Kitchen Plenishing

This is the third article in March of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Mar 19, 1905, and is a more extensive article on what sorts of tools a housewife would need in the kitchen. Some items such as the ham-boiler and fish kettle seem needless in many people’s modern kitchen today.

School for Housewives – Kitchen Plenishing

An expressive word that – “plenishing” – of old English and Scotch ancestory. It signifies something more than furnishing or supplying, carrying wit it a sense of fullness, completeness and fitness.

Your kitchen may be a mere cabinet as to size. Let it be well and fitly appointed. The spacious kitchens of our foremothers – who were many of them English born – were designed as general sitting rooms for the family. In a majority of old New England and Middle State farmsteads the kitchen was, within a generation, also the dining room. Nowadays, in unconscious imitation of the French – the best cooks in the world – it is a place where food is prepared, and its appointments are adapted strictly for that purpose. It is virtually a tool chest – a place where work of a specific kind is done. When the labor of the hour and day is over the workers go elsewhere for rest and recreation. We will, therefore, consider our plenishing with a single eye to business.


Beginning with the floor, let me say, after long experience in this regard, that of oiled hardwood floors, painted floors, stained floors, cocoa matted floors, carpeted floors, oilcloth floors, tiled floors and floors covered in linoleum, I give the decided preference to the last named. A good inlaid linoleum will outwear an oilcloth of the best grade by five years. Tiled floors are cold and slippery, requiring a covering of rugs to make them endurable. Linoleum, in a neat tiled pattern, looks almost as well and is far more comfortable for those who stand or walk upon them. I emphasize “inlaid linoleum,” because color and figure go clear through the fabric, and hold their own as long as a piece of it is left, whereas with oilcloth and cheaper grades of linoleum the figure wears off gradually until a dingy mottled surface is left, unpleasing to the sight and unmistakably shabby.

The inlaid linoleum is easily kept clean. When soiled, wipe off with a soft cloth wrung out in clean suds, wiping dry with another as you go on. New and then go over it with old flannel wrung out in warm water to which a little kerosene has been added.
Have the walls painted, if possible. Kalsomine or paper soils easily, absorbs steam and colors, and is difficult to clean. Of course, tiled walls are preferable to any other. The cost of these puts them beyond the reach of the average purse. The next best thing is hard paint, with “a zinc finish.” One notable housewife has covered her kitchen walls with floor oilcloth, laid on smoothly, and tacked at the bottom and top. In figure it matches the linoleum on the floor. The effect is harmonious.


I have spoken before in this series of the advantage of zinc-topped tables. If too expensive for your purse, buy the plain deal table from the furniture dealer, and a square of zinc from a stovebaker, and let John nail the cover on some evening. Thirty years ago, wearing of seeing one cook wearing her strength out in continual scrubbings of the tables, and a succession of cooks letting grease and stain sink in the wood, until a plane was necessary to get rid of the dirt, I evolved from my inner consciousness the scheme of covering kitchen table tops with zinc, and gained a great peace of spirit thereby. Nobody credits me with what I flattered myself was an original idea. But let that pass!

For over twenty years I have abjured iron pots and tin saucepans as relics of an age when time was a drug in the domestic market, if one may judge of the expenditure of that, to us, priceless treasure in cleansing and compounding by ancestral dames. I use, instead, ware as stout as iron, and as easily kept I order as common crockery. It is light, it is rustless, pleasant to the eye and costs less than the cumbrous “castings” over which the old-time cook groaned in lifting and scrubbing.

A ham-boiler is the largest utensil you will need to buy, if, as I assume, the family washing is not done in your kitchen. It is an oblong kettle, with a closely fitting top, and useful for boiling hams, legs of mutton, fowls, etc.

A fish kettle must be use for cooking fish, and for nothing else. Even the non-absorbent ware of which I speak will retain a faint suspicion of the peculiar odor of the finny tribe, let it be ever so faithfully scalded and rinsed. It gets into the joints and seams, and “Will not out.” This vessel is also oblong, and has a closed lid. There is a moveable grating upon which the fish lies, the water passing freely under it, rendering adhesion to the bottom impossible.

Of farina or rice double boilers you should have at least two sizes. They are indispensable for cooking cereals, milk, custards, blanc mange and everything else which “Catches” readily in cooking. If you can afford one holding three quarts, one two quarts, and a third that will contain one quart, to be used for individual portions, for the nursery or the sick room, get them all.

A soup kettle, with a cover and straight sides, is also a “must-have.” If, also I hope, you have a just sense of the importance of the stock pot in every well-regulated family, you should have a soup kettle of six quarts’ capacity. After each soup-making, cleanse thoroughly, air and sun, leaving it open, the cover lying beside it.

Saucepans are in almost infinite variety, and tempting to the housewifey eye. Those with straight sides are best, offering broad bottoms to the fire and heating more quickly and evenly than those with curving sides. You should have four, ranging from a quart to a gallon in capacity, all with covers.

As to teakettles, you can get along with one; but two are better, the second and smaller being convenient when the top of the range is crowded, and water must be boiled for tea or coffee.

Colanders come in graded sizes. One of moderate capacity is all you need. Be sure the holes are not so large as to let the rags and smaller bone of meat and the cores of tomatoes escape through them.


A covered roaster is a desideratum, a sine qua non-in kitchen English, a must-have. In choosing one, bear in mind and in measurement the dimensions of your oven, buying one that will fit in easily, with room for the covered top.

A quart and a pint cup for measuring, mixing spoons in three sizes, a pudding mold with a close cover, soup strainer, vegetable press, three sizes of mixing bowls, four pie plates, and the same number of jelly cake tins, three of the last with straight sides; salt and pepper boxes, are among the smaller essentials of your plenishing.

A flourholder, with sifter attached; a box for bread, and another for cake; kneading board and rolling-pin, egg beater and syllabub churn, a large and small dishpan, a vegetable and a nutmeg greater, two breadpans, a soapstone griddle, a spatula for turning cakes, one large knife of good steel, and half a dozen smaller, with forks to match; a set of muffin tins, a colander, canisters for tea and coffee, for sugar and for salt, a butter jar, a coffee pot (the tea you will make upon the table), a couple of stout pitchers –

“Where will the growing number end?”

At a rough computation you can bring your plenishing within $50.

This does not include laundry appointments.

Marion Harland

Housemothers in Council – Their Joys and Sorrows Told in Letters to the Corner
New Inventions in Kitchen Utensils
Recipes Which Our Friends Recommend

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