dried fruit is usually soaked before it is cooked.
It is desirable that berries which come from the market or store should be washed. This can best be accomplished by putting them in a coarse sieve or colander and holding them under a gently running faucet. It is a good thing to spread them on a clean paper or cloth to dry. When berries are picked in the garden, one may have the luxury of eating them unwashed.
_Mixtures._--There are certain articles of food, different and differently prepared from any hitherto mentioned, which might be called as a class, mixtures. They are dishes made by mixing several food substances together, and are called bread, cake, pudding, pastry, sauces and many other names.
_Bread._--Of these mixtures bread is the most important and the most difficult to make. Receipts for bread are the simplest ones we have, yet a detailed description of bread-making might easily fill a book. To read such a description for the first time would very probably shock a careful housewife. She has learned to protect her stores of food from any processes of fermentation; she regards the growth of fungus in the cellar or of mould on the back of the refrigerator as an indication of unhealthful dampness, perhaps of dirt; she probably has some terror of germs and bacteria. Is it not rather shocking then, to learn that, without fermentation, fungus and bacteria, she could not make the sweet, clean bread which she bakes every two or three days. When she has thought out these puzzling facts, she will find that each one of her bakings is a sermon from the text that all things work together for good if one knows the secret of their use.
Yeast is a form of bacteria--a germ--a microscopic fungus which floats about in the air. I find that a Government Report on the subject calls this "wild yeast." One cannot resist following out the idea thus suggested, and saying that this wild species may be caught by the housewife in mixtures of warm hops, potato and flour and "domesticated" for use in bread making.
The little yeast plants multiply quickly when they find something which they like to feed upon, and it happens that they like a mixture of flour and water which is neither very hot nor very cold. Therefore, when we put yeast into dough the little plants feed and multiply and in doing so change the character of the dough. They cause it to ferment, just as grape or apple juice ferments. When the carbohydrate substances in the flour, that is, the starches and sugars, ferment they change, and in the change form alcohol and carbon dioxide. When this performance is at its height, we put the dough into the oven, the yeast plant is killed by the heat and a stop thus put to its activities. Another result of putting the bread into the oven is that the bubbles of gas formed by fermentation expand with the heat. The gas escapes, but not before the walls of the bubbles have been hardened sufficiently by heat to make the bread full of tiny holes--"porous" we call it, and "light."
The following receipt is a usual one for a small batch of bread:
2 quarts of flour. 1 tablespoonful of salt. 1 " " sugar. 1 " " lard. 1 half cake of yeast soaked in a cup of milk. 2 cups of milk or water.
The sugar and the lard are not necessary to bread making but are frequently used; the lard because it makes bread tender and moist, the sugar to take the place of some of the sugar in the flour which is used up in fermentation.
Without the other four ingredients, flour, salt, "wetting" and yeast, we could not have bread.
The yeast is either a little compressed cake of useful bacteria, or it is a liquid in which this bacteria has congregated.
The flour is a nourishing but unattractive substance which we wish the yeast plant to change into spongy, pleasant-flavoured, digestible food.
The salt assists in making the pleasant flavour and also helps to prevent fermentation from going beyond the desired point. Unless the fermentation of bread stops at the right time, changes occur in the dough like those which take place in milk when it sours, and in cider when it turns to vinegar.
Milk or water are necessary to give the flour the moist consistency which is agreeable to the growth of yeast plants. It is sometimes necessary to heat the "wetting" a little, for the temperature of the dough to be favourable to the activity of the yeast must be not less than 70° F. nor more than 90° F.
Directions for mixing bread frequently tell you to "set a sponge." This is done by mixing all the ingredients except the flour, and then stirring into them just enough flour to make a thick batter. This mixture is set in a temperature between 70° and 90° and allowed to ferment. The "sponge" is a more watery mixture than dough and in it the yeast has an especially easy opportunity to develop. The setting of a sponge also serves as a test of the yeast. If the yeast does not greatly increase the quantity of the sponge and make it full of bubbles, it will not be strong enough to affect the stiffer dough.
When the sponge has increased to about twice its size in the beginning, enough flour is stirred in to make kneading possible. The object of kneading is that the yeast may be distributed through the flour so evenly that its effect upon all parts of the dough will be the same.
After the kneading the bread is "set to rise," that is it is put in a comfortably warm place, out of the way of draughts, and left while the yeast plants multiply and ferment the bread.
When the dough has increased to about twice its original size, it is kneaded a little more, chiefly to break the bigger bubbles which would make holes in the bread. It is then moulded into loaves and rolls and set to rise again, this last because in the moulding it has acquired a little more flour and its sponginess has been somewhat compressed. It is finally baked, as has been said, to stop fermentation and preserve the porous character of the bread. Baking also forms the pleasant-flavoured crust.
A person of inquiring mind may observe in the table of food values given in the previous chapter that the nourishing constituents are greater in quantity in flour than, with a slight exception in fat and ash, they are in bread. The natural question will then be, why take all this trouble to cultivate yeast plants in flour when the result furnishes less nourishment than flour? Why not mix flour and water and bake it? This would be "unleavened bread" which is somewhat like crackers, somewhat like macaroni, both of which register higher in nourishing constituents than bread. Nevertheless, they do not serve our purpose as well as bread, because they are much more hard to digest and more quickly create distaste. The body must not only have nourishment supplied to it, it must have it supplied in forms which it can use without serious difficulty. It is quite possible, therefore, to obtain more actual nourishment from digestible, appetizing bread which contains a smaller per cent. of nutriment, than from a crude and insipid flour mixture which contains a greater per cent.
_Cake._--There are other methods of making food "light" besides putting yeast into it. Two of these are commonly used in making cake and fancy breads. Sponge cakes are made light by beating air into the eggs used. Cakes which contain butter, and breads which contain no yeast are made light with baking powder, which is a mixture of soda and cream of tartar, or with soda and cream of tartar put in separately. Soda is an alkali; cream of tarter is an acid. A combination of the two liberates carbonic acid gas to raise the cake and also counteracts the poisonous properties of the soda. Three rounded teaspoonfuls of baking powder produce the same effect as one level teaspoonful of soda and two rounded teaspoonfuls of cream of tartar. Therefore, if a receipt calls for soda and cream of tartar and we have only baking powder, or vice versa, we may use one for the other if we remember this equality.
One frequently finds soda and not cream of tartar called for in receipts in which sour milk or molasses is required. In such cases the acid in the milk or in the molasses will take the place of that usually furnished by cream of tartar. Soda and cream of tartar, or baking powder, should be put into the flour before it is sifted, they are thus thoroughly mixed with it and also sifted.
The ingredients of fancy breads and cake must be mixed in ways which will not interfere with the means by which they are made light.
It is usually a good plan when mixing muffins, gems, Sally Lunn or anything of the kind which does not require kneading, to put all the dry ingredients together in one bowl, all the wet ones together in another bowl, then to stir the wet ones into the dry ones and if there are eggs in the mixture fold in the beaten whites last.
Whites of eggs are nearly always the last thing to be put into any mixture, because if they are moved about more than is necessary to get them in, much of the air in them will be lost.
The ingredients of cake are usually mixed in the following order: butter and sugar beaten together to a creamy consistency; beaten yolks of eggs; milk or water and flavouring; flour and baking powder; whites of eggs.
The order for mixing a sponge cake is the same except that some of the ingredients mentioned in this list will be omitted.
The reason that flour is put in last, or next to the last, is that it contains the baking powder or the soda and cream of tartar. When these substances are wet they give off gas which is to make the cake light, therefore they should not be wet until just before the cake is ready for the oven.
Fruit is put into a cake last of all. It is floured before it is put in to keep the pieces from sticking together, and to keep the moisture they contain from injuring the cake.
Because the lightness of cake depends upon bubbles of air or gas which in the course of time collapse, cake batter should be baked as soon as mixed. That this may be possible, the fire should be put into suitable condition and the utensils and materials gathered and prepared before the mixing begins.
_Pastry._--Pastry mixtures differ from bread or cake mixtures in that they are flaky instead of spongy. Things flake when they are composed of layers; the point then is to make pastry by a process which will produce layers. When a smooth dough has been made of flour, salt and cold water, it is rolled lightly to a thin sheet, tiny pieces of butter are scattered over it and a very little flour sprinkled on it. The sheet is then doubled, rolled to the former thickness, butter and flour are applied to it as before and it is again doubled. This is repeated several times. When it is finally ready for the oven it is in layers of dough and butter. When the heat of the oven melts the butter and expands the air between the layers, they separate a little, that is, they flake.
By means of this theory of pastry one can better understand the directions given in pastry receipts. For example, the ingredients must be kept cold that the butter and dough may not combine during the rolling. The pastry must be handled lightly and never pressed or pounded because this would press out the air and crush the layers into each other.
The filling of pies sometimes presents difficulties. A very juicy filling soaks the under crust. One remedy used for this is to bake the bottom crust before filling the pie; another is to brush it over with white of egg. The very best way to prevent the under crust of a pie from being soggy and indigestible is not to have one. Put the fruits into a fairly deep baking-dish and cover it with a flaky top crust. This is an English method which we should do well to follow. The result is more fruit and less crust, and none of that under crust which whatever pains you take will more or less relapse into dough.
Juicy pies must not be filled quite full, that they may not boil over in the oven. Openings cut in the crust help to prevent this; an inverted tea cup put into a deep pie is also a preventive. I am told that if the top crust is just laid over the pie and not fastened at the edges, the juice of the filling is less apt to run out.
3. THE SEQUENCE
Going into the kitchen to make one dish; or getting a supper for which much of the food has been previously prepared, gives no suggestion of one of the chief difficulties in getting meals. This difficulty is the sequence of work. Unless thoughtful and orderly arrangements are made, one dish will be done too early, another too late, the cook may find she is required to perform two pieces of work at once and the last moments before the meal will be crowded with more things than can possibly be done.
The time required to cook different articles of food often furnishes a sort of schedule for getting the meal. Additional time must be allowed, however, for preparations before cooking and for finishing touches after cooking.
Except when a gas range is used the fire is the first thing to attend to.
The other things to be arranged for naturally fall into three groups with intervals between in which work may be done which does not have to be timed.
The first group contains things which take long to cook, such as baked and boiled meats, oatmeal, some puddings, old vegetables, and vegetables which are cooked slowly like stewed tomatoes. These things are prepared and put on the fire as soon as the fire is ready for them.
Between this and the second group is an interval which may be used for preparing the second group and for setting the table, arranging salad, putting dishes to warm, etc. Sometimes a dessert has to be prepared in this interval, in that case the food of the second group may have to be made ready and the table set at the very beginning of things, before the fire is looked after.
The second group contains vegetables and desserts which cook in from thirty to forty-five minutes, soup which is to be warmed, eggs which are to be boiled hard to accompany vegetables, anything which takes a half or three-quarters of an hour to cook or which is needed in the concluding preparations of the other food.
