Pan Cakes and Hot Cross Buns

This is the first article in February of the School for Housewives 1910 series published on February 6, 1910, and gives a couple different recipes related to pancakes for Shrove Tuesday. There is also a nice recipe for hot cross buns!

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Pan Cakes and Hot Cross Buns

IT WAS while I watched in idle amusement a group of Adirondack guides making ready the supper for our hungry hunters that the probable origin of the immemorial pancake occurred to me.

We name it “immemorial” carelessly, because we have heard of it all our lives, and our fathers ate pancakes for generations before us. Shakespeare says, “As fit as a pancake on Shrove Tuesday.” Country-bred and self-made Benjamin Franklin growls of the croakers of his day;

“They will never think it good times until houses are tiled with pancakes.” That was his ideal of extravagant luxury.

But to our Adirondack woodmen. They baked no bread for us all the while we were in camp, except what we called “pancakes” and they dubbed “flapjacks.” When I volunteered to bake biscuits over the wood fire in the broad, shallow pan into which they were used to pour their hastily made batter, they let me have my way; acknowledged that the “cakes” we made were “nice enough for a change”—and mixed pancakes for the next meal.

“You see,” observed one to whom I gently hinted the possibilities of varying the diet by other combinations of flour and water, “living on the jump-like, as we do for months together, flapjacks come easier than anything else. Many’s the time I’ve got breakfast, and help eat it, and had the frying-pan strapped up and slung over my shoulder—not quite cold—before sun-up.”

It may have been the touch of the kitchen utensils slung over the traveler’s shoulders that suggested the train of thought beginning with the hurried exodus of the Israelites from Egypt, when—

“The people too their dough before it was leavened, their kneading troughs being bound up in their clothes upon their shoulders. * * * And they baked unleavened cakes of the dough, which was brought out of Egypt, for it was not leavened, because they were thrust out of Egypt and could not tarry, neither had prepared for themselves any victual.”

Why should not this be the genesis of the pancake? I asked myself the same many years thereafter, when I saw the Arab women stir up unleavened batter in a wooden bowl just stiff enough to handle, mould it swiftly into round cakes and bake these upon stones heated in a fire of thorns or chaff.

“Pancakes again—all but the pan!” quoth I, recollecting the Hebrews’ flight and the guide’s hurried breakfast.

And why not? Is there not a dim reminiscence of the Passover, and the subsequent forty years of wandering in the desert, in the Shrove Tuesday preceding the Lenten fast of forty days?

It would be too long a digression were we to pursue that question of the significance of the numeral “forty” in sacred history. It rained forty days and forty nights; Elijah went in the strength of angel food forty days; forty stripes save one was the limit of scourging, and a fast of forty days preceded the temptation in the Wilderness.

The word “shrove” is rooted in “shrive,” and Shrove Tuesday, for which the English pancakes were named, was the date on which the church enjoined a general confession and “shrift” (or absolution). The day following was Ash Wednesday.

Pancakes are still eaten in England and Wales upon Shrove Tuesday. I have talked with old people who recollected the custom as nearly universal in Puritan New England. It is safe to say that not one in a thousand of cooks and eaters had any suspicion of the churchly authorization of the practice.

The hot cross bun is venerable, although it may not claim equal antiquity with the pancake and the “Fassnacht,” eaten in Germany on Shrove Tuesday, and having, undoubtedly, the same pedigree with the English cake.

The Good Friday bun is found in all Roman Catholic countries, and in most Protestant. Mother Goose taught us to chant:

“Hot cross buns! Hot cross buns!
One a penny! two a penny!
Hot cross buns!”

It was one of the London cries while America was still a royal colony.

Old Virginia Pancakes (No. 1.)

Beat five eggs very light; add three cupfuls of milk, two tablespoonsful of shortening—butter or lard, melted—and—a handful at a time—a quart of sifted flour with which has been mixed a teaspoonful of salt. No baking powders were added by our grandmother. She depended upon the beaten eggs and quick mixing to insure lightness.

Have a large frying-pan on the fire which enough melted butter in it to reach every part of the bottom. Pour in enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan, and shake slightly in cooking to loosen the cake from the iron surface. Run a broad spatula under one edge of the pancake in three minutes to see if the lower side be nicely browned. If it is, turn the cake dexterously, without breaking or ridging it.

In the very old times—so the story goes—the skillful cook turned her pancakes by tossing them clear of the pan, and in such a fashion that they turned a somersault in the transit and alighted on the other side in the pan. Tradition has it that a young woman proved her culinary cleverness by tossing the cakes straight up the wide-throated chimney to the very top and catching them in good shape, the cooked side uppermost, as they shot down. My old mammy boasted that she had seen this feat accomplished in her youth. The art was lost before I appeared upon the scene.

When done, the pancake was rolled up and sent to table with a good pudding sauce.

Old Virginia Pancakes (No. 2.)

One pint of sifted flour. Four eggs beaten very light. Half a teaspoonful of salt and the same quantity of soda, the latter mixed, just before it goes into the batter, with a teaspoonful of vinegar. Two and a half cups of milk. Beat the yolks very smooth, stir into the milk; then the salt and soda; finally, with few, swift strokes, the flour and stiffened whites alternately.

New Jersey Pancakes.

One cup of flour, sifted twice with a teaspoonful of baking powder and a quarter of a teaspoonful of salt. One cup of milk. Four eggs, the whites and yolks beaten separately. Mix the yolks with the milk; add the flour and the beaten whites, alternately, whipping fast but lightly. Melt a tablespoonful of butter in a hot frying pan and pour in enough batter to cover the bottom of the pan thinly. Brown on both sides. Care will be required to prevent earing the half cooked cake in turning. Before taking it up, strew the pancake with powdered sugar and cinnamon and roll upon the mixture.

French Pancakes.

Make according to any of the recipes given above, then spread with jelly or marmalade; roll up and sprinkle sugar upon the top.

Two things are essential to success in pancake manufacture; quick mixing and quick yet careful baking. The cook must give her whole attention from the beginning to the end of the task. And the pancakes should be sent to table direct from the fire. They get clammy and viscid with waiting.

Hot Cross Buns.

To a quart of sifted flour add three cupfuls of milk. This should make a rather thick batter. Have at hand a cake of compressed yeast well dissolved in half a cup of lukewarm water, or a half cup of baker’s or home-made yeast. Beat this into the batter and set in a sheltered corner to rise for six or eight hours. It should double the original bulk. In the morning beat in hard and long four tablespoonfuls of melted butter, a generous pinch of grated nutmeg and a saltspoonful of salt. Have ready a cupful of flour that has been sifted three times with an even teaspoonful of soda. Knead for 10 minutes. The dough should be just soft enough to handle. Set again to rise and double its bulk. It should do this in from four to five hours.

Turn out upon the kneading board; roll into a sheet half an inch thick and cut into round cakes. Arrange in greased baking-pans and leave, covered, for the last rising. When they are high and puffy cut a deep cross in each with a knife. Bake in a steady over, covered, for 20 minutes, then brown lightly.

Wash the tops of the buns, while hot, with beaten white of egg mixed with powdered sugar.

They are best when fresh.

Marion Harland

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How Does Our Girl-Graduate Fit into the Home-Niche?

This is the fifth article in January of the School for Housewives 1910 series published on January 30, 1910, and talks about the transition period when a girl-graduate comes home from school. It is Marion’s opinion that girls should actually be equated closer to home so that they remain with family.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

How Does Our Girl-Graduate Fit into the Home-Niche?

I MET her upon the ferryboat this morning in company with her mother. The two were bound for a day’s shopping. The mother, whom I knew when she was herself a girl, recognized me and crossed the cabin to speak to me. The girl sat still. If she noticed that her companion had left her side, she gave no token of the consciousness. She continued to stare at a fixed spot on the opposite wall with eyes that were dreary and unseeing. Her attire was tasteful and quiet, as befitted the work of the day. She had an intelligent face that might be pretty when lighted up. Just now it was alike irresponsive to impressions from without and emotions from within. Somehow it made me think of a sheet of the gray, calendared paper affected by some of the correspondents.

By the time the mother had exchanged salutations with me the girl’s name took the lead in the conversation.

“Gladys”—I wondered, idly, why it seemed so much of course that the listless creature over there should have been christened “Gladys”—“will be at home this winter for the first time since she went to boarding school at 13. Then there was college—four years of it—and, last summer, seeing that she had graduated so high up in her class, her father and I thought the least we could do was to let her go to Europe with a part of girls conducted by Miss Blank Asterisk. You must have heard of her? She got back two months ago. Travel is very improving, and her father and I have tried hard to give her every advantage of education. But it will be real nice to have her home again! If only”—dropping her voice and her eyelids lest the girl might glance at her and divine the subject of our talk—“we can make her happy there! You see, things are so different now from what they were when her father and I were young! I got so low-spirited, thinking over it all last night, that I caught myself wishing that we hadn’t educated her so much, or that we were educated more.”

The Transition Period.

I spoke as consolingly as conscience would allow me, to minister to her pain. For pain it was, loath as she was to admit it. It was a relief when the boat bumped the wharf and the mother hurried back to her charge. The latter did not offer to meet her halfway, or to notice me. Her unaffected indifference to our interview advertised as plainly as words could have done that her mother’s friends were not hers by natural selection.

I was still thinking of the incident and of what it implied and prophesied when I got home and picked up the topmost letter from the pile on my desk. It was from another mother, and one who is an utter stranger to me. I copy a paragraph:

“You have the ear of the women of our country. Won’t you, some time, write some words of counsel to mothers and to daughters that may pilot both over the transition period succeeding the return of the girl from boarding school or college, with a diploma in her trunk and the world before her?”

She might have added, “A world of which she knew next to nothing when she left that home to be ‘educated’ by hired professors.”

I wish I could take it for granted at the outset of these “Words” that the girl was not sent away from the supervision of her natural guardians until they were convinced that she could not be properly educated as a day pupil in a really good school in the vicinity of her home. My views upon this branch of our subject are pronounced.

A woman to whom I said this one day returned “And antiquated!”

I answered, “I beg your pardon! The ‘finishing school’ under the very same name was familiar to fashionable mothers and parvenus in Fanny Burney’s and Maria Edgeworth’s day.”

Now, as then, the mother would have her children wiser than herself and better fitted to fill their places in society. The one disinterested affection possible to human nature comes out strongly here. Her son may be ashamed of her when he reaches intellectual and social heights she can never climb. She has studied her limited sphere to small advantage if she does not admit the probability that her daughter will pity and patronize her when she has taken the polish of the finishing school Amen! So let it be! They must increase in mental stature, though she be dwarfed by comparison. Let them shine, though her feeble light be quenched in the outer darkness.

There’s not one mother in ten thousand whose own education was meager who does not face as a strong probability this result of sending her child from her for a term of years to be spent in acquiring learning and accomplishments she cannot hope to get under the parental roof. After more than a half century of patient study of the problem, I am today unable to comprehend why either boy or girl should be banished from a home where refining and intellectual influences make an atmosphere in which mind, morals and manners must develop healthfully, and this at an age when the mother’s watchful care of physical growth and the father’s restraining hand over youthful rashness and imprudence are imperatively needed. In a word, I fail to see why my boy should be committed at 12 years of age to the training of teachers and guardians and subjected to the perils of body and soul that are rife in boarding school, when he can live at home and attend as good a school on the next block to my comfortable abode. It is a greater mystery to my dull comprehension why I should be compelled by public opinion and social decree to banish my 13-year-old girl from the house of which she is the joy and pride to a fashionable seminary, to take her chances of good and evil among 500 other girls of varying characters and mixed antecedents. God gave the child to me to be guarded, drilled and loved, and made, so far as mortal can mould her, into a “perfect woman, nobly planned.” I would have her a “hand-made article,” not one turned out by contract and machinery.

This is so unlike the popular conception of maternal duty and the ideal education for girls that, according to the data collected by the clever author of a clever paper entitled “Our Undisciplined Daughters” in a late number of a popular magazine, there are 500 “finishing schools” in the United States. I quote from the paper before mentioned:

“Five hundred of them, and the ‘receive’ from 2000 to 2100 pupils each! All it an average of 60 to the school, and you will be conservative. That means that there are 30,000 of our young girls continuously engaged in the absorption of that sole quality of mental training which these places have to offer; that close up 7500 are each autumn admitted, and 7500 each spring turned loose upon us, and that, finally, in the process there is spent fully a million and a half parental dollars per annum.”

Living by Rule.

To sum up my own individual and antiquated theory upon the subject: If a mother feels herself unable to superintend her daughter’s education and wishes her to grow into other likenesses than she is likely to acquire in the home to which God sent her, she is justifiable in passing her over into the hands of hirelings. If she is competent to perform the work assigned to her in the gift of the child, and can rise to the holy mission of growing with her pupil and achieving a higher and nobler womanhood by means of keeping step with her in the upward path, nothing but loss of health excuses her for shirking her duty.

Pass we to the return of our girl graduate to the home of her childhood. She left it at the most plastic age for mind and principles. She has, as was inevitable, taken the stamp of the school. It is as inevitable that she should find it hard to adjust herself to what have become, during the years of absence, unfamiliar surroundings. Every girl who has been for several terms at a boarding school will confirm the assertion that the most depressing feature of the new life, “which is the old,” is the abrupt cessation of routine. She lived by rule all these years. Every hour of the day had its appointments of tasks and recreations. Whether she went through the round with zest or found it a bore, the harness was worn by day and by night, and she is awkward without it. After the pleasing excitement of the homecoming is over, she feels lost, bewildered and “blue.”

She is exceptionally sensible or amiable if she do not attribute her depression to discontent with home and home people. “Mamma is sweet and dear, but she had odd ways of speaking,” and “things” somehow are plainer than the girl expected to find them. At the holidays there was a joyous bustle, and the aim of every member of the household, from her father down to the cook, was to make much of the visitor. She is no longer a visitor, nor is she one of and with them. By and by, when she is fairly launched upon the sea of society, she will have something to do and find her element–perhaps! In the doleful ennui of the present she cannot hope for any change from the dead level of domestic boredom.

She is utterly out of touch with the former life, and early associates are strangers to the full-fledged woman.

A higher educated mother, one of the most accomplished women I know, told me a story not long ago that was a revelation to me. For reason that were cogent to her apprehension, she had put her only daughter, at 12 years of age, into a first-class boarding school, and had herself gone abroad for a year. The correspondence between the two was regular and, to the mother, gratifying. Constance studied well, was healthy and contented, and not impatient for the return of her parents. When they again look up their residence in their native land the three were together in the girl’s vacations and intermediate holidays.

“She was graduated with distinction at 18,” related my friend.

“Then she came home for good. A month later I looked up from my sewing one afternoon, struck by the long silence that had fallen between us, and found her eyes fixed upon me with such singular intensity that my heart actually stood still. I had the instant impression of being on trial, or of being under a microscope.

“‘What is it my dear? I asked, faintly.

“‘I am thinking, mother, of you!’ She said it slowly and her intense gaze never wavered.

“I tried to laugh. ‘And may I know the result of your meditations, or are you ready to give it?’

“‘I think I am,’ in the same grave, thoughtful way. ‘I have been studying you ever since I came home. I have hardly known you for the last five or six years. I was afraid we might not harmonize when we became really acquainted. I have come to the conclusion that we shall. We are quite simpatica, as the Italians say.’

“I could have cried heartily, so great was my relief. But she does not like emotional demonstrations. She has wonderful self-poise for one so young. I had some studying on my own account, and it would have broken my heart if this fine young creature had not found me ‘simpatica’ upon closer view.”

The letter that led me to think out this subject upon paper strikes the same keynote.

“Our girls are the dearest things living,” writes the fond mother. “If you could buy say something that would lead them to a right understanding of us, their parents, you would do a great good for us all. The work for readjustment into their rightful place in the old home is difficult to them, and sometimes an agony to us.”

Is it strange that, with the memory of that other mother’s meek submission to the tribunal of her child’ judgement and taste fresh in my pitying soul, I uttered aloud in folding the letter in a sort of passionate protest the cry that breaks, as through cooled lava, upon the calm sequence of narrative in Thackeray’s masterpiece:

Daughters, Be Charitable!

“O it is pitiful—the bootless love of mothers for children in Vanity Fair!”

This problem is not new in our country. Over 80 years ago an eminent New England divine, who had paid much attention to the subject of “Female Education,” wrote:

“Thousands of American mothers, impressed with the importance of knowledge which they do not possess, are willing to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of the most rigid economy, that their daughters may be favored with means of improvement greatly superior to what they have enjoyed.”

It is not one of the “little ironies of fate” that the love and the sacrifice so often result in “Agony” to those who have borne the heat and burden of the day, sustained by hopes of what the homecoming of the girls will be in yearning, prideful mother-heart. It is domestic tragedy.

“O, ye poor! be charitable to the rich!” cries the parson in Bulwer’s “My Novel.”