After this second group is on the fire comes another interval in which things may be done which were left over from the other interval and in which cold food such as bread, butter and milk may be put on the table. In this time also preparation must be made for the cooking necessary to the third group. Some of these are, mixing thickening for gravy, shelling hard-boiled eggs for spinach, and collecting on the kitchen table seasonings, butter and milk for the cooked vegetables and meat.
The third group contains things which must be done a very brief time before the meal. These are broiling meat, preparing cooked vegetables for the table, making sauces and gravy, putting beaten egg or vermicelli in soup and getting everything arranged in dishes.
Then there are three last things for the housewife to do before the meal: to see that the fire is in condition to leave, that soiled pots and pans are filled with water, and last of all to take an instant to wash her hands, remove her apron and make herself tidy.
There are one or two ways in which preparations for meals may be simplified. For any large meal but especially for dinner served late in the day, as many preparations as may be, should be made in the morning or at luncheon time. When making the menu for a meal do not select things which conflict; for instance, a roast of meat and a delicate pudding cannot be baked at the same time. Likewise, it is inconvenient, not to say unappetizing to have the meat and vegetables and dessert for a meal all boiled or all baked or all fried. Try not to have two things for the same meal which will be spoiled if they are not served the instant they are cooked.
At the end of this chapter about food, I have the desire to put a little verse which often runs in my head when I am getting meals.
"_Though o'er the board the constellations shine, Austere the feast for time's retainers spread; Laughter the salt of life, and love the wine, Sleep the sweet herbs, and work the bitter bread._"
A TIME TABLE
====================================================== |_Method._|_Hours._| _Minutes._ --------------------+---------+--------+-------------- Asparagus | boiled | ... | 20-30 Beans, lima | boiled | ... | 45-60 Beans, string | boiled | ... | 45-60 Beef | roasted | ... | 12 per lb. Beefsteak | broiled | ... | 6-10 Beef, corned | boiled | ... | 20 per lb. Beets, young | boiled | ... | 45-60 Beets, old | boiled | 3-4 | ... Bread, wheat | baked | ... | 40-60 Bread, corn | baked | ... | 40-45 Bread, brown | steamed | 3-0 | ... Cabbage | boiled | ... | 15-35 Cauliflower | boiled | ... | 20-35 Cake, sponge | baked | ... | 45-60 Cake, plain | baked | ... | 30-40 Cake, fruit | baked | 2-3 | ... Cake, layer | baked | ... | 10-15 Carrots | boiled | ... | 35-45 Chicken | roasted | ... | 20 per lb. Chicken | broiled | ... | 20 Chicken | boiled | ... | 15-20 per lb. Celery | boiled | ... | 20-30 Chops | broiled | ... | 6-10 Cookies | baked | ... | 10-15 Corn | boiled | ... | 12-20 Custard | baked | ... | 15-20 Duck | roasted | 1-0 | ... Dumpling, apple | boiled | 1-0 | ... Eggs, soft | boiled | ... | 3 Eggs, hard | boiled | ... | 15-20 Eggs | fried | ... | 5 Fish, boiled or | baked | ... | 10-15 per lb. Fish | fried | ... | 10-20 Gingerbread | baked | ... | 20-30 Ham | boiled | ... | 25 per lb. Hominy | boiled | 1-0 | ... Lamb | roasted | ... | 15-20 per lb. Mutton, boiled or | roasted | ... | 15-20 per lb. Macaroni | boiled | ... | 20-30 Muffins | baked | ... | 15-30 Mushrooms | broiled | ... | 12 Mushrooms | stewed | ... | 20 Onions | boiled | ... | 45-60 Oysters, broiled or | fried | ... | 3-5 Oyster plant | boiled | ... | 45-60 Oatmeal | boiled | 1-0 | ... Parsnips | boiled | ... | 30-45 Pork | roasted | ... | 30 per lb. Pork | broiled | ... | 20 Potatoes | boiled | ... | 25-30 Potatoes | baked | ... | 45 Peas | boiled | ... | 20-30 Rice | boiled | ... | 20-40 Sausage | fried | ... | 10-15 Spinach | boiled | ... | 30-45 Squash | boiled | ... | 25-35 Tomatoes | stewed | 1-0 | ... Turkey, boiled or | roasted | ... | 20 per lb. Turnips | boiled | ... | 45 Veal | roasted | ... | 20 per lb. --------------------+---------+--------+--------------
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES
3 teaspoonfuls, dry = 1 tablespoonful. 4 teaspoonfuls, liquid = 1 tablespoonful. 4 tablespoonfuls, liquid = 1 wineglassful = ½ gill. 2 wineglassfuls, liquid = 1 gill = ½ cup. 16 tablespoonfuls, liquid = 2 gills = 1 cup. 12 rounded tablespoonfuls, dry = 1 cup. ½ pint, liquid = 1 cup. 4 wineglasses = 1 cup. ¼ lb. of flour = 1 cup. ½ lb. granulated sugar = 1 cup. ½ lb. butter, solid = 1 cup. 4 gills = 1 pint. 2 cups = 1 pint. 2 pints = 1 quart. 4 quarts = 1 gallon.
1 tablespoonful, heaped, granulated sugar = 1 ounce. 1 tablespoonful, rounded, butter = 1 ounce. 1 tablespoonful, liquid = ½ ounce. 1 tablespoonful, rounded, flour = ½ ounce. 1 tablespoonful, rounded, coffee = ½ ounce. 1 tablespoonful, rounded, powdered sugar = ½ ounce. 16 ounces = 1 pound. 4 cups of flour = 1 pound = 1 quart. 2 cups butter, solid = 1 pound. 2 cups granulated sugar = 1 pound. 2½ cups powdered sugar = 1 pound. 2 cups or 1 pint water or milk = 1 pound. 1 pint chopped meat, solid = 1 pound. 10 eggs = 1 pound.
WASHING AND IRONING
THE day when we wear paper clothes and rarely wear them twice has not yet come. Meanwhile washing and ironing must be done, either in the home or elsewhere. Even when this work has been banished to a laundry or a house on a back street, it is yet desirable to have some knowledge of its processes, that when something goes wrong we may be able to tell what the trouble is.
The laundry, like the kitchen, should be light coloured, cleanly, orderly and furnished only with articles needed for the work. I was taken in to see a laundry not long ago which had pale green walls and two sunny windows. It contained appliances for the work, a substantial laundress and a highly coloured picture of the _Madonna_. There was also a cricket, not the kind you sit on, but the kind that chirps.
As the appliances for washing and ironing are many, and some of them for uses not entirely obvious, a list with a few comments on each item may be useful.
_Tubs._--Two are needed, three are more convenient. When the washing is finished, the tubs should be scrubbed, rinsed and dried before the covers are closed. Portable wooden tubs also need scrubbing and rinsing, but must not be allowed to get very dry. If they are kept in a warm, dry place, put a little clean water into each one. When allowed to dry, the staves shrink and the tubs leak. That tubs are called portable does not mean they should be carried. About one woman in a dozen is really able to carry a tub with water in it. It is not the weight but the attitude in which one is compelled to lift it that makes the trouble. If there is no one to help to carry the tub, empty it by the pailful; it takes less time than being laid up with a strain.
_A washboard._--Washboards are made of corrugated glass or metal and wood. They should be rinsed when the rubbing is finished and kept dry when not in use. Before putting the board into the tub, see that it has no rough or sharp places which may tear clothes or hands.
_A washboiler and a washstick._--Keep the boiler scrupulously dry when not in use. A speck of rust the size of a pinhead can make serious trouble. The stick is a fairly long, smooth, clean one with which to move and lift scalding hot clothes.
_A wringer._--Rinse and dry it carefully before putting it away. At some other time than in the midst of washing, it is well to study out the contrivance which regulates the width of the opening between the rollers, that one may be able to change it easily and quickly for the wringing of thick or thin articles. The opening should be narrow enough to make turning the handle quite active exercise, but wide enough to prevent any wrenching or dragging of wringer or clothes.
_A clothesline._--A length of clean rope which can be put up and taken down each time it is needed is probably the most satisfactory clothes line. Permanent lines of twisted wire are good, if one may have permanent lines. These must be wiped with a damp cloth before the clothes are hung out. This rule also holds good for any line which is left out in the weather, but rope lines should not be left out if it can be avoided, for they soon become blackened and sodden. When buying a clothesline, see that it is not too thick nor too thin for average clothespins.
_Clothespins._--These must be kept clean, either by frequently getting new ones, or by scrubbing the old ones, and also by keeping them, when not in use, in a covered box or basket.
_Clothes poles._--These are sticks eight or ten feet long, and notched deeply in one end. When the line sags between its supports with the weight of the clothes, it is raised with one of the poles. The notch holds the line and the other end rests on the ground.
_A clothes basket._--This article is used for carrying clothes from place to place. If it is used only for purposes connected with washing and ironing it will remain for a longer time fit for those purposes.
_A laundry stove._--This stove is not necessary when the washing and ironing are done in the kitchen, yet it is more convenient to have one if the size of the kitchen permits. Set on its top, the wash-boiler is at a convenient height; irons heat more evenly upon it, and are not in danger of being splashed from the cooking.
_An ironing board._--This appliance is frequently wider at one end than at the other, because the width of the larger end is convenient to iron on, and the narrowness of the other end is easily put through the top of a skirt or other garment which is slipped over the board for ironing. The board is first padded with several thicknesses of blanket or felt stretched smooth; a clean, white cotton cloth is then stretched over it and sewed or tacked very neatly along one edge and at the ends. All the coverings must be stretched and fastened very tightly to prevent wrinkles which would mark the clothes. The padding keeps the edges of the board from cutting through or marking the clothes, it furnishes a smooth, elastic surface for the sliding movement of the iron, and it makes it possible to iron embroidery, lace or tucks in relief, by pressing them into the padding with the iron.
Some boards are made with folding legs which are a convenience if substantial and well braced. Besides a large board, it is well to have a small bosom board; they are not merely for shirts but are convenient also for ironing small articles at other times than on a regular ironing day. A sleeve board is likewise a helpful addition to the laundry fittings.
_Irons._--To do a family ironing at least six irons are needed. Do not keep them on a stove with fire in it except when they are in use. They are spoiled by being constantly heated and cooled, and they get dirty. Water is not good for them. If they are splashed or smoked they must be washed, but it is better not to wash them regularly. Cooling a very hot iron by immersing it in a pail of water is bad for the iron, and is a careless practice besides; it is rectifying a neglect with a violent remedy.
If irons are rough or troublesome about sticking, scrape and wipe them clean, then rub their bottoms and sides with a piece of beeswax tied in a cloth. In the country, rub them on a sandy place in the garden path. I am told that it is good--and pleasant--to rub them on pine-needles. When irons are put away, turn the bottoms up. If they are put away for a long time, it is well to give them a thin coating of beeswax.
If you have ever seen any one test an iron with a wet finger to see if it is hot, you will only need the courage to try to be able to do it. Wet your finger in your mouth and strike quickly and lightly on the bottom of the iron; if it--_spits_, to put it elegantly, the iron is right for average ironing. Rub it on a paper or a cloth and judge from the effect whether it is clean and of the right temperature for the work you are doing.
_Iron holders._--It is well to have two or three of these articles. Those made of asbestos covered with bed ticking are excellent. Even when irons have a detachable handle, an iron holder will be needed for a holder rests and spares the hand. They are sometimes made with a little pocket into which the ends of the fingers can be thrust; it is a good arrangement, for finger-ends have to be so near the iron that they sometimes get scorched.
_An iron stand._--A stand is necessary to rest the iron on when the laundress needs both hands to arrange the article she is ironing. If one is hard put to it for a substitute, a horse-shoe, or a piece of fire-brick will serve, the latter is especially good because it holds heat.
_A clothes horse._--The more closely it folds up and the more rungs it has when unfolded, the better the clothes horse. Its chief use is to provide a place close at hand where newly ironed articles may be hung. Such a place is necessary because the articles are still a trifle damp and because one does not wish to walk any great distance to dispose of each piece.
_Wax, cloths and paper._--The use of these articles has already been mentioned. Pieces of wax can be bought already covered and attached to a convenient little handle. Cloths and paper come from the housewife's store of useful things.
_Soap._--From the thousands of kinds of soap one can only make a choice by means of personal experiment, or by accepting the recommendation of some one who has already experimented. The kind preferred once settled upon, it is best to buy enough at a time to last several months and to keep it exposed to the air, for unless soap dries a little before it is used, it wastes.
Many preparations are sold to whiten clothes and make washing easy. To use them is a risk, and I have yet to see one which produced even as good temporary results as intelligent washing done with good soap and followed by thorough rinsing.
_Starch._--Starch--the raw material--should be protected from dust in a closed box or jar and not exposed to strong light, as this in time makes it slightly yellow. It is on this account that starch boxes are frequently lined with dark blue paper.
Cold starch is merely starch dissolved in cold water. The proportion is a tablespoonful of starch to a pint of water. Stir until it seems dissolved, but stir again before dipping each article as it settles quickly. This starch is used just before ironing. Articles starched with it should be squeezed out well and folded in a dry cloth for ten or fifteen minutes, then ironed.
To make boiled starch, moisten three tablespoonfuls of starch with cold water. Stir and press out the lumps until it is smooth as cream. Then begin to stir it fast and pour on quickly a quart of boiling water. Allow it to boil about twenty minutes. Toward the end of the time put in a piece of spermaceti as big as a walnut and stir until it is mixed with the starch. Substitutes for this are a bit of lard or a bit of butter. When clothes come home smelling of kerosene, it usually indicates that the laundress has used a dash of that oil as a substitute for spermaceti. If candles are used in the home, it is well to save the ends for the starch. Wax or oil added to starch makes it smooth and keeps it from sticking to the irons.
_Bluing._--The purpose of bluing is to give white clothes a bluish tinge instead of the yellowish tinge they are apt to acquire. Substances for the purpose can be bought in several forms and are used greatly diluted. Two or three squeezes of a bluing ball, or a teaspoonful of liquid bluing is often a sufficient quantity for a tub of water. Bluing must be thoroughly stirred into water. If this is not done before clothes are put in, they will be streaked. Some people put a few drops of bluing in starch.
2. THE PROCESS
Where soiled clothes are to be kept during the interval between wash days is often a difficult question. A closet in the laundry made especially for the purpose is one solution; a hamper set in some ventilated but secluded spot in the house is another. It is unfortunate that often the bathroom is the only refuge for a clothes hamper. Articles like bed linen, which are only changed once a week should be changed as near the wash day as possible, but I do not think this matter so important that the change of linen should be made on Sunday.
The first step in the process of washing is to sort the clothes, separating white, coloured, woollen and silk articles. The white division always, sometimes the others, must be divided again into articles which have been put to personal uses, such as garments, bed linen and towels, and those which have not, as table linen, and dish towels.
Notice in sorting the clothes whether anything is stained, and if so, put it aside to be especially cared for. It is often impossible to remove stains after they have been soaped.
Some people soak clothes over night; some put them to soak the first thing in the morning; some do not soak them at all. In any case, only white cotton or linen articles may be either soaked or boiled. Clothes are put for soaking into a tub of water, each article crushed together, not folded. They may be soaped or not, as one pleases. Linen which has not been put to personal uses should be laid in a separate receptacle, or else not soaked.
When the time has come to begin the washing let the water out of the tub in which the clothes are soaking, then cover them with clean, hot suds. Put in the wash board with its legs firmly planted against the side of the tub opposite to you. Soap and rub each article inside and out, and little or much, according to need. Attend especially to seams, hems and very soiled places. As the articles are washed, put each through the wringer, folding it with buttons in and narrow enough to go easily between the uprights of the wringer. Put them then either directly into the boiler, or into a basket which can be carried over to the boiler when the other pieces are ready. If some piece is still soiled after the rubbing, soap the soiled places again before putting it into the boiler.
As soon as these articles of personal use are in the boiler, begin to wash the other white clothes in clean suds. Rub and wring them and put them into a tub of rinse water. By the time these are finished, the clothes can be turned out of the boiler into the tub just emptied, and the white things in the rinse tub put into the boiler for their boiling.
Rinse the boiled clothes, preferably twice, then prepare the bluing, put unstarched articles through it and lay them in the basket for hanging out. Articles to be starched must be left in the second rinse water until the starch is ready, because no clothes may safely lie in bluing. After being washed, rinsed, or blued, clothes must be well wrung, otherwise they will be a means of passing soapy water from one tub to another and will never be thoroughly rinsed.
Intervals must be found between some of these performances for hanging out unstarched articles and for making the starch for the others.
When the first boilerful of clothes are hung out or waiting to be blued, empty the second boilerful into the tub. Rinse as the others and when they are ready, blue and starch these and all that have been waiting. Put articles, or parts of articles, which are to be very stiff in the starch first. See that they are well wrung and shaken out beforehand and well squeezed out afterward. Dilute the starch a little for the pieces which are to be less stiff. If napery is to be slightly stiffened, put it into a tub with clean water and two or three large spoonfuls of the starch.
When the white clothes have been hung out, wash the coloured things in clean suds. They are neither soaked, boiled, nor blued, and they should not lie in the wash or rinse water. Wash, rinse twice, and hang out at once in a shady place unless they must first be starched. A little starch of original thickness should be saved for the coloured clothes if any of them must be very stiff. Dark cambrics are better stiffened with gum-arabic dissolved in water, for they are apt to be streaked by starch. Stockings, unless woollen, are washed with the coloured articles. Colour can sometimes be set in wash material by soaking it in salt and water.
Woollens are neither soaked, boiled, blued nor starched, nor should they ever be put into water in which any thing else has been washed or rinsed. The wash water and the rinse water for them should be of the same temperature and should feel neither warm nor cold to the hand. Wash them in suds made with good, white soap, and wash the white ones first. Shake them well before hanging them on the line and shake them every now and then while they are there. Do not rub woollen articles with soap, nor wring them with your hands or a wringer, nor hang them in hot sunshine or close to a fire. Knitted articles must not be ironed, but flannels, after they have dried, may be pressed with a very moderately heated iron.
Silk clothes should be washed and rinsed in tepid water and ironed with a good iron while they are still wet.
It will be found convenient to hang clothes of the same kind together on the lines. One of the reasons for this is that when they are taken down they are already sorted for sprinkling. Sprinkling is done the night before the ironing day, or early in the morning of that day. If the weather is very warm, or there is no cool place in which to keep the dampened clothes, it is better to sprinkle them in the morning, as during the night they may turn sour.
Spread a clean dish towel or cloth on a table, lay the pieces on it one on top of the other and sprinkle water over each with your hand or a clean whisk. In winter it is well to use warm water for this. Fold large pieces into a manageable size. Do not put white and coloured clothes together, nor yet starched and unstarched articles.
When all the pieces of one kind are sprinkled, or enough of several kinds for a roll, roll them tightly, turning in the sides as one does the paper round a package. Thin pieces require less sprinkling than thick ones, and folded pieces need sprinkling on both sides, but directions of this kind are of little avail, for only experiment can show you how wet to make each piece. If clothes are not well dampened they cannot be made smooth with the iron, yet they must not be so wet that they cool the irons and require an exceptional amount of pressing.
As the rolls are made, lay them in the clothes basket. When they are all finished put a cover over them, lest the outermost pieces dry before the time comes for them to be ironed.
Time and strength are wasted in attempts to use cool irons, therefore allow them time to get thoroughly heated before you begin to iron. Set up the board in a place where it will not be in a draught, as this quickly cools the irons. Place the iron-stand at the right-hand end of the board, and with it a paper, a cloth and a piece of beeswax. Under the board spread a clean cloth, that when long pieces are being ironed they may rest on the cloth instead of on the floor.
The order in which ironing is done is a matter of preference. Some women say, do the heaviest and most difficult pieces first. Others prefer to alternate the hard and easy ones. Women who do their housework without assistance usually make a roll of little unimportant things which they iron in the intervals of getting luncheon or of other necessary work.
Large articles like tablecloths and sheets are folded down the middle and first ironed on one side, then on the other. They must be folded evenly and perfectly straight. Things like pillow cases, which cannot be slipped over the board, are also ironed double and on both sides. Fine pieces, such as tablecloths and shirtwaists, should be ironed until entirely dry. On the contrary, the pieces known as flat-work--sheets, towels, etc.--may be ironed, carefully folded, and allowed to dry on the clothes horse.
The object of ironing is to make things smooth and the shape they are intended to be. By keeping this in mind, and taking pains to accomplish it, one can soon teach oneself to iron acceptably.
3. SPECIAL WASHING
The time and care required for washing some articles is so much more than can well be given them in the regular wash, that it is better not to attempt to do them on the wash day. Such articles are blankets, curtains, embroideries, lace, chamois gloves or any very delicate fabrics.
_Blankets_ are successfully washed by the method given previously for woollens, though the water used may be warm if preferred. In that case, the rinsing water must be equally warm. In washing both wool and silk it is very necessary not to change their temperature.
If _curtains_ are torn or stained, they must be mended, and must have the stains removed before they are washed. Put them in good, hot suds and do not rub them or wring them, or lift them heavy with water, but instead, pat them and knead them gently with your hands for a good while, then press as much water out of them as possible and throw them into rinse water. Rinse again and again until they do not discolour clean water.
Bluing and starch are absorbed by lace and delicate fabrics to an unusual degree, therefore if you wish to use either for curtains, use very small quantities.
When the washing is finished, put the curtains on stretchers. Set white curtains in the sun to dry, others in the shade. An expedient which may be employed if stretchers are not obtainable, is to pin the curtains to the carpet in a room which need not be used for two days. Cover the carpet with sheets, then stretch the curtains into shape and pin them down tightly. This is a troublesome method, but it produces better results than ironing. If curtains are washed and ironed in the way ordinary articles are done, care must be taken not to stretch them out of shape when they are hung on the clothesline. Hang them with the length of the curtain running in the same direction as the length of the line.