If I might stand, face to face, with our girls, my plea would be “O, ye daughters! be charitable to those who have impoverished themselves in all except their wealth of love for you!” To come down to the bare truth, is what you have gained worth what she has lost?

Suffer a last quotation from our clever magazine writer:

“If the proper end of education be individual happiness, then the form and mode of education is a matter of individual taste. If the proper end of education be usefulness, then the proper mode and form are not the mode and form of the average finishing school.”

Marion Harland

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Slighting as a Housewifely Art

This is the fourth article in January of the School for Housewives 1910 series published on January 23, 1910, and talks about the need to put aside chores for health and well-being.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Slighting as a Housewifely Art

“YOU are opening a wide door!” warned a friend to whom I mentioned the title of this talk.

She has hung up in a conspicuous place in her kitchen an illuminated sign that, as the French put it, “jumps at the eyes” of every one who enters the door:

“What is worth doing at all is worth doing well.”

I sat down right in front of the motto and reasoned out the case with her then and there, for I, too, have m motto. It is tacked up in my sitting room, where the day’s work is laid out every morning as soon as breakfast is over. The wise saying was borrowed from “Leslie Goldthwaite’s Summer,” a girl’s boo so much better worth reading than nine out of 10 of the volumes I see nowadays in the hands of my young friends that one would expect a new edition to be brought out monthly. But my motto! I have quoted it before in the Exchange. Today I would fasten it, like a nail in a sure place, in the mind and conscience of every anxious-eyed, overwrought housemother who sees this page:

“Something must be crowded out!”

Postponing as an Art.

“Dear! had you need in the place of the Creator, you would not have been content to make the world in six days. You would have summoned angels, principalities and powers, and exhorted them to hurry up the job so as to get it out of the way and all cleaned up by Wednesday night.”

It was not uttered flippantly, however it may sound in the telling. It sank deep into my heart, and it has stood me in good stead hundreds of times, when zeal threatened to get the better of patience. A good head and a sane judgment are required to separate essentials from duties of secondary import; to decide what should be done now and what may be crowded out and postponed to a more convenient season.

The longing to “get thing out of the way and clean up, ready for the next job,” is, with many an American housemother, an obsession. Now and then it waxes into frenzy. One of the saddest sights I ever beheld was a woman in an insane asylum who was rubbing the panes of her window all say long. She fell to work upon the task as soon as it was light enough to see the glass in the morning and kept it up until she was led away to bed at night, protesting, tearfully, that it “had to be done that day!” She wore out an apron a week in the rubbing.

Anxiety is a Disease.

I grant to you, overcareful and distracted Martha, as I conceded to my friend with the illuminated motto before me, that what is laid in our hands should be done well. The question is not how we shall perform the task, but whether or not it is wise and just to do it this hour or this day. In other words, what may be crowded out of the work of that day or hour without serious derangement of the comfort and well-being of myself and those to whom my well-being is of moment?

To illustrate: My estimable neighbor, Mrs. Notable, who will never see her portrait here, since she never gets time to read so much as a newspaper from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, takes care of her own parlors. So do thousands of other well-to-do women. This is her way of doing it: Every rug is lifted and brushed daily; every tuft in the upholstered furniture dusted with a pointed brush made for the purpose; every article of bric-a-brac is wiped carefully; the mirrors are polished and the inside of the windows rubbed bright. The picture frames and the tops of the doors and window sashes and frames are wiped off with a dampened cloth; ditto the chandeliers. In brief, not an inch of space in the handsome rooms is unvisited by the duster and cloth. The work occupies from an hour and a half to two hours of the forenoon. Her china closets are set in order weekly, and this although she is scrupulously exact in replacing every cup, plat and dish in its own corner whenever it has been used. Once a month she washes them all and scrubs the shelves. When a thin place or a hole appears in her stocking or in one belonging to husband or child she makes it a point of conscience to see that it is mended that very day. Not a book that ought to be snugly reposing upon the shelf behind glass doors is left lying upon library table. The daily newspaper is rubbish when Mr. Notable and the grown son have read it. So are letters that have been opened and perused. The waste-basket receives them, and they are seen no more within the precincts inhabited by “the family.” A spot on the tablecloth would deprive her of appetite for the meal thus disgraced. A chipped plate is a grievance demanding a vigorous exercise of Christian patience.

It should go without saying that she has the best-kept house in the neighborhood. It is impeccable from roof to foundation. I was once led by the shining cleanliness of the premises to say something of the admiration inspired by such perfect housewifery to her daughter. To my consternation the girl, a wan, shadowy young thing, burst into tears.

“Yes! We have the cleanest house in the city, but we pay for it! Life is not worth living as we live it!”

Yes—and this I said to my friends with the motto staring me in the face—Mrs. Notable carries out to the best of her lights the principle that what is worth doing at all is worth doing well. Her mistake is that she lacks a sense of proportion; she has not a right estimate of values.

Said a wise and tender mother to me: “Frank litters up his room with things that are rubbish to me. It offends my taste and my eye to see and put up with the masks and foils and gloves and racquets and photographs and ‘specimens’ of all sorts he collects. But I took myself to task for my impatience in time to keep from driving him from home by overstrictness. I went into a deliberate calculation of comparative values and concluded that the boy is worth more than the room.”

In other words, she crowded out selfish likings which she had rated as principles for the boy’s happiness.

To return to Ms. Notable. Her house would look as well to the general eye and be more comfortable to husband and children if she contented herself with dusting the polished wood of the furniture and brushing up scraps from the rugs on three days of the week, reserving the thorough visitation of the apartment for, say, Wednesday, Saturday and Monday. Nobody is going to climb to the tops of the window, and door frames to espy the dust collect there during a couple of days. Were she to “slight” her china closets to the extent of overhauling them once a month instead of weekly, the china would suffer no wrong; and she would have time to read the Exchange, or, what is more important, grant to her overwrought, “distracted” body and mind the rest and relaxation without which no mortal can perform his or her part aright in a world where one’s own fancies and prejudices are the last thing to be considered in reckoning up daily duties.

I know a blessed woman who makes a frolic of the weekly darning of her own stocking and John’s and the boys’ socks. Another of like fancies brings her mending basket once in a while, and the two take afternoon tea from the work table. I dropped in upon them last week while they were thus engaged. One reported thirty pairs of hose as her “weekly dole,” the other thirty-five.

“My mother-in-law says it is bad management to lay so many aside for one mending,” said the visitor. “She could not sleep if she knew there was a bit of mending undone in the house.”

And the darners groaned in unison. “Poor woman!”

The hostess added that she “kept her darning often for Friday night work, when the boys have no lessons to study.

“One of them reads aloud while I work. And that is the confession hour, when I hear of all the scrapes and the jolly times they have had that week.”

All of use housemothers are prone to make a fetich of duty. Few of us rise above the propensity deprecated as a feminine foible by the clergyman I have quoted, namely, to make a clean sweep of work on hand and make way for the next assignment. There are scraps of diverse kinds in the refrigerator that ought to be put into the stockpot and be cooked. The slices and heel-ends of laves in the bread-pan should be heated and crushed into crumbs. Then you promised John to make a “famer’s rice pudding” for him soon, and the promise weighs upon you; it out to be fulfilled today. Yet here is all the ironing, hindered this eek by rainy weather on washing day, and the cook, who does the washing has a headache. You, who always supplement her on Monday and Tuesday, have your hands full. All the same, in your desire to make clean work and keep up in the march of daily duty, you cannot ignore the claims of stockpot, breadbox and John’s pudding.

Dear child—for am I not the mother of a big family? — be merciful to John’s wife and the children’s mother, and study the fine art of slighting. The scrapes will keep until tomorrow, and the heels of bread and the crusts will not mould and John will not recollect the pudding when he sees your eyes bright and movements alert, instead of meeting a fagged-out drudge whose frazzled nerves and spiritless air are a silent reproach to him for not lifting her above the necessity of domestic slavery.

Marion Harland

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Nuts and their Values

This is the third article in January of the School for Housewives 1910 series published on January 16, 1910, and touches on the benefits of eating raw nuts but also keeping in mind that nuts are not for everyone.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Nuts and their Values

I READ a charming book last summer, written by two bright Scotch women—the Findlater sisters—in which an eccentric dietitian is called “a fruitarian.” Following their example, I coin a word to classify writers and lecturers who have come to the front within the last decade with learned expositions of the value of nuts as man’s daily food. Certain of our nutarian schools maintain that the vaunted vegetable product might be adopted as a substitute for meat with a great advantage to our race. It occupies a conspicuous place upon the menu of the vegetarian restaurant. Knowing this, I repaired to a fashionable resort of this character in anticipation of my talk upon nuts and their values. The restaurant upon a popular thoroughfare, is handsome and well appointed in every particular. We, two women of robust appetites, ordered and partook of a four-course luncheon.