The following is a good receipt for washing curtains:
Into a pail of boiling water put one-half cup of kerosene, two tablespoonfuls of pearline. Stir for fifteen minutes. Put in the curtains, let them stand twenty minutes. Rinse twice in lukewarm water without rubbing or wringing. Rinse once in cold water. Blue, and starch and put on a stretcher.
Wash _embroideries_ in lukewarm suds made with white soap. Do not soap or wring them. Press and move them about with careful hands and only leave them in the water as long as is necessary. Rinse thoroughly and iron on the wrong side while still wet. Spread several thicknesses of flannel or thick folds of cotton cloth over the ironing board, this padding will bring the embroidery out in high relief. These directions apply to either silk or cotton embroidery with the exception that the latter, if white, may be soaked or hung in the sun without injury.
If there is the slightest need, _lace_ should be mended before it is washed. Precious old lace should also be basted on strips of muslin with a very fine needle and thread.
Soak lace for a half-hour in lukewarm suds made with very good white soap, then press it and pat it and lift it up and down in the suds until you think it is clean. Press the water out of it between your hands, and rinse it several times. Then, if it is basted on pieces of muslin, clip the threads on the back of the pieces and with the utmost care separate lace and muslin. Pin the former out on a pillow, using small pins and exercising much patience. Every little point must be fastened down, and pins woven into the straight edges in the direction in which the edges run. Lay the pillow in the sun and do not remove the lace until the next day.
If lace is to be ironed, pad the board beforehand in the way recommended for embroidery. Use a very moderate iron for the lace must slowly and gently be pressed into its original shape.
Everybody who has read "Cranford" remembers with delight that lace may be whitened by soaking it in milk. It may also be made tan-colour by dipping it in coffee or tea. The latter is better because it leaves no odour. A weak solution of gum arabic will stiffen lace when stiffness is desired. Starch is not usually satisfactory.
Water in which fine fabrics are washed must either be soft by nature, or must be made soft with borax.
_Chamois gloves_ can be washed successfully with cold water and good soap. Some people recommend putting a few drops of sweet oil into the water. Wash them until they are clean, soaping and squeezing and rubbing them. Rinse them once. Squeeze them out hard and then gently stretch and press each glove into the shape and size it was when it was new. Hang them up to dry, but not in the sun, or near a heater, or in a place where you may forget them. For at least three or four times while they are drying, they should be again gently rubbed and stretched. Upon the care with which this is done, depend the softness and shape of the gloves. When they are almost entirely dry, put them on your hands, then take them off and again gently stretch them into shape.
Things which may not be washed in water are sometimes cleaned with naphtha or with some kindred fluid. I hardly think this should be done unless one can do it out of doors. It is extremely dangerous work, not only to oneself but to the lives and property of other people.
At least try other methods before such washing is resorted to. More things can be washed in soap and water, if they are washed cleverly, than is generally realized. Articles of delicate colour and texture can often be dry-cleaned with potato flour, powdered French chalk, or powdered magnesia. Rub the flour or powder gently into the fabric, and allow it to remain there several hours. Then shake it out and repeat the process. It is also a good method to put the article to be cleaned into a box, powder it all over with one of these substances and then shut it up for two or three days. Several times each day shake the box well.
Light coloured articles, which may not be wet, such as walls, furniture, rugs, fur, curtains and worsted shawls, may sometimes be improved by rubbing flour and corn meal into them and then shaking and brushing it out again. I am told that white fur can be made clean if it is rubbed with plaster of Paris, shaken, and then rubbed with a damp cloth. I cannot vouch for plaster of Paris, but I can for corn meal and flour, for with it I once successfully cleaned a white kitten.
Housewives make various arrangements by which the family wash may be done with less expenditure of time and strength on the part of the household than it usually requires. Some have a woman in to do this work; some have the clothes washed out of the house and sent home rough dried for ironing; others send the flat pieces to a laundry and have the others done at home; others yet send the elaborate pieces out and do the flat wash in the house. A somewhat different sort of compromise can be made if the woman of the house realizes that light washing is pleasant, skilful work. She can considerably lessen bills for washing and ironing if she will herself do the handkerchiefs, napkins, doilies, stockings, and other small pieces.
A word or two may well be said in regard to a few of the commonest difficulties that arise in this work.
A rainy or violently windy day is probably the most frequent emergency. If one has an attic or a cellar, temporary lines can be put up in either or both; if one has not, there may be room for a line or two in the kitchen and the clothes horse must help out. If there is no place where clothes can be hung in the house, either put the washing off, or get all the white clothes to the stage of the second rinsing, then put them into the tubs with clean water and leave them till the storm is over. The coloured things must wait, the woollens also, unless there are so few that they can be washed and hung up in a bedroom, or some equally unusual place.
There is not much that can be done when the wash water is muddy. Fill as many receptacles with it as possible, the night before the washing day and in the morning pour the water off, disturbing the settlings as little as possible. Its muddy colour will remain unchanged, but it will contain less actual mud.
If one makes the mistake of getting clothes too blue, it will save time eventually to rinse and dry them again. For several washings are sometimes not sufficient to remove colour which has been ironed in.
In freezing weather, it is a good plan to have a short length of line on which small pieces can be pinned in the house. Line and clothes may then be carried out and put up at the same time, and can be brought in together when the pieces are dry.
Clothes frozen to the lines are easily torn unless they are carefully removed. Therefore wrap up well before going out to do this work, that you may not be in a hurry. Also put on heavy gloves or mittens and crush the frozen corners of the clothes hard in your hand before trying to detach them from the line.
A scorch will sometimes disappear if it is sponged gently with a wet cloth. To hang the scorched garment in strong sunshine is also a good remedy. Dip a serious scorch in soapsuds or borax and water before hanging it in the sun, if, however, the texture of the material is injured, the misfortune can only be remedied with a darn or a patch.
Sometimes starch will stick and coat the irons. In such a case, it is an assistance to sponge the starched pieces all over lightly with cold water and a clean cloth, and to scrape the irons thoroughly and rub them with beeswax. If, after this, the starch is still unmanageable, rinse the clothes in clear water, and if they are then too limp stiffen them with cold starch. This really takes no more time and strength than struggling to iron sticky clothes; it also prevents garments from being torn, which is an invariable part of the vexation and anxiety occasioned by starch which sticks.
A sentence containing two words like vexation and anxiety may not be allowed to end a chapter. I will put here, instead, that well-worn reproach of housework, that it is ephemeral--work done merely to meet passing necessities. For this reproach is a great source of contentment in the work. Most thankfully I can remind myself that things over which I could cry with weariness to-night will not exist to-morrow; most thankfully I realize that this day's work is only one of hundreds like it, and in all those days, even I can learn to do the work acceptably.
JOKES about house cleaning have somewhat decreased in number, which makes one hopeful that the miseries of house cleaning have also decreased. Certainly there has been an earnest effort on the part of many housekeepers to make the performance an inconspicuous piece of work instead of an orgy.
House cleaning is of two classes: that which is done when the house is continuously occupied, and that which is done when a house is opened or closed after a season of absence or of occupation.
For either class, a careful preparation removes half the difficulties and for both ample time should be allowed.
One should especially beware while house cleaning of what Bishop Hall calls the "lust of finishing." Try to clean only as much each day as can be put back into habitable order by the time the men of the household come home. One room a day is all a woman unaided should try to do. Mankind are pleased to make jokes about house cleaning and glad am I that they can take it that way, for really it is a trial of character to come home tired and hungry and find the house cold, the rooms in disorder and a picnic supper spread in the kitchen by an overwrought wife.
Preparation for either class of house cleaning includes, for one thing, a decision as to what renewals and repairs are to be made. Painting, papering, floor renovation, carpet and wall cleaning, upholstering and whitewashing are all matters to be decided before the cleaning begins, that they may not conflict, and that those which make dirt and litter may be done before the actual cleaning of the rooms.
Another sort of preparation is the cleaning of cupboards, closets, desks, bureau drawers, book-cases--everything which can be tightly closed or covered. A little time devoted to this work every day for several weeks helps to make brief the period of necessary disorder. A day or two before a room is cleaned, ornaments and pictures can be taken down, cleaned and put away until their places are ready for them again. One must of course be careful not to remove comforts or conveniences.
House cleaning is merely an especially thorough and complete periodical cleaning, such as has been described in Chapter Six, to which are added certain works of renovation and the packing and unpacking of possessions which are used only during a part of the year.
_Renovations._--Renovations which are made by professionals merely require of the housekeeper that she appoint a time for the workers to come, that she see that they do come and that they do their work well.
It may happen, however, that the housewife wishes or is compelled to make some renovations herself, and though there is no way to find out how to do the work except by doing it, yet a few suggestions may help.
_Whitewashing._--The cleaning of the cellar usually involves whitewashing. Perhaps you think anybody can whitewash. Truly, anybody can, but often it's himself he whitewashes instead of the cellar.
The amount of lime which can be bought in most places for ten cents will make four or five pails of whitewash. A friend of mine said, when I asked her how much lime she bought for whitewashing her cellar, "Oh, two lumps about as big as my head." When I asked, "Head with puffs or without?" She changed it to, "about half a bucketful."
A firkin or a large pail which does not leak and which can be devoted to the purpose is needed for slacking the lime. Put in the lumps, then pour half a pail of water on them, carefully because you do not want to splash your surroundings with lime nor burn yourself. Do not be alarmed at the commotion you thus unwittingly create; when the lime has thumped and hissed and gurgled a few minutes, put on another half-pailful of water. When the lime gets more quiet, add water enough to fill the keg, and stir until it is smooth, then cover to keep out dust and leave it until it is cool.
When you look at it again it will probably be smooth and thick like sour cream. If there is water on the top stir it in. Then dip out some of the lime into a pail and dilute it with water until it is like good milk. Stir it thoroughly.
Surfaces which are to be whitewashed should be well brushed to remove dust and loose flakes of old whitewash. Apply whitewash with a broad brush and do not put it on very thick. It will look gray and unpleasant until dry.
The whitewasher should prepare herself carefully for the work. Lime is injurious to clothes, shoes and skin. Wear old shoes and clothes which can be washed, and protect your head and hands. Professional whitewashers usually appear in hats or sunbonnets; it is not a badge of their profession, but a means of protecting their eyes when they whitewash above their heads. Protection for hands is even more necessary, a day's work without protection means hands too sore to use for anything. One might think that rubber gloves would be perfect for this purpose, but in a few hours the lime eats through the rubber. Old rags which one can tie round one's hands and replace with others when they get wet are I believe the most effectual protection.
Lime once slacked can be kept from one whitewashing to another and from year to year merely by keeping it always wet. It should also be kept covered, for dust discolours it.