  1. Bean soup maigre. 2. Protose cutlets and fried French potatoes for one and imitation hamburger steak and stewed celery for the other. 3. Chestnut pudding with whipped cream. 4. Nuts, figs and grapes. Tea and coffee were not to be had, and neither of us liked milk as a beverage.

The waitress was a comely, well-mannered American girl, and in paying the bill my companion put a direct question:

To the Point.

“Frankly, now don’t you long occasionally for a steak or chop, a leg of chicken or a slice of rare roast beef?”

The answer was direct and respectful. The girl saw nothing humorous in the customer’s query.

“Oh, yes! but we eat all the meat we want on Sunday. The restaurant is not open then.”

“I am glad she gets meat one day in the week,” observed my friend, gravely, when we were in the street. “For myself, I confess to an unsatisfied sensation. I suppose my taste has been depraved by indulgence in the fleshpots from youth up.”

The best thing on the menu, according to our fancy, was the bean soup. Milk and butter made it tolerably savory. If we flattered ourselves that we could have made a more palatable soup maigre by the addition of crème, onion juice and minced parsley, that was a matter of opinion. We were in no doubt as to the composition of protose cutlets and imitation hamburger steaks. Both were minced or ground nuts moulded into different shapes, and we could detect no difference in the taste. “Protose” figured largely upon the printed menu, always as a substitute for meat.

I talked the other day with an enthusiastic nutarian, who won a national reputation in says past as a “demonstration lecturer” upon dietetics and cookery. She sees, with the eye of confident faith in the justice of her cause, the approach of the day when nuts will crowd beef to the wall and bring down the price of poultry to a figure that will prohibit the raising of fowls for the table.

When Eaten Raw.

I have but one common-sensible argument in opposition to their sweeping theories. It is an indubitable fact that raw nuts are, with many human creatures, unwholesome to such a degree that parents forbid children to indulge freely in them, and doctors cut them out from dietaries. Just as some of us are poisoned by fish when others eating of the selfsame dish are unharmed; and apples, which are to one the staff of life and assurance of longevity, are absolutely indigestible to other members of the family. I contend, moreover, that nuts, composed as they are largely of oils, are more likely to disagree with delicate stomachs than meat, fish or eggs, for which they are offered as a substitute.

Mothers will bear me witness that, as one wrote to us a while ago, peanuts, hickory nuts and the coarser oleaginous Brazil nut are provocative of intestinal worms (ascarides). Likewise, that some people cannot eat raw nuts for a few successive days without paying the penalty of the rich diet in the appearance of “fever blisters” upon the lips or canker sores in the mouth. A yet more common consequence of munching nuts in season and out is constipation. So well established is the fact that nuts are preferable that physicians usually forbid them to patients suffering with colds and coughs.

Do not misunderstand the drift of this discussion of the food values and detrimental qualities of the proposed substitute for flesh-foods to mean condemnation of a delicious and useful article of diet. As will be seen presently, nuts, properly treated and eaten in moderation (always by those with whose gastronomic idiosyncrasies they are not at war), should have the respectful consideration of our housemother and take rank among choice desserts and vegetables. I have spoken of the heavy oils that enter into their composition. These may be measurably corrected and their evils neutralized by eating them with salt, with sugar and with fruit. The acid of the latter and that found in sugar effect a chemical change in the oil that renders it digestible. The alkali of the salt acts upon oil in different sort, but to the same effect.

General recognition of this gastronomic rule is evident in the custom of serving nut and raisins, walnuts and wine, and candied nuts with the dessert, and offering salt with the grosser black walnuts and Brazil nuts. A majolica nut dish which was given to me almost 40 years ago has dainty salt cellars on each side of the leaf-shaped salvers.

In brief, eat your nuts as a part of regular meals, and do not make them as did the unquiet old woman of “Mrs. Goose’s Melodies” with her “vic and drink.”

The chief of your diet.

And do not insist that they are a perfect food for any of your fellow mortals. That they are not!

Spanish Chestnuts.

The smaller native chestnut of our American woods may equal in flavor and in nutritive qualities the imported from France and Italy than from Spain. When boiled and shelled, it may be used for stuffing fowls and other purposes with satisfactory results. That is, after the said results are reached. Few cooks have time and patience to shell and skin the nuts after boiling them and then run them through the vegetable press. They are toothsome enough when all is done. If Spanish chestnuts are not to be had, and native nuts are fine and abundant, and winter days and evening are not filled with work, the housemother may introduce pleasing variety into her bills of fare by preparing her nuts according to directions given for imported varieties.

In any case the home-grown article is good when boiled in salted water, drained, and while hot, buttered lightly, preparatory to removing outer shells and the bitter brown membrane enwrapping the sweet kernels. Boiled chestnuts are far more wholesome than raw.

Stewed Spanish Chestnuts.

Boil and strip off shells and skins. They should be well done and cooked in water, slightly salted. Arrange in a hot dish and butter lightly. Cover and keep hot over boiling water, until five minutes before serving, then cover with a good brown gravy, and set over the fire for the gravy to soak into the nuts.

This is a delicious accompaniment to roast turkey. In this case use a cupful of the gravy made with the fowl to make the nuts savory.

Chestnut Stuffing for Poultry.

Boil, shell and skin the nuts and run through a sieve or a vegetable press. Season with salt and pepper. Mash into a paste and beat light while hot with a great spoonful of butter. Some persons like the addition of a handful of very fine crumbs. It makes the stuffing less heavy than when the chestnuts are used alone.

Chestnut Croquettes.

Prepare as directed in the last recipe, beat in a large spoonful of butter, a tablespoonful of very fine, dry crumbs; salt and pepper; a dozen drops of lemon juice and just a pinch of ground cinnamon. Let the past get cold, form into small egg-shaped balls, roll in egg, then in cracker crumbs. Set on the ice for two hours before frying in deep fat.

Chestnut Pudding. (To be eaten with meat.)

Prepare as already directed by boiling, peeling and mashing or running through the press. To a cupful of the mashed chestnuts allow four eggs, two tablespoonfuls of fine crumbs, a tablespoonful of melted butter, two cupfuls of milk, a tablespoonful of sugar and salt and paprika to taste. Beat the yolks light, stir into the mashed nuts, then beat in the other ingredients; the stiffened whites of the eggs last of all. Bake, covered, in a quick oven. It should puff high and lightly. Uncover, brown and serve at once before it falls.

Chestnut Trifle.

Boil, shell and peel. Run through the vegetable press into a glass bowl or dish, forming a light heap in the middle of the dish. As you do this sprinkle the layers with powdered sugar. When you have a pyramid and all the nuts are used up, heap sweetened whipped cream around the base and serve with each portion of the trifle.

Chestnut Salad.

Boil in salted water, shell and skin, break into halves and when cold let them be heaped upon leaves of crisp lettuce in a chilled dish. Pour over all a good French dressing. This is a simple and excellent salad.

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Family Meals for a Week The Housemothers’ Exchange

The Dignity of Left Overs

This is the second article in January of the School for Housewives 1910 series published on January 9, 1910, and touches on leftovers.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

The Dignity of Left Overs

IN imagination I see the lifted eyebrows and dainty tilt of the nose with which the young housemother reads the title.

Left-overs are, to her apprehension, but makeshifts, even when cleverly disguised and at their best. The fine disdain of our little matron is an inheritance.

When I was but 12 years old I pricked up my ears to catch the lowered voices in which a coterie of village gossips were discussing the parsimonious ways of the richest woman in the country. They were not ill-natured, but it was a rural neighborhood, and in such, then as now, the domestic doings of acquaintances supplied food for thought and speech.

“Do you know,” murmured the gossip-in-chief, glancing from her seat on the porch to my demure self bent over my atlas and geography just beyond the circle, “that when she has Brunswick stew for dinner what is left over is put upon the ice and warmed up next day?”

The chorus of amazed disapprobation fixed the comment in my mind.

I took an early opportunity of asking my mother is Brunswick stew were fit to eat the second day.

“Like other stews and like soups, it is better,” was the unhesitating rejoinder.

And when I told her what I had overheard she laughed.

“What is left over is usually sent into the kitchen or given to some poor family. Warmed-over dinners are not considered ‘nice’ by well-bred people.”

Mixtures Resented.

This is the tenant that has trickled down through countless generations to our young housewife. She is rather proud of telling how John detests “made dishes.”

“He will have none but plain, old-fashioned roast, boiled, broiled and fried. Of course, I have to calculate carefully with regard to quantities and I often tell him that enough hood food goes into the kitchen—and, I strongly suspect, into the swill pail—to keep a family of the size of ours. But no mixed foods for him, if you please! He says he wants to know what he is eating.”

May I digress to relate a personal grievance? She brought her John to my house last year for an unpremeditated week-end visit. I was so glad to see the charming young pair that I did not bethink me until the sermon was half over the next day that I had prepared a round of a la mode beef for luncheon. I trusted no cook to put up my a la modes. Besides the lardoons of fat pork that were white as snow by contrast with the rich hue of the beef when the carving knife did its fine work, there was spicy forcemeat filling for other incisions that went all the way through the noble “baron” of beef. It had not struck me that it could come under the condemnation of “made dishes” and “unholy mixtures” until, as I said, an evil spirit injected the idea between the fourthly and fifthly of an excellent discourse. Tumbling upon the heels of the suggestion hurried the recollection that the summer salad awaiting the mayonnaise in my refrigerator was a veritable “left-over.” It figured upon my mental menu as “Macedoine.” In fact, it was composed of the remnants of vegetables that had been cooked for two successive days, beans, corn, young beets and green peas. A tablespoonful of one and three tablespoonful of one and three tablespoonfuls of this, that and the other, deftly mingled and seasoned, then bedded upon crisp hearts of lettuce and mantled by mayonnaise, would be hailed joyfully by my household. How would visiting John take it?

To cut the story short, to the catastrophe. He didn’t take it at all! Nor more than a teaspoonful of the cup of tomato soup, the one hot dish in the midsummer Sunday luncheon. He seemed to divine that it was founded upon stewed tomato left from last night’s dinner. Yet it was strained, seasoned to a charm and made attractive to the eye by a tablespoonful of whipped cream on top of each cup. As for the beef, mottled beautifully as the thin slices were spread to view by the skillful carver, I had known that he would have none of it, before we left the church. At a whispered order from my anguished self, the waitress ferreted out a knobby bit of cold lamb from the icechest, and my guest made a meal upon this and a slice of cold bread. The dessert was homemade tutti-frutti ice cream and cake. The ice he evidently considered a mongrel and the cake was Neapolitan—variegated with brown, yellow and pink. Another “mix!”

This may be an extreme case of the hereditary distrust of “made dishes.” For the sake of the peace of mind of other housemothers and hostesses, I hope it is. There is no denying the truth that similar prejudices lurk in the minds of hundreds who should, by now, have learned that there are meaning and reason in the words that stand as our title.

A Divine Precept.

For 40-odd years it has been one of my aims in life to bring to the American housemother’s perceptions a belief in the dignity and the duty of economy. And the left-over is one, and an important, branch of the subject. Have you, sensible reader, ever paused to weigh what our Lord meant to teach when He bade the disciples (who had just witnessed the manifestation of His power to make amplest provision for the needs of the multitude). “Gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost?” That is, wasted. There were 12 baskets of “left-overs” that day. We may not doubt that they, too, went to feed the poor and hungry.

The same divine precept should be the rule of every kitchen. The combination of the fragments—often apparently incongruous-is the rest of culinary talent and skill.

One wish householder declares that his spouse achieves her most notable triumphs in the dishes evolved from “scraps.” He welcomes the appearance of a stuffed breast of veal, because he anticipates the next day’s scallop which is “an inspiration,” especially when the creamy sauce that holds it at the precise degree of soft deliciousness has a faint, exquisite flavor of oysters. If she has not saved the juice from the oysters used for frying a day or two ago, she has added a few cents to the cost of the scallop by buying half a pint from the fish merchant.

Boiled mutton is good at the first appearance when served with caper or egg sauce. The aforesaid canny husband foresees Scotch brother, which his soul loves, when enriched, as it is almost sure to be, by the addition of “peas, beans and barley-O,” odds and ends of celery, onions and minced parsley and, mayhap, a spoonful of oatmeal porridge left from breakfast.

If the mutton be a trifle rare, the left-overs will work up finely into curry. Save a cupful of the broth and put it over the fire. As it heats, stir in a great spoonful of strained apple sauce and a tablespoonful of curry powder. Cook one minute and add the meat, cut into inch cubes. After this goes in do not let the mixture boil. To stew cooked meat is, to make it insipid. Heat to scalding and serve. In another dish have pain rice so boiled that each grain stands by itself. In serving put a portion of rice upon the plate and pour the curry—meat and gravy—upon it. Send around ice-cold bananas with the curry. Each person takes one, strips off the skin and cuts the fruit as he wants it with a silver knife. It is a delicious accompaniment to curry. As East Indian introduced the novelty into my household 20 years ago, since when ice-cold bananas accompany curry as invariably as mint sauce is served with roast lamb.

Save the Bits.

Another way of using up the cold mutton is to cut it into rather thick slices, dip each in a “deviled” mixture of vinegar, French mustard, salt, pepper and a dash of sugar. Turn over the slices in the sauce several times, then in a rather thick batter, and fry as you would fritters. Drain off the fat and serve hit.

Never throw away a bit of fish. The fragments may be transformed into croquettes by the addition of mashed potato. Or, minced fine and blended with fine cracker crumbs, seasoned well and stirred into hot milk, slightly thickened and made savory by a great spoonful of butter, it develops into a toothsome bisque. A little chopped parsley improves it.

The outer and coarser stalks of celery should be scraped clean, cut into inch lengths and stewed in salted water, drained and served with a white sauce.

On parboil them: let them get very cold, dip into raw eggs, then into fine crumbs and fry quickly. They are a really elegant vegetable thus prepared.

Served on Lettuce.

Mixed salads are the best of their tribe to the educated palate. Cold potatoes, cut into neat bits of uniform size and seasoned with a good French dressing, should be put into a glass dish lined with lettuce leaves. Cover the surface deep with cold boiled beets, minced very fine, and you have a pretty as well as a palatable salad.

I could writer, as a prolific English novelist is reported to have said of herself, “h’on, and h’on, and h’on” indefinitely, without exhausting the capabilities of left-overs.

As “entrees” they take a distinguished place in menus for daily and company meals. It behooves our young housewife to experiment with them at will, if she would introduce variety into her bills of fare. She will find the pursuit fascinating if she has a real taste for fine cookery.

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

The Waiterless Dinner Party

This is the first article in January of the School for Housewives 1910 series published on January 2, 1910, and touches on what a family can do during a dinner party when the are “servantless.”

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

The Waiterless Dinner Party

MY ATTENTION has been drawn of late to the large number of what we are in the habit of calling “really nice” people who are servantless. I do not mean now those I have spoke of several times as “the half-way poor,” borrowing the phrase from a magazine article. Still less do I refer to “reduced” families who are compelled to retrench even painfully in the style of living to which they were accustomed in bygone days. There are settled all over prosperous and well-kept neighborhood families in easy circumstances that cannot command skilled domestic labor. Spacious and well-appointed dwellings in the fringe of handsome suburban towns are kept in perfect order, and the domestic machinery is run the year round with no “hired help.” The washing is put out or a laundress comes for a couple of das per week to get that part of the work out of the way. For the rest, mother and daughters are responsible. I know dozens of such homes. So smooth is the action of the machine of daily living that the deficiency in the matter of servants is hardly perceptible to the casual visitor. It is only when the refined women who have reduced housewifery to a fine art would receive friends in more ceremonious fashion than in the afternoon call and informal dropping in to tea or luncheon that there is a jar in the aforesaid machinery.

It irks me to accept invitations to luncheons and dinners when I cannot reciprocate the courtesy in kind,” said one frank-spoken matron to me. “And my girls feel it even more keenly. Let me tell you what nearly killed poor Eleanor last week. Mrs. Welmar, our German laundress, has proved so obliging and capable in her own line that my daughters were ready to believe that she could follow their directions n playing waitress at a small dinner party they felt constrained to give fore some southern visitors in the neighborhood. They are charming people, and my girls received much hospitality from them while they were in Charleston last winter.

“The good soul is not ill-looking, and she was ready to sport cap and apron, and to learn all the young ladies would teach her about the business of the table. They drilled her faithfully, and were satisfied with the result of the rehearsal.

“Well, the company assembled and were got to the table in good form. The first three courses were served and removed without misadventure. When Mrs. Weimar saw us fall to work upon the piece de resistance, she apparently counted upon a period of comparative inaction Whereupon she seated herself upon a chair in one corner of the dining room, keeping us well in sight in case she should be needed, and fanned herself beamingly with her apron.”