_Painting._--Surfaces which are to be painted should first be made clean, dry and smooth. Sweep and wipe walls and ceilings, scrub woodwork with soap and water, remove stains and grease spots, sandpaper rough places and fill dints, cracks and scratches: those in the walls with plaster of Paris, those in the woodwork with putty. When woodwork receives two coats of paint, the putty should be applied after the first coat has dried.
Surfaces which have not before been painted always require two coats of paint. The first must be thoroughly dry before another is applied.
Amateurs succeed better if they use already mixed paints, rather than those of their own mixing. If after it has been long and well stirred paint is thicker than light cream, it should be thinned with turpentine. Because in thick paint the places where the strokes of the brush began and ended are apt to show; likewise, because thickly painted surfaces are easily scarred.
Paint with long, light strokes; it is a motion like waving a flag, not like scrubbing.
For wide surfaces, like walls or ceilings, use a fairly wide brush to save time; for narrow places like door and window casings use a small brush. Soak new brushes in water, and keep all brushes in water during intervals when they are not in use. A brush which has dried with paint in it will soften if it is soaked in turpentine.
_Floors and Carpets._--Methods for refinishing hardwood floors were given in Chapter Six.
The directions for beating rugs given in the same chapter apply equally to the cleaning of carpets.
_Papering._--It is not always safe to copy professionals in the matter of putting on wall paper. They do many things which the unskilled cannot. Nevertheless, the first thing to do in this work is to examine the paper already on the walls. Count the full-length strips, then count the short strips and calculate how many full-length strips they amount to.
As a double roll of wall paper is usually 16 yards long, the number of strips a roll will cut can be found by dividing 16 yards by the length of one strip. The length of a strip is obtained by measuring the height of the room from the top of the base-board to the ceiling. Be sure to divide 16 yards by the length of one strip in _yards_, or else to divide its equivalent, 48 feet, by the length of one strip in _feet_.
If a room is not already papered the number of full length strips may be found by measuring the distance round the room, exclusive of the distance across doors and windows, and dividing it by the width of the paper. One must then measure spaces too short or too narrow for whole strips and as before calculate how many full-length strips they amount to.
When the number of full-length strips required for a room has been obtained by either of the foregoing methods, the number of _rolls_ required may be obtained by dividing the number of strips needed by the number of strips a roll will cut. It is always wiser to get one roll more than the number thus obtained; this allows for the waste in matching and for strips which may be spoiled in the putting up.
When the old paper has been examined remove it. Brush it over with hot water and peel it off. Sweep the walls and fill cracks and holes with plaster of Paris wet with water.
Cut the margin from one side of each roll of paper, from the same side in every case. Usually the margin is wider on one side than on the other, which helps one to remember which side to cut. Paper hangers cut off both margins but it is better not to do this until one has acquired some skill in paper hanging. As you unroll the paper to trim off the margin, also roll up again the part which has been trimmed.
On a pasting board or on the floor run out enough paper, face up, from a trimmed roll to make a full-length strip. Make a fold in the paper at the length required and cut it with scissors or a sharp knife. Lay something across the ends to keep the strip from rolling up. Again run out paper from the roll about the length of the strip but this time lay it with the trimmed edge on the untrimmed edge of the strip and if necessary draw it up to make the pattern match. Cut off the few inches which have to be drawn beyond the strip to make the match, then cut a strip from the roll the length of the first strip. Continue to do this again and again until there are as many strips as you need. Then turn them all face down.
Paste each strip with quick long strokes, using a wide paint brush or whitewash brush. Fold the lower end lightly toward the middle, far enough to keep it from touching the floor when you raise the strip by the upper corners. Place these corners against the wall where they belong and press the upper part of the strip against the wall, then brush it lightly downward with a clean brush, unfolding the lower part when you come to it.
Put up all the full-length strips first, beginning beside a door or a window frame where you will have a straight edge for a guide. Put the trimmed edge of the first strip next the woodwork, lap the trimmed edge of the next strip over the margin of the first, and so on. If the distance between the last strip put up and the corner of the room is not sufficient for the width of the strip, either leave that space and put the next strip on the next wall with the trimmed edge close in the corner, or else cut the strip lengthwise and put it up with the cut edges meeting in the corner. When all the full-length strips are up, cover spaces which are too short or too narrow for a whole strip with pieces cut for the purpose from the strips left.
A border is put up last and must be done by two or three people, or else cut into lengths short enough for one to handle.
Good paste is made as follows:--Into an enamelled or new tin saucepan put four quarts of water and bring it to the boiling point. Mix a cup of flour with cold water as if for thickening gravy; beat it smooth. Pour it into the boiling water, stirring all the time until the mixture is thick as cream and has boiled a little. Remove from the stove, and if there is any likelihood that the paste will be kept over night, put into it a piece of alum as big as a walnut. This keeps it from becoming sour.
_Packing._--Renovations accomplished by amateur effort are more apt to be associated with house cleaning of the first class, than with that of the second. Packing, on the contrary, though it has a small necessary part in the cleaning of a house continuously occupied, is a chief and important performance in closing a house. In fact, this latter process is little more than packing up a whole house.
The suggestions concerning packing which follow are intended to be of use in closing a house but they amply cover the packing away which is done spring and fall in a house which remains open.
Woollen articles and furs should be packed in receptacles which close tightly and should have some substance unpleasant to moths packed with them. It is a wise precaution to line packing boxes or trunks with brown paper which has been wet with turpentine, or with newspaper, for both are disliked by moths.
All articles should be thoroughly brushed and shaken before they are packed. Many people disapprove of hanging them out in the sun beforehand, as they think this gives the moths a splendid chance to lay eggs in comfortable, sun-warmed fur and wool.
Things soiled or half-soiled ought not to be packed away. Dirt injures fabrics and colours and helps to breed creatures. Possessions which are to remain packed for a long time should not be put away starched. Do not wrap white articles in white tissue paper, it turns them yellow. Beware of putting into packing trunks anything which gathers dampness. It may be romantic to find a dried rose laid away with somebody's ball dress, but a brown spot on the front breadth is not romantic. Pieces of camphor should be wrapped in paper and any other substance used to keep out moths must be sprinkled or laid in with discretion. Black clothes are rarely injured by such things, but coloured ones may be.
Curtains, hangings, bed coverings and all textile furnishings, whether woollen or not, should be packed or folded and wrapped when a house is to be closed as they require protection from light and dust. Sofa pillows may be put into old pillow slips and left in their places or packed, whichever is more convenient. Mattresses and bed pillows should be covered with old sheets or dusting sheets.
Some people have their carpets and large rugs taken up, cleaned and stored by the cleaners or brought back to the house and left rolled until needed again. Such rolls should have paper tied over the ends and should be separated from each other. Sometimes carpets are left on the floor and covered with crash while the house is closed; the crash protects them from dust and from being faded. Fabric-covered walls and upholstered furniture should be covered to protect them from the same dangers. It is convenient to have a cover for each piece of furniture, but if several pieces are grouped together they can be covered with one cloth.
Ornaments, pictures, mirrors and light fixtures should be wrapped in cloths or paper to keep them from dust, light and flies. Silver and valuables should be sent away to some reliable place for storage or locked in a safe. Bright objects such as andirons, brass curtain poles and candlesticks and their like are better wrapped in brown paper. Rub the nickel fittings in the bathrooms with the rags which have been used for polishing floors or furniture. This is good for them at any time.
Books which are to be left in a closed house should be carefully dusted and shut in cases, or covered with sheets. A piece of gum camphor, or a few drops of oil of lavender put on the shelves will help to keep away insects, mould and mustiness.
Leather-bound books need special care about once a year whether the house is open or closed. Care which agrees well with them is this: First wipe them thoroughly and affectionately with a flannel cloth; then dip a small piece of flannel into a mixture of equal parts paraffine and castor oil, and with it wipe all the leather parts of the bindings.
In city houses green shades are usually put up in summer and light-coloured ones in winter. Any shade which is taken down should be tightly rolled to keep the spring from loosening.
When closing a house in a place where there is much dust, it is well to lay pieces of paper on the window sills, just far enough over the outer edge to be held by the window when it is shut. These keep the dust which sifts in from lying on and discolouring the sills. If stoves, lengths of pipe and wire screens are put away for a time, it is well to grease them, unless the place where they are put is absolutely dry. Melted lard or drippings are good for this purpose, and also kerosene, though in time this completely evaporates. The nickel parts of stoves keep in better condition if they are wrapped in paper after they are greased.
When a kitchen is to be closed for a season, the room and everything in it must be left clean and dry, otherwise there will be mould, rust and water-bugs to contend with when the house is opened. Some scouring and polishing will be saved if bright tin and brass utensils and fittings are wrapped in paper. The contents of cupboards and drawers should be grouped on tables and covered with paper or cloths, and no food kept except stores which are not injured by keeping.
Inflammable liquids such as alcohol, kerosene and turpentine should not be left in a closed house. Matches should be shut in a tin box or taken away altogether.
The last thing before a house is closed--gas, electricity and water must be turned off. After the water is turned off, empty the tanks of the closets as they may rust if water stands in them several months. Crude glycerine or some liquid which does not evaporate should be poured into all traps. In the course of months the water in traps evaporates and leaves the passageway for gases from the sewer to the house unobstructed.
On account of this evaporation, the water should be run occasionally in rooms and bathrooms which are not in regular use, in order that the traps may be kept full.
Two general rules to be followed in preparing a house to be closed are: mark all articles which are wrapped up in unrecognizable packages, and, as far as it is reasonable, leave things in the rooms in which they belong.
Many people would add to these the rule that household possessions should be repaired before they are put away. I think, however, that this rule does not apply to clothing, furs, hangings, upholstery or any textiles. Such are improved or deteriorated by being packed away, and one cannot tell beforehand which will happen. Likewise, they are freshened by being repaired or altered just before they are again used.
It is true, however, that household appliances, and the house itself should be put in order before the house is closed, for possessions like plumbing, rain-pipes, woodwork, light fixtures, furnaces, stoves and shades grow worse the longer they are left out of repair, and sometimes injure other things.
_Opening a House._--Just before a house is to be opened, light and water should be turned on, all the contrivances connected with them examined and needed repairs made. It is better that this part of the opening should be done a day or two before any one returns to the house to live.
Dust is the first thing to look after when the house is opened. Remove as much of it as possible before anything is uncovered. Then remove covers and put things in their places, beginning with those most necessary for living. After that rearrange and renew those which require it as soon as the time and needed assistance for doing so can be obtained.
Housecleaning of any sort can hardly fail to be a time of turmoil and weariness for the housekeeper. Her help is to remember that if the family have good food and comfortable beds and are not scolded or quarrelled with, they are well enough off to wait several days or even weeks for curtains, clean windows and slippery floors.
THIS does not pretend to be a chapter, though it is called so for convenience. It is merely a list of miscellaneous suggestions drawn from experience, which may be useful to others.