It was, as I agreed wit the narrator, very dreadful. We likewise agreed that it was convulsively funny—to an outsider.

“You see,” concluded my friend, “it was impossible to foresee the faux pas. Consequently, none of us had warned the pro tempore waitress not to sit down in a rocking chair and fan herself while smiling upon us and wiping her heated face. I don’t mind doing the housework. We three have systematized it until it is not burdensome. You would be amazed to see how much spare time we have. The wonder grows how hirelings contrive to be always busy over what we get out of the way in one-tenth of the time they devote to it. I do mind having no waitress or butler. It is the one drawback to suburban life.”

Without Apology.

Yet I visit households where visitors are freely entertained at dinners and afternoon teas and luncheons. With gay insouciance (I would not use the French word if we had a synonym in English) the situation is explained in a few words to the guests. After that no apologies are made. The business of the meal goes on without comment upon the fact that one of the young ladies of the family rises from the table and glides quietly around the board, making the necessary changes in far less time than a trained hireling would do the same. Talk flows more freely for the absence of an alien element, and while not one jet or tittle of gracious ceremony is omitted, there is a pervasive tone of “jolly,” good fellowship which is wanting from the conventional repast.

I have said that my mind has been drawn to this subject much of late. Thought is concentrated upon it today by the receipt of a letter which may be taken as the spinal cord of my Talk.

Like many of our most suggestive communications, it comes from California:

“My sister and myself have lived in a mining camp since we were children. Now that we are back in civilization we find ourselves woefully ignorant of many things we ought to know. We should like to entertain a few friends at dinner. Please tell us how to serve the meal as simply as possible, yet nicely.

“1. Should my sister and myself or our mother wait on the table?

“2. Where is the serving table placed and what is put on it?

“3. When is salad served, and may coffee be passed with the dinner?

“4. Are vegetables put into small individual dishes?

“5. Are butter knives used at all?

“6. Our father is not with us, so who should do the carving?

“All this may sound very childish, but it means much to us. Maybe it will help others who know no more than we do.”

Two California Girls.

And there are hundreds of others. I am thinking of them as well as of you while I try to answer your frank queries.

1. Unless you have a regular waitress or a maid-of-all work who can change courses and pass dishes it would be well for one of your girls to perform this office. Not your mother! She should not rise from the table during the meal. At the conclusion of each course one of the daughters should rise quietly and remove the plates and the dishes from the table. Do not pile them upon one another. Have near at hand a large tray covered with a napkin to which you transfer the plates as you remove them. When all are upon it, lift the tray and carry it into the kitchen. Bring back the next course upon the same tray. Set it upon the side table and take the plates in order from it, setting them before the guests. A little practice and presence of mind will enable you to do this quietly and swiftly without breaking in upon the conversation or attracting attention to yourself. Perhaps it wold be well for the sisters to take turns in the task. If both leave the table at once it will disturb the orderly course of the meal.

2. The service table is at a convenient distance from the kitchen and from the dining table. Upon it are arranged dishes that do not need to be served hot, such as plates of bread and cakes, fruit plates, cruets of vinegar and oil, salad plates and finger bowls, each set upon a doily upon a dessert plate and half filled with water.

The use of the large tray obviates the necessity for other use of the service table.

3. The salad comes between the meat and the sweets. Keep it upon the ice or in a cold place until you have set the plates for it upon the table, one before each eater, and the crackers and cheese in place.

4. The distinctively American practice of serving vegetables in what an amused foreigner called “bird baths” has (happily) been discontinued, except in fourth-class boarding houses and back-country hotels. Since you have no waitress, do not affect the style of those whose daily dinners are served “a la Russe,” from the service table and kitchen. Set the dish or meat (the piece de resistance) at the foot of the table, where it will be serve by yourself or your sister, your mother having the head of the board. Set the dishes of vegetables also upon the table, as was done by your grandmother, and twenty-five years later in thousands of homes. Set before your mother the other dishes where she can reach them easily. Thackeray maintained to the end of his days that the fashion of setting all the dishes of a course upon the cloth at once was far more comfortable than the present custom. He said that his meat got cold before he could be helped to a potato, and he had reason and common sense on his side.

5. Butter knives are laid upon the bread-and-butter plates set at the left of the larger plate. I may observe here that capricious fashion frowns upon the introduction of the butter pat or ball into the dinner menu. It is contended that well-seasoned dishes require no addition of condiment or “savory.” All the same, have your butter plates. Lay upon each a slice of bread and a bit of butter beside the butter knife.

6. By all means carve the meat in the kitchen before the meat is served. If it be lamb or beef or other piece of “butcher’s meat,” slice neatly and lay the slices back in place, keeping the original form of the roast. Do the like with poultry, putting the dismembered sections into comely shape. This plan saves time and trouble in serving.

May I add some hints as to the arrangement of the table?

The Nice Touches.

Your cloth should be the prettiest you have in damask and glossy from the iron. If you have tasteful centerpieces, embroidered or in drawnwork, select the daintiest for the middle of the table. Upon it should stand a low bowl or vase of cut flowers, or a pot containing a growing plant. If the pot be a plain crockery, cover with crimped tissue paper bound into place with ribbons. If you have a single bud and leaf laid beside each plate, with a pin thrust into the stem by which the boutonniere may be pinned upon the front of the woman’s gown or fastened in a man’s buttonhole, you introduce an added touch of graceful welcome. Set dainty dishes of bonbons and salted nuts within reach of all. Also celery and salt and pepper. A folded napkin lies upon what is known as “the service plate,” unless this be occupied by an “appetizer,” such as grapefruit, raw oysters, oyster cocktails or the like, in which case it is laid at the right of the plate. Between it and the plate are arranged the knives that will be required for the different courses, the first to be used lying furthest on the right. The left of the service plate is flanked by the forks arranged in like order. The soupspoon lies at the back of the plate. If the dessert is to be eaten with spoons, one is placed beyond the soupspoon. A glass of water is at the right hand. It is well to have carafes or pitches of iced water on the table when there is no water to replenish glasses from the sideboard. Make it the business of one of the amateur waitresses (Query: May they be styled “footwomen”?) to watch the glasses and fill them quietly without remark. A plate of reserved bread should also be at hand.

Small cups of black coffee follow the guests to the drawing room. Sugar goes in with them. Never cream! It is a gastronomic solecism to cream a demitasse of black coffee. Its specific work is to assist digestion. If clogged with cream it loses its effect.

I have outlined the order of a simple meal that may be made elegant by the exercise of just taste, thorough breeding and fact.

A popular and deplorable error is to confound simplicity and rudeness—rudeness in the sense of primitive methods and homely accessories.

Some one has said that it is a woman’s duty always and everywhere to look her prettiest. There are refining influences in making the everyday life, from which we cannot escape as comely as we can with the materials nearest our hands. All summer long I encourage my servants to keep flowers upon the kitchen table. I fancy that they are more punctilious in the matter of clean tablecloths for the habit. A tumbled or a spotted cloth is shamed by the fresh blossoms.

To sum up our argument: Elegance is not contingent upon wealth and is never allied to pretension.

“To thine own self be true.”

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

As We Give the Gift

This is the third article in December of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on December 19, 1909, and touches on the art of gift giving.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

As We Give the Gift

IS THERE anything new to be said about putting up or sending out or presenting gifts?

I thought not, until last Christmas, and then I had a novel notion come my way–as, indeed, one had been impressed upon me at almost every Christmas for some years previous. Since we have taken to tissue paper and ribbon and the like, new inventions have multiplied.

My new idea last Christmas came in the form of dinner table favors which were, in reality, attractive and amusing gifts. A big Christmas bell in bright scarlet was put in the middle of the dinner table. It was not hung, but set flat on the table. Radiating from it were ribbons, the further end of each under the plate of one of the guests. The “home end,” if you might call it so, was, of course, under the bell.

While the soup was in eating many were the conjectures as to what the ribbons meant. As soon as the plates of the first course were removed the ribbons were pulled, each member of the party taking his or her turn. From under the bell, which was lifted slightly by the ribbon which connected it with the chandelier overhead, were drawn tissue-paper wrapped parcels of various shapes, which, when opened, were found to be “double-headers,” in that each contained an amusing and a useful or valuable gift.

Appropriate Gifts.