It is in the very nature of emergencies that they cannot be forseen or prepared for. They are things like those encountered by the knight-errant as he rode through the unknown forest--things which are never twice the same and which must be met and dealt with, without forethought or consideration. And they are most successfully dealt with in an adventurous spirit, as things to call out one's courage and address, and put them to the proof.
I know that is a difficult spirit to attain. Mistakes and failures and the remarks which families feel themselves at liberty to make about such things are disheartening and painful. "The funny side" is the best defense always against one's own distress and the thoughtlessness of other people. I have found that a person who sees the funny side of a calamity or of a difficulty gives more help in housekeeping than any one else. Happy the home which contains such a person, thrice happy one in which that person is its mistress.
A woman who is inclined to take household failures and accidents too seriously may comfort herself with the thought that what she fails to do to-day, she will probably succeed in to-morrow; and also with the reflection that an occasional uncomfortable accident is good for her family. A few spoonfuls of scorched soup eaten for courtesy's sake is valuable food. Likewise, household accidents can be used to plant in the family mind that calamities are to be shared by all. It is not merely a reproach to the housekeeper that the _family_ maid does not set the table correctly, or that the _family_ potatoes are burned.
Probably if a husband remarks, "Your gravy is cold," it is just as well for his wife to reply delightedly, "No colder than _your_ beans."
Not awfully clever perhaps, but better than hurt feelings.
1. COOKING EMERGENCIES
Stale bread or cake can be freshened by plunging it into cold water and then setting it in the oven for a few minutes. It must be used at once.
Pieces of stale bread may be thoroughly dried in the oven, then put through the meat chopper and kept in a glass jar for covering croquettes, fried oysters, etc.
Pieces of meat which in appearance and quantity will not be suitable for a meal may often be used by arranging some vegetable on the same dish. The pieces can be warmed in gravy and wreathed with carrots or peas. Or they can be put through the grinder, packed into a mould lined with boiled rice and the whole heated. Or they can be chopped, put into ramakins, covered with potato crust and slightly browned. These are merely samples of the many ways in which vegetables can be made to conceal the fact that there is not meat enough for a main dish.
Left-over breakfast food of any of the cooked varieties can be made into delicate little cakes which will make up for the lack of a vegetable or do for a luncheon dessert. If there are about two cupfuls or less, mix with one egg and a saltspoonful of salt. Fry in very hot grease using about a dessertspoonful of batter for each cake. They will sputter and be hard to turn, but that merely indicates their good qualities.
If thickening remains lumpy instead of stirring smooth, strain it through a fine wire strainer.
Curdled mayonnaise need not be wasted. If a new dressing is begun and stirred until it begins to thicken, the curdled dressing may then be stirred in as if it were oil.
Cream tomato soup can be kept from curdling if a bit of soda not larger than a pea is stirred into the milk. This holds good for any cream soup or for milk which is to be boiled.
A piece of soda not larger than a pea boiled with vegetables will keep them green.
Boil this same quantity of soda with old, tough vegetables and they will soften.
It makes less odour through the house, and makes the vegetables themselves less strong, if cabbage, cauliflower, onions and some kinds of beans are drained two or three times while boiling, and covered again with fresh hot water. It is better not to put a cover over such things.
If potatoes baked in the meat pan will not brown, they can be browned in a frying pan on top of the stove.
When water has boiled off vegetables and they are burning, remove the pot from the stove and turn the contents quickly and lightly into another pot. Let everything which is inclined to stick, stick. Put hot water on the vegetables and return them to the stove if they need more cooking. Put water and a tablespoonful of baking soda into the burnt pot.
Yolks of eggs, also lemons, will keep longer if laid in cold water.
Pieces of charcoal wrapped in bits of cheese cloth and laid with meat or tucked inside poultry help to keep either sweet.
If the cook must be a long while absent from the kitchen while fowls are roasting, strips of bacon pinned across their breasts and legs will baste the fowls for her.
If the fire is too hot for broiling, or if for any reason the broiler may not be used, heat the frying pan hot without greasing it. Lay the meat in the pan first on one side then on the other. The result is much like broiling, some people even prefer this method.
2. SOME SUBSTITUTES FOR ARTICLES CALLED FOR BY RECEIPTS
_For milk._--Water, or milk and water, may be used in either cake or bread when receipts say milk with little variation in result except that bread and cake thus made dry more quickly.
Sour milk may be used in mixtures which require sweet if just enough soda is put into it to make it sweet, and the baking powder is measured grudgingly.
Sweet milk may be used when a receipt calls for sour if lemon juice is stirred into it until the milk thickens.
_For celery in salad._--Use tender cabbage and celery seed. Or use endive.
_For chicken._--Excellent substitutes for chicken croquettes and chicken salad can be made of veal or of young pork.
_For cream._--Use milk and double the quantity of butter.
_For butter._--In cake, use half butter, half lard and a pinch of salt.
In cookies, one may risk using three-quarters lard, if the lard is very good and the available butter very poor. In less delicate cookery lard, sweet drippings or chicken oil may be used. Before using any of these substitutes salt them a little.
3. STAINS AND SPOTS
_Fruit and wine stains._--If fruit juice or wine is spilled at table, cover the spot with salt. The salt lessens the stain, saves the appearance of the table, and diverts attention from the culprit who did the spilling.
Boiling water poured through fruit or wine stains will usually remove them entirely. If it does not, try a weak solution of oxalic acid.
_Coffee and tea._--Pour boiling water through the stains until they disappear.
_Ink and iron rust._--Cover a spot of either ink or iron rust with salt wet with lemon juice and lay it in the sun. Repeat until the spot disappears.
Or, use salts of lemon and sunshine in the same way.
Or, if the material stained is white linen or cotton try chlorinated soda.
Sometimes ripe tomato will remove ink stains.
Sometimes soaking them in milk will take them out.
Often an ink-eradicator such as is sold to remove writing from paper will take ink spots out of white material.
_Paint._--Turpentine will remove paint from fabrics, also from glass or iron.
_Mildew and grass stains._--Try lemon, salt and sun applied as for iron rust.
Try diluted oxalic acid.
If the material stained is white, try boiling it in buttermilk.
Try alcohol for grass stains.
Or rub them with molasses and then thoroughly wash the fabric.
_Grease spots._--If the article may be washed, try washing it with cold water and white soap.
Or, moisten it with a strong solution of household ammonia and water, cover with blotting paper and iron dry.
Or, sponge with a mixture of four parts alcohol to one part salt.
Powdered French chalk will often remove grease spots from silk or woollen materials.
Tar, carriage grease or machine-oil may usually be removed by rubbing the material with lard and then thoroughly washing it with soap and water.
Spots of candle grease will disappear if they are covered with blotting paper or coarse fibred brown paper and ironed with a hot iron.
_Kerosene._--Kerosene spilled on books, rugs or furniture will quickly disappear if they are held near a hot fire or a gas jet. Not nearer than your hand can bear. Sometimes if the article is left in strong sunshine all day, the spots will disappear.
_Blood stains._--Wash first with clear cold water.
If the stain is obstinate wet with kerosene, then wash in warm suds.
_Stained hands._--They are improved by the application of any of the following: vinegar, lemon juice, pumice, ripe tomatoes or dishwater.
_Note._--Colour taken out by an acid can usually be restored with an alkali. Colour taken out with an alkali can usually be restored with an acid.
4. ANNOYING CREATURES
_Ants._--Powdered borax sprinkled on shelves and along baseboards and door sills will keep ants away.
Ants will not walk over broad, thick chalk lines. Such lines drawn round boxes and jars some distance above the shelf or floor on which they stand will protect them from ants.
Ants and other crawling insects may be kept out of a cupboard which stands on legs, if its legs are set in bowls or cans of water.
To wash cupboards and shelves with a strong solution of alum and water (1 lb. to 2 qts.) is a protection against any kind of insect.
_Mice._--An excellent defense against mice is a velvet-footed, self-possessed, Epicurean Philosopher in the shape of a cat.
Traps are good if one may not have a cat.
Seek diligently for holes large enough to admit mice and have them stopped. If you discover one unexpectedly and have nothing else at hand, thrust a piece of yellow soap into the hole. I have not yet found among mice the counterpart of the gentleman who cleaned his teeth with yellow soap for the sake of self-discipline.
Poison is a poor expedient for ridding the house of mice. Whatever may be said in the advertisements, poisoned rats and mice frequently die in the walls or in the cellar and make life miserable in the neighbourhood.
It is with reluctance that I suggest attacks upon mice. I must hasten to finish them, for a little later in the evening a tiny, palpitating, silken, gray ball with bright eyes will come and sit on my desk and eat crumbs. What if he should sit down on this page and see what my housewifely conscience compels me to write, but not always to act upon!
_Moths._--Gum-camphor, tar-camphor, turpentine, pepper, a large collection of patent substances, extreme cold and extreme heat are all objectionable to moths.
Ways of packing articles to protect them from moths have been given in the chapter on house cleaning.
Careful sweeping and dusting, and frequent airing of clothing and hangings are excellent and natural preventatives of moths.
_Water-bugs and cockroaches._--Keep places where they congregate dry and clean. Practically all the well-known roach foods and roach salts effectually prevent these creatures, but none are effectual in places which are allowed to be dirty or damp.
_Bedbugs._--If a housewife has ever had the least trouble with these creatures there is one warning to take to heart and constantly obey: Watch! Complete extermination is extremely difficult. Sometimes after two or three years of absence they appear again. Besides there is always danger that they may be brought into the house from a street car or a laundry or some such place.
If one finds a few of these creatures, apply creosote, or corrosive sublimate, or some patent poison to the bed or cracks where they were found. Apply the poison with a feather or a squirt. Be sure to mark the bottles containing it with the word "_Poison_" and keep them where they will not easily be found by others than the housewife.
If one makes the horrifying discovery that a room is really infested with these creatures, then indeed one must fight hard and unceasingly. Paint and varnish are a great help in such cases. If the room is papered, remove the paper, fill every crack first with poison, then with plaster of Paris. Paint or calcimine the walls instead of papering them again. Fill every crack in the woodwork with putty, have a moulding put over the place where the baseboards meet the floor, and paint or varnish all the woodwork so thick that there are no cracks. Wash the bed and the furniture in the room and varnish all their underneath and unfinished parts. Then, every day when the room is put in order, seek these flat, brown creatures everywhere.
5. BURNS AND STINGS
Keep in the kitchen a few soft, old white rags for wrapping burns, cuts, bruises and other injuries. Keep also for these hurts a bottle containing two teaspoonfuls of borax dissolved in one quart of water; or two ounces boracic acid dissolved in one quart of water. Either of these mixtures is healing, soothing and antiseptic. Always wrap burns; air aggravates them. Keep them wet with one of these solutions and the pain will soon be allayed. Wrap burned fingers separately, or they will stick together.
An excellent remedy for scalds is always at hand in the kitchen--the flour dredger. Cover the scalded place thick with flour and keep it covered.