For example, the tea devotee of the family received a small tea set arranged on a tiny tray, and in the sugar bowl lurked a ring for which she had long yearned. To the hunter of the party was given a stuffed rabbit, with a ribbon about its beck fastened with a handsome scarfpin. A large brass locket bestowed upon one held, instead of a picture, a $10 gold piece; while a tin lunchbox which fell to the lot of another contained a valuable book which he had expressed a wish for. All this came as a sort of aftermath of the morning distribution of gifts, and was a charming surprise to every one.

In the same fashion I have heard of a bell to which ribbons were attached connecting with cards which told the recipient where to find a gift which had been prepared for him. A variant of this were cards of ribbons telling the children that there were gifts for them concealed in certain parts of the house, and setting the youngsters scampering after their presents as soon as the meal was over. A little Christmas tree in the middle of the table, bearing gifts for the guests, is not a novelty, but it is always pleasing.

The Presentation.

Of course, there are all sorts of ways of presenting gifts to the home people. To hang them on the Christmas tree or heap them about its base, or put them in the stockings the children and grown-ups hang up, is as old as the hills, and none the worse on that account. In some households a chair in the living room is denoted to each member of the household and the gifts placed there for them. The problem of making the presentation to the people in the home is a comparatively simple matter. It is when we are putting up and sending out gifts that our ingenuity is taxed.

After all the innovations, perhaps there is no prettier fashion of sending out Christmas gifts than by wrapping them in white or tinted tissue paper and trying them up with bright ribbons, perhaps sticking a bit of evergreen or a sprig of holly under the ribbon bow. This is not tedious work, because one does not so consider it at Christmas time, but it makes a pull upon something most of us have to count, and that is money. We did not feel it so much in the day when we used handkerchief ribbons to tie with and treasured pieces of tissue paper which we smoothed out and freshened as best we could for wrapping and binding the parcels. But now, since competition and fashion have made themselves felt in the doing up of Christmas presents, as in almost everything, we are not willing to fall behind in the race. So we buy tissue paper by the quire and ribbon by the bolt, and often we are not even contented with the baby ribbon which filled the measure of our desires only a little time ago. No! there are ribbons brocaded in holly and in violets and in poinsettias that we must get now—and the broader the better!

Just as sensible persons had to assert themselves some years back in protest against the elaborate Christmas cards which had ceased to be merely affectionate reminders and became expensive constructions of pasteboard and silk and satin, so those of us who still wish to make more of the present than of its wrapping must call a halt. A step in the right direction has been made by the introduction of paper tape in silver and gold and colors, and the use pf tiny paper seals. With these, or the gayly tinted tissue papers that come you can make as pretty a parcel as any one need rejoice to receive on Christmas morning.

One word about the cards. I have said that gorgeous cards were renounced by those of us who thought the sumptuousness of tokens which were meant to be merely inexpensive reminder was making a kindly custom absurd. Elaborate confections of this sort have practically disappeared, but in their place has come the hand-painted card on which we spend as much money as would suffice to purchase a present which is really worth keeping and cherishing.

I do not wish to condemn Christmas cards, but, honestly, haven’t we had too many of certain kind? Don’t we feel a little inclined to groan when we view the costly bits of decorated pasteboard which litter our rooms after the holidays? Then they lie on desk, table and mantle, too pretty, and yet, it may be add[???], representing too much money, f[???] us to feel justified in dumping them into the waste basket. Instead, [???] that we keep them about until they are dusty and soiled, never having wo[???] more than an instant’s passing pleasure from them, and finally they go into the fire.

Of course, there are charitable institutions which are glad to receive Christmas cards for their children and poor people, but they would be as well satisfied with a card which cost 5 cents as with one w[???] cost 50, and the former would have one as well to bring your friend to your remembrance.

Cannot we rather reform on the Christmas card question and put something better in its place? If you wish to spend more than a few cents on a gift to a friend, there are little books—not cheap ones, either, but those that are well bound and worth keeping—which would be no more expensive than the showy card. And if the memento is to be sent to a friend on whom you mean to expend but little, do you not think she would value a letter from you more than a dozen cards?

The letter would take a longer time to write and give more trouble? True. But this is Christmas, and the Christmas spirit is not that which makes a gift of the easiest thing to do. We are all of us too much given to compounding with our Yuletide consciences by buying a card or its equivalent and sticking it into an envelope and making that take the place of the expression of loving through or good will which our own pens could send more acceptably.

If the gift without the giver is bare, then many a Christmas present goes forth stripped to the bone. There is no grace of the giver in the present which is sent with no mark of loving remembrance. The poorly put-up bundle which takes tenderness with it means more than a gorgeous hand-painted card which goes into its envelope with. “There! I forgot Aunt Jane; but this card will look stunning to her, and it’s the quickest thing to send.”

Make your Christmas presents beautiful on the outside as well as on the inside; outdo yourself in planning to give them to the family in novel and attractive fashions, but, above all, don’t forget, in putting up your parcels, to slip in the most important addition: the loving thought, the individual attention which makes a brief letter in an everyday envelope stand for more than the handsomest gift sent unlovingly from the biggest and most expensive shop.

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

The Child and Its Christmas Effort

This is the second article in December of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on December 12, 1909, and is a continuation of Marion’s talk on gift giving.

In this article, it is Marion’s advice that mothers should have young children learn of self-sacrifice and giving by saving money and making home-made gifts.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

The Child and Its Christmas Effort

HOW much share in Christmas have the children of today? How much are they taught to feel the true spirit of Christmas?

Consider average children, and what does Christmas mean to them? A time of holidays from school, of gay shop windows, of many gifts, of much good eating. Does it stand for much more?

We defraud our children when we give them only so much of Christmas as this. If we have never before taught them the true meaning of the most blessed holiday of the year, let us do it now. There is more in the season even than the manger and the star, the child and the shepherds. Give these to the children, but give them also the idea of the lesson that Christmas brings a self-sacrifice for others; help them to feel that the only gift worth giving is that which counts for something to the giver.

I think that as a rule children are generous, unless they have been taught to be calculating. Cultivate such generosity; and, for the love of mercy, never encourage in them that spirit of “give and take,” of keeping a debt and credit account on Christmas presents which has done so much to poison the season for older people.

As soon as the child is old enough to understand giving at all, make the gift something coming from him or her personally. The childish efforts will be weak, the childish results will be poor, but that makes little difference so long as the loving, generous spirit lies back of the gift. The book-mark worked in straggling cross stitch by baby fingers means as much to the father or mother as anything a hundred times its value could signify. If ever there is an opportunity in which will counts more highly than achievement, it is in the gifts which children make to their nearest and dearest.

As the children grow older do not abandon this line of teaching. Instruct them to make their gifts costs them something; to begin long before the holiday season to hoard their pennies; encourage them to stop the little indulgences dear to their small souls (and bodies), such as purchases of candy and peanuts and popcorn with their spending money, for the sake of laying it aside for Christmas gifts. The self-denial will do them good in more ways than one. It will teach them to give up their own pleasure for the sake of others; to make the prospective pleasure of those they love dearer to them than their own immediate enjoyment.

Let me say a word here relative to the benefit of giving allowances of spending money to children from the time they are old enough to have money to spend at all. It not only teaches them the use of money and imparts a beginning of a sense of responsibility in financial affairs, but it does more by providing them a chance to forego personal indulgence for the sake of giving to others. If from their tiny allowances they are encouraged to save for charity and for birthday and Christmas gifts, they have gained a lesson that no preaching and teaching in later years could so thoroughly implant.

Not that the best gifts are those which are procured simply by paying out money for them. Make the children understand that, and help them to make their gifts with their own hands. The way to do this has always been more or less easy for girls, who could sew and embroider and knit and crochet presents for those they loved. Of late the path has been opened for boys as well, and the manual training bestowed in our schools has been of benefit to them. By the aid of tools and pyrographic outfits and jigsaws they are able to do their share in making their Christmas gifts with their own hands.

A Guiding Hand.

I should be doing my subject little justice if I did not say that these instruments to which I have referred had also done their part toward the manufacture of some fearful and wonderful objects with which the living rooms and bedrooms of some of us are cumbered. The unassisted and unadvised child is likely to perpetrate grievous things if not aided by counsel. Apparently, the majority are born with little discrimination between good and evil so are as the works of their hands are concerned, and offer plaques and panels for alleged “decoration” with as much confidence of approval as an artist would feel in presenting a painting of his own doing.

Therefore let us guide our children when we may. There is no reason why their gifts should not be of value beyond that given them by love. Among my cherished possessions are a carved box for hairpins; another, much smaller, for collar buttons and similar trifles; a glove box and handkerchief box adored with pyrogravure; a footstool, and a hanger for my roller towel—all the work of boyish love. They might so easily have been useless horrors that I am filled with thankfulness whenever I think of them.