Stings and bites of insects should be kept wet with ammonia for ten or fifteen minutes, or covered with baking soda wet with water. Clean mud from a garden bed or a flowerpot is also excellent for them.
6. SERVING OF MEALS FOR THE SICK
Meals for people who are in bed are an emergency of housekeeping. In their preparation, economy should not be exercised unless it is grievously necessary. Sick people are easily annoyed and often have no appetite; sometimes they have even a disgust for food. The necessity then is that their food should be the best, the freshest, the most inviting and the most carefully cooked.
It is also important that food should be really hot or really cold when it is intended to be. Coffee or tea served in a little pot or in a covered pitcher rather than in a cup will be hotter and not spilled over into the saucer. Plates and cups which are to contain hot food should be heated very hot, they will be cool enough for use by the time they have been carried upstairs. If the tray must be carried any distance cover hot food with heated plates and bowls. For butter or ice cream or any food which must be cold to look or taste agreeable, chill the plate on which it is to be served and cover it with a chilled bowl or plate. In hot weather put the butter on a little lettuce leaf, or lay a tiny piece of ice beside it.
The appearance of an invalid's tray is often the cause of appetite or of the lack of it. The linen should always be perfectly fresh, the food in small quantities and daintily arranged. The dishes may well be the daintiest and prettiest in the house, and should be small enough for easy use. A flower or a geranium leaf is a pleasant addition to the tray.
Before bringing a meal to an invalid, go and see that she is comfortable. If one has not an invalid's table, it is well to put a pile of books or boxes on each side of the sick person on which the ends of the tray can rest. It takes strength and nerve to balance something on one's lap when half lying down.
Including guests in the chapter on emergencies is not intended as a discourtesy. They owe the classification to the fact that they are sometimes unexpected and always need a little special thought and care, however simply they are received.
It does not seem to me that the people who make no preparations whatever for guests are any more in the right than those who make themselves sick-in-bed getting ready for them.
It is not necessary to sweep the whole house, clean the attic and whitewash the cellar in preparation for a guest, but it does seem that a room should be carefully made ready for them and that more space should be cleared for their possessions than two hooks in the closet and perhaps a bureau drawer.
Certain things which it is pleasant to have in a guest room are in the following list:
An empty closet and empty drawers.
Drinking water, at night, because a guest cannot wander round at night seeking what he needs.
A candle and matches close to the bed, because something may happen to the lighting arrangements, or the guest may forget where they are.
A wash cloth, a piece of soap, a brush and comb, pins and a whisk broom, because these things are easily and frequently forgotten by a traveller.
A wrapper, a pair of bedroom slippers, and a Bible. These three are especially for transient guests as they are apt to be heavy and large to carry in a travelling bag.
If the guest-room bed is very daintily covered, it is well to have a place, other than the bed, where a guest may lie down.
The bed should be opened at night because a stranger often feels a helpless ignorance of the intricacies of shams and counterpanes and unaccustomed methods of bed making.
The degree of preparation made for meals offered to guests should be governed by the occasion. When people are formally invited into your home for a meal, it is natural that special preparations should be made for them, and quite right, provided the repast does do not exceed what you can afford or serve without evident anxiety. Unexpected guests and guests who stay a few days or more ought to be taken into the regular life of the family, with only such departures from the usual order as the use of finer linen, or flowers on the table, or the preparation of some dish which the guest is known to care for.
There are several small reasons why it is not wise to make a sudden change in the family ways for the sake of impressing a guest. One is that some candid member of the family is sure to speak of the change or betray it by awkwardness; another is that the guest is sure to find out the alteration by this means or some other; and another is that "company manners" and "company menus" produce an awful restraint which even a cordial family and a genial guest cannot break through.
Then there are two large reasons for not trying to impress a guest; it is artificial and untrue, and it kills natural, simple hospitality. If entertaining is made a great trouble and expense, many people cannot do it. And this is a real misfortune because the reception of guests is a necessary part of family life. It is a pleasure, it brings new knowledge and new experience, it is an opportunity for kindliness, it diverts people's minds from themselves and besides, it is a sacred duty.
A good many times I have seen trouble in a family or in a school completely done away by the coming of an interesting guest. Probably every one knows instances when a guest has brought a great happiness or a great blessing. For there is much truth as well as loveliness in those old tales of angels entertained unawares, of the weary stranger sheltered who proves to be the king, and of travellers lodged for a night who departing leave exhaustless gifts.
WHATEVER is said within the next few years of the situation known as "the servant question" must be in the form of a theory or of an opinion. For the question is still unanswered, the problem unsolved.
There are two things which each woman can do toward solving this problem; one is to find out all she can about it in general, and the other is to deal as wisely and calmly as she may with the particular servant or servants in her care.
One of the most obvious things about the situation is that there is something very much the matter. Listen for only a few minutes to a group of women talking about their servants and you will hear a most disheartening list of complaints. Discount this list somewhat on the grounds that people are inclined to magnify their troubles, and then consider how it compares with the complaints made of the "hands" in a factory or in a mill. There will be many points of likeness and identity, but in such a comparison one serious difference between the problem of domestic service and other labour problems cannot fail to become apparent. This difference is that each domestic servant comes into individual and personal relation with her employer and lives in her employer's home, distinctly affecting with her disposition and behaviour the family life.
One can vividly realize the peculiar troubles which can arise from this situation by picturing the anxieties and annoyances that the superintendent of a mill or a factory would suffer if he were suddenly required to become the head of a lodging house for his employees.
Our situation is not quite so serious in regard to numbers as his would be, but, none the less, we have constantly to take into our homes women who differ from ourselves in nationality, class, education, personal habits, tastes, standards--in fact, in so many things that a daily and unavoidable relationship is most difficult and irksome.
Nor are the trials of this relationship entirely borne by the mistress. Is it not a fact to be considered deeply, not to say humbly, that girls prefer to work in factories and stores for poor wages and to live in wretched lodging houses, rather than to receive good wages and live in our homes? What is there in this relationship of domestic service which the workers on their side so much dislike?
Also, a maid feels the incongruity we have mentioned between the family in which she lives and herself. A maid-of-all-work, especially, can hardly fail to be very lonely. The lack of fixed work hours in this service deprives the maid of personal liberty and of any protection from unreasonable demands. From morning till night and from night till morning she is at the mercy of the whims and temper of another woman. She knows that in this occupation she will be ranked lower socially than her acquaintances who do not "live out." She knows, also, how little respect her work commands even from those who are benefited by it. Even the kindest of us sometimes say, "She looks like a _cook_" or, "I feel as if I were dressed for the intelligence office." If we speak like that of an occupation, is it surprising that women wish to avoid it?
It is not hard to deduce from the complaints made on both sides that the problem of domestic service is a problem of personal relationship. Its solution then depends upon the discovery of a possible and wise relation between mistress and maid, which it will become the general purpose to establish and preserve.
At least two alternatives lie already before those who would discover this relationship. One is to recognize and endeavour to perfect the system of domestic service which has been for centuries in use; the other is to develop and establish a new system which lies as a possibility in the minds of many people and has been sporadically tried. For convenience, I shall name these two and call the first, the patriarchal system, the second, the business system.
The patriarchal system of domestic service has been in use some time. It probably began when the first woman brought the first man his food for love's sake. Then one day she was ill or the baby needed her and she asked some other woman to take it to him for the sake of neighbourliness. Then perhaps in a time of dearth it occured to an impoverished woman to serve another for the sake of food and clothes--and so it all began.
Up to a very recent time servants were often permanent members of the household. The phrase "a family servant" and a very few representatives of the class are still with us. The relation between such servants and their masters and mistresses was a personal and moral one. At its best, the servant gave time, work, strength, loyalty and love, for life; the master and mistress gave food, clothes, shelter, protection, nursing, affection and a home, for life.
One cannot say how widely this ideal prevailed, but certainly it once existed in thought and fact as it does not now. Times have changed, have they not? And changed so quickly that we hardly know just where we are in regard to servants. Servants on the one side, masters and mistresses on the other side, have dropped the responsibility out of their relationship and yet they fondly expect other things to remain unchanged. One woman complains that her servants are "disrespectful," another that they are "ungrateful," another that "they do not care anything about her." Suppose a servant should suddenly turn and ask us, "Do you care anything about me? Do you know about my childhood? Do you know how many brothers and sisters I have, and whether my father and mother are yet alive? Do you know what things make me glad or gay, what interests or hopes I have? If I am faithful to you, will you teach me and help me in my ignorance and my sins, and at last protect my helpless old age?"
If your cook should suddenly turn on you with these questions--on you, who own to having fifteen cooks in two months, or even on you who grieve because servants are not respectful, would not either of you discharge her at once and say you were "never so insulted in your life?"
And yet if the patriarchal system of domestic service is to work, we must be able to answer earnestly, "yes," to these questions, and the servant on her side must make the family life and interests her chief concern. She must be like "Black Lize" who lies buried at the feet of her mistress in a northern cemetery, and who told some of her people that _she_ did not leave "the family" after the war as they had done, she "stayed, and put up with things."
Or she must be like two Irish saints whom I know, devout women each consecrated to the service of a family. One hears their feet on the stairs at five in the morning going out to Church, and again going up to bed late at night after the last young mistress is undressed and comfortably at rest. They live here or there as others choose; they go out or stay in, sleep or stay awake, wait long or hurry madly as other people wish; they are the chosen companions of the ill, the sad and the difficult members of the family; they have given up their own family ties to share the fate of another family; they have no end in life except to serve.
This patriarchal system asks a good deal of mere human creatures, does it not? And one cannot say positively what the business system will ask because it has not been tried, but it seems probable that it would ask as much only in different ways.
It is time, though, to consider what the requirements of the business system might be, because many people think that domestic service will before long undergo some such change as has come over the professions of teaching and nursing in the last half-century. Any one who will read the novels of Miss Bronté and of Miss Austen, of Thackeray and of Dickens with special attention to the governesses and nurses they contain, is likely to feel surprise, however well he may know the histories of these professions.
Particularly consider "Shirley" for governesses and "Martin Chuzzlewit" for nurses and then picture the teachers and nurses of to-day, and it will not be hard to believe that in fifty years the profession of domestic service may also be so changed in status that no woman will feel it a social descent to employ herself therein.
What will the relation between worker and employer be then, and what will be required of each?
The relation would doubtless be that of a business contract such as one has with a teacher, a typewriter or a nurse. The employer could not ask for respect, but for business courtesy; she could not expect gratitude, but rather skilled service for value received. Her responsibility for her employee would consist in paying her wages, in providing her with "sanitary surroundings," in requiring only a definite number of hours of work from her, and in regarding her with the same sort of human consideration which is used toward other wage earners. In all probability these things would be required of the housekeeper by law, as they are in greater or less degree required now of employers of labour. Women would have to know more about housekeeping than many do now, to be able to direct professional workers. They would have to give up using the word servant and the manner and feeling which sometimes go with it, or their employee would probably seek another position.
The employee would not be a member of the household; she would usually sleep out of the house and come in for work hours, she would not take her meals with the family any more than she does now but it would be for the same reason that your husband's superintendent or secretary does not go out to lunch with him. She would expect the wages which were customary for her training and work hours. She would not be expected to have any especial attachment for her employers other than that arising from the fact that they fulfilled their business contracts and treated her courteously. She could not expect to have incompetency ignored, nor to learn her business from those who were paying her the wages of a skilled worker.
Would you like these requirements any better than those of the patriarchal system?
These are just two sketches of the possibilities of an old system and of the probabilities of a new one.
The problem, as you must personally meet it, unsolved, unclassified, little understood and a good deal discouraging is even now perhaps getting dinner in the kitchen. Probably the best plan for dealing with her at present is to use a little of both systems. It is wise to be very business-like about some things. "Days out," for instance, ought not to be interfered with except in case of family calamity. If the maid chooses to spend them at home, they should be as much hers as if she had gone out. Sanitary surroundings are another thing. I hope that if I looked into your maids' room I should not see that there was no light, no heat, a double bed for two maids who are strangers to each other and the most meagre washing conveniences. It is useless to say that it is better than their homes, it is not their homes, it is _your home_. When an inspector goes to see about factory conditions, he does not say, "It's well enough, it's as good as their homes." Another thing about which we should be business-like is the matter of hours. We should be as particular that our maids do not work sixteen hours as if we had a Trades' Union compelling us to be. A business-like point-of-view would also preserve us from despising a necessary and useful occupation. I have mentioned the careless way we speak of it sometimes, but what I think really matters more, is that some women would rather put up with lying, stealing, and immorality in a maid than take the risk of having to do her work. On the maid's "day out," likewise, some of us do as little of her work and do it as slightingly as we can, and she knows it.
But we shall need the patriarchal method in dealing with maids personally. They are of many nationalities; they are untrained, untaught; they have different customs, different manners, often different feelings from ourselves. We shall need much knowledge and human sympathy to understand them; much patience and quietness to teach them. We shall have to explain things which are new to them a great many times and very simply. We shall have to tell them definitely a few things which we require, and we must keep them and ourselves faithfully to these requirements. We must not lose our tempers with them because this lessens our authority, and besides, it is inexcusable to lose one's temper with a subordinate. We must not expect sympathy from them in the trouble they give us. We shall not get it any more than we would get such sympathy from children in school.
It is sometimes a help over a puzzling place to remember that this work has a resemblance to the work of teaching. There is required of us the same willingness to wait long for results, the same patience with ignorance and clumsiness and defectiveness, the same quiet firmness toward carelessness and insolence.
Many teachers have to begin to teach when they still know very little. They learn as they work, and so can housekeeper teachers. If the cook knows more about her work than you do, by all means learn from her and take her advice often, but do not allow her on this account to rule the household, or to decide about family arrangements which are not in her department.
Do you know that letter of Saint Paul's written to his friend Philemon on behalf of a runaway slave? It is an irresistible letter. Such a mingling of loving confidence and insistent authority is hardly to be found elsewhere. And also, with a little thinking, a little putting together piece by piece, one gets a whole, vivid dramatic story from this letter.
But its importance to us is that it is a letter written about a servant, and has more in it than people have yet been able to put into practice, though they have made a little progress in about nineteen hundred years.
I BELIEVE that the chief reason that women find the work of housekeeping irksome and sometimes intolerable is a reason seldom given or reckoned with. The objections frequently raised, that women dislike the work because it ties them at home, because it takes all their time, because it tires them so that they can do nothing else, are obviously inadequate.
For why should it not do all these things? Lawyers, doctors and teachers give all their time and thought to their work; nurses, companions and secretaries do not have much time to go out; women who stand behind counters, tend looms or sit at switchboards are often too tired even for pleasure when the day's work is done. A woman who earns her part of the family living by making a home cannot expect to be delivered from toil. Is it likely that she can succeed in a difficult profession without giving up pleasures and ease for its sake, without working as hard and as unquestioningly as the men of her family do for their part of the family support?
Some people say that we regard the profession of housekeeping unreasonably because women are by nature lazy, frivolous, and not capable of very much intellectually. Now, though I humbly acknowledge that these things may have to do with it, yet I believe, as was at first suggested, that there is a chief reason for the serious distaste we often feel for the profession. This reason is, that a certain reticence and effacement, which every one should exercise in regard to his work, is required of housekeepers in unusual measure.
People who can think and talk of nothing but their own work and interests are very difficult people; a housekeeper who has this fault is not only difficult, she is dangerous. For women who make their housekeeping an idol pretty soon begin to offer it human sacrifice.
I remember hearing, as a child, a woman say of another who was an immaculate housekeeper: "She swept her sons to the Devil." A puzzling saying to me then, a terrible one to me now, for it was true. Those sons were never allowed in the house till they had taken off their shoes; they were not allowed in the yard because they made a litter. Naturally, they went to those places which opened to them most easily--the street, the saloon, the state's prison.
This is an extreme case, but there are countless others, grading from those as serious as this to those in which homes just miss being comfortable on account of tiny, gnat-like annoyances. They are cases of failure in the woman's profession, and, trivial or great, they arise from the same cause, from the neglect of that thing we don't like about housekeeping--its unique characteristic--its _effacement_. Our work as housekeepers is only notable when it is not noticed. It must be done, delighted in and loved but seldom talked about and always held subservient to other ends. Housekeeping is the servant, silent and effaced, of peace, and home-likeness and health and joy, and of all that we call spiritual in those who form our households.
And therefore, the housekeeper's life is full of little secrets; secrets of suffering and weariness, secrets of amusement and joy. But they are secrets which spoil her work if they are told. If one is a martyr, one must not tell about it. The saints who wore hair shirts did not cut a hole in the front of their clothes to show them. The woman who is always telling how much she has to do and how much she "has to put up with," has not stopped at cutting a hole in her clothes, she wears her hair shirt on the outside to scratch other people with. Do you remember Mr. Pip's sister, in "Great Expectations," who constantly reminded the family that she never took her apron off?
It is natural in this connection to say a word about the care of the housewife's own health and cheerfulness. Better even than to conceal weariness and depression is to have none to conceal. Some women are for years driven and spurred beyond reason by what we please ourselves with calling conscientiousness or energy, but find at last that it was undisciplined ambition, or a stupid lack of system, or that we were blinded to the comfort and pleasure of other people by a determination to sacrifice ourselves.
A woman who does her housework without assistance should expend some of her conscientiousness upon getting a rest. Fourteen hours is too long a work-day for any one. She must get it out of her mind that to rest is to acknowledge defeat and weakness; far from it--it is such a difficult thing to do that she will probably have to learn how. Some people find that it rests them most to lie down and read a pleasant book; others can, or can teach themselves, to sleep. Others, yet, find that to do nothing is like slipping the belt off the fly-wheel of an engine, their minds run the faster for having no work to hold them back. A remedy for this is just to say one's prayers--not prayers of asking, but prayers of realization, of companionship.
There is also relief which should be accepted or secured for oneself as the work is being done. To change one's broom from side to side; to carry a pail first in one hand then in the other; to straighten one's body and fill one's lungs now and again when washing or ironing or sewing; to spare one's hands and feet; to occupy the time spent in long tasks with pleasant thoughts--all these are things which help us to be well and glad and to keep the secret that we are sometimes tired and troubled.
To return now to the other type of housekeeping secrets; it is less unsafe to share pleasant secrets than painful ones, but often even these are better kept. Unusual expedients, surprising shifts, the plan which pops into your head at dinner for using a left-over to-morrow are all better kept to oneself, or at least kept until the thing is so far past that only the funny side of it remains. The girl in Miss Austen's "A Nameless Nobleman," who basted her grandmother's bed-curtains and valance into a wedding dress and refused to tell where it had come from had woman wisdom. Her husband appreciated the joke much more when, a few months later, he saw the same embroidery adorning his bed.
We need to realize the dignity and usefulness of housekeeping; we must recognize that it is an active, clever employment in which there is much to learn, much to be found out; we may well regard it as a profession deserving our strength and time for life--and yet----
We must never be so absorbed in its importance or occupied with its affairs, that we cannot be quiet, and listen. For it may be that across many, many years we shall hear a voice saying lovingly and yet reprovingly: "Martha, Martha----" Perhaps we may need to lie awake and question ourselves, as I think that other Martha must have done in the still night at Bethany. Why should earnest, careful service be unacceptable? Why does a weary guest, who often has hardly the time to eat bread, care little for a feast? Is there something more required of a woman than keeping her household warmed and fed, and something less required than notable success in her own work?
Doubtless that other Martha sobbed herself quiet at last over her failure and reproof, and then in the quietness remembered that in the guest chamber her Guest lay at rest.
INSPIRATION cannot be explained or described. I cannot tell you nor can you tell me what makes the long tasks of housework bearable and its service sweet. But I can tell you some things which come to me when I am weary and disheartened.
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There is a picture by Murillo, called "The Angels' Kitchen," of angels with wide wings folded, and star-eyes bent on the daily tasks of housewives.
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There is also Brother Lawrence, who had "a great aversion" to the work of the kitchen, but "accustomed himself to do everything there for the love of God," and so found "everything easy during fifteen years."
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When Lacordaire was asked why he thought it important to keep his tiny secluded room in spotless order, he replied, "The Holy Angels always see it."
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The words have been in the ears of the world for centuries, that He took upon Himself the form of a servant. Has it entered into our understandings yet, that to be a waitress or a butler or a cook or a nursemaid or to do the work of them all as a housewife is to take upon ourselves a divine office and companionship.
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But it is just of three women that I oftenest think. One is that beggar-maid whom King Cophetua made his queen; another is Griselda whom Lord Walter chose from rags and penury and grievous toil to be his wife; and the last, the outcast, beheld by the Prophet Ezekiel, of marred beauty and defiled garments, yet chosen for love's sake to be a bride adorned and honoured.
Their stories are our stories. We are each one of us both servant and queen; we are each one of us somewhat unlovely, somewhat unable and yet exalted. And in the servant's heart is always the radiant secret, "I am the queen"; and in the queen's heart is always the remembrance, "These lowly tasks belong to me by right."
Doubtless at last when the tasks are done, comes the fulfilment of that vision with which this book began, when the Potter's work will be finished, earth's wheel still, and the clay cup moulded and filled to refresh the lips of the Master who made it.
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Obvious punctuation errors repaired. Varied hyphenation was retained.
Page 163, "necesssary" changed to "necessary" (All necessary shaking)
Page 248, "calory" changed to "calorie" (The calorie nevertheless is)
Page 303, "untensils" changed to "utensils" (and the utensils and)
Page 309, the table that begins on page 309 has some items out of alphabetical order. This was left as printed.
Page 389, "rememberance" changed to "remembrance" (always the remembrance)