Encourage your children to make gifts which will really supply long-felt needs. Teach them that it is a very poor gift which is made without consideration of the wants of the person to whom it goes. To buy or to make at random is the least gracious way of manufacturing a present for any one.

The small girl will be helped by such instruction. They will probably display a tendency to buy and make certain fluffy, useless articles which commend themselves to the feminine mind in its immature stages, and sometimes later on. Guide them in their work. Teach them that it is better to make a wash cloth, or pad for a bureau drawer, or a shoe bag, or a needle book, or something equally simple, which is of practical value to the person who receives it than to break forth into all sorts of ambitious impossibilities in the line of decoration—so-called.

Never can I forget one Christmas when I received a bag of belting cloth with a filling of thistledown and a decoration of flowers in water colors, a construction of silk and chenille and cardboard to hang from the chandelier, a china plaque with a Gibson girl on it, six calendars and seven sachets. The only redeeming feature about the gifts was that love probably prompted the sending. That was the only thing they represented besides money. Not a bit of thought had gone to the selection, no planning as to what would meet my taste and my needs.

Don’t let your boys and girls grow up in that way. Let them consider as much a part of the Christmas gift as the money which goes into it a study of the preferences of the person to whom it is sent. They would not give a workbag to their grandfather, or a pipe to their aunt, but, unassisted, they would doubtless make just as absurd presents to other members of the family or to friends. Guide them in the selection until they are old enough to judge for themselves. Don’t turn the children loose to do their own shopping, but find time, no matter how busy you may be, to go out with them on their expeditions to the stores and help them learn how to buy. Don’t put this off until the last moment either, but undertake it as long ahead of time as you can.

Bear in mind always that the children ought to have a share in “making Christmas” in the household beyond the giving of presents. Entrust them with a certain amount of responsibility as soon as they are old enough to take it. Confide to them part of the preparations. It may be that to them you will delegate the collection and hanging of the greens, the decoration of the table, the preparation of the candies which are to go into stockings and fancy boxes; the painting or lettering of the cards which are to mark the place at the Christmas dinner; the putting up the parcels which are to go out of the house. If you do not, at the moment, think of something to confide to their care, study it up until you have found something. There should be no drones in the house in the midst of the Christmas preparations. While the children are still young make them understand the solidarity of the family, and that they have their own important part in helping t make the Christmas joy.

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Family Meals for a Week
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Gifts for the Country Cousin

This is the first article in December of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on December 5, 1909, and is an article on helpful tips for purchasing gifts for people you may not know very well.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Gifts for the Country Cousin

EVERY ONE possesses country cousins or their equivalent. The degree of relationship may vary, or there may be none at all; the distant connections may be uncles, aunts or merely friends, and their homes may be in towns they would scorn to have called “country,” far though these may be from the big centers of city life. Yet to those of us who do live in such centers the dweller in any less crowded region is likely to be considered as one living in the country.

“New York isn’t nearly so pleasant at this time of the year as the country,” wrote a visitor in her bread-and-butter letter after returning from a stay in a thriving town of 50,000 inhabitants. The fact that this same town had beautiful suburbs within easy driving distance—and that it was not New York—to her mind made it “country.”

Wherever the “country cousins” are, however, they are to be reckoned with or for in the Christmas preparations. My plea today is that in such reckoning you regard them less as country people and more as human beings.

Do I hear an expostulation? Do you declare that you always look upon them as human beings and as beloved relatives as well? Stop and think a bit. Do you recollect what you sent them last Christmas? Put on your considering cap. Better still, if you follow the wise custom of keeping your Christmas lists over from year to year, consult that for last Christmas, and see what you sent them. Here it is. Now read it over.

“Aunt Mary—tidy.” You haven’t forgotten that tidy? It was given to you the year before by a grateful Sunday-school scholar, and when you opened the parcel you said: “It was very sweet in Jane to make it, but I wouldn’t be found dead with that thing in my parlor.” Yet you were quite willing Aunt Mary should receive that atrocity as a token of your affection for her. Don’t you feel a little ashamed when you think of it?

Let’s go on with the list. “Uncle Tom—book of sermons.” You probably gave him these because you thought they might do him good, though you might have known he would not read them. Sermons were never much in his line, and the poor old gentleman’s eyes are too bad now to allow him to use them much. When he can read he would rather have something a little more likely than those sermons.

The next item is for Cousin Ella. I don’t wonder you wish to pass that by without notice. “Framed picture” looks very well, but do you recollect the picture? It was a chromo lithograph, and not a good one at that. I grant that Cousin Ella doesn’t know much about art, but is that any reason why you should inflict upon her such a confusion of glaring colors as were confounded in that picture? Why didn’t you give her a good photograph simply framed, if you had to give her a picture? There’s nothing in which there’s a bigger risk than in the buying of pictures for others. When you buy one for a person whose tastes are not well known to you, get something non-aggressive, at least—something you would not object to having on your own parlor or sitting-room walls.

There, after all, is the keynote to the choice of Christmas gifts for the country cousins. Don’t send them something to which you yourself would hardly give houseroom. Even though their tastes may very possibly different from yours, even if you are not sure of their preferences in most lines, select something which would please you, and you may be pretty sure to please them.

This principle is a good one to start with, but there is more than that even in the gifts for the country cousins.

Try to study their individual needs a little, and consider these in choosing your presents. More than that, given them what they want, as well as what they need. All of us have a touch of the feeling expressed by the woman who said that she could get along without the necessities of life, if she could only have the luxuries. The country cousin is probably like the rest of us. So, if you make her a gift which you think will supply a necessity, add to it a flavor of luxury which will raise the present above the level of the commonplace.

An Added Personal Touch.

For example: You know that she is likely to need towels. Well, towels are acceptable to me in any circumstances, and doubtless to any other housekeeper; but there is an added grace in receiving them when they are adorned with an embroidered letter, which shows that some thought of me went into the gift beyond the mere business of purchasing it. Don’t you believe the country cousin would feel that grace, too? Or, suppose that you gave her dish towels—a homely present, but very welcome to most of us. Mark these, too, with an outline letter or name in heavy red marking cotton. It will take little time to do them, and the handiwork will impart to the gift the personal touch which trebles its value to the recipient.

Follow the sample principle with the rest of the gifts you send the country cousins. Never make them a dumping heap for last year’s unwelcome gifts. What you don’t want yourself because it is useless or unattractive or unsuitable is an outrage on the spirit of Christmas to bestow upon some one else.

Go further than this. Don’t leave to the random impulse or the last hurried moment the choice of gifts for the country cousin. Don’t say, even in your thoughts, “Oh, they live away off and don’t see anything new, and will never know if this is not in good taste.” You can’t be positive on the taste question, and even if you were, is that quite the spirit which should go with the choice of a Christmas present?

Try to reconstruct your mental attitude toward the country cousins and the gifts you choose for them. In the first place, fill yourself full of the real spirit of Christmas, the spirit of a great gift bestowed with a great love. That is the ideal of giving you should set before yourself. In the light of that, buy yourself gifts for the country cousins.

You look at the purchase of such gifts in a rather different way with that light upon them. You make your choice in another fashion from that you have heretofore followed. You buy as though you were selecting for the near and dear, and if you do not know the tastes of the distant one to whom you are giving, imagination takes the place of knowledge. And with that imagination put common sense, and you have a pair it is hard to beat.

Imagination and Goose Sense.

Your imagination tells you that if a person is off in the real country, away from many neighbors, she may need brightness and beauty brought into her life. Your common sense warns you not to achieve this by the gift of useless trifles in the line of ornament and bric-a-brac, which clutter more than test beautify. In the place of these, you choose a good picture, a nice piece of brass, a candlestick or a lamp or a sconce, a pretty table cover or a couch cushion, or something else that will be pleasing after the first novelty of possession is worn off.

Or you may know that the country cousin is a housekeeper who loves dainty things, and has little means to satisfy that love. Send her an attractive bureau cover or tray cloth or centerpiece or a set of doilies or a little china which will be useful as well as ornamental. Give her a set of nappies or of bouillon cups or of finger bowls or a cup and saucer or a pair of candlesticks or any other pretty thing you would like for yourself. Or turn your back upon these and give her something for her own personal adorning, a delicate jabot or collars and cuffs or half a dozen yards of novel ruching or some other neckwear or a pair of silk stockings or gloves or, if she is a young girl, something dainty in underwear. What would you like yourself in her place? There is your guide.

But are there no men country cousins? Surely there are, and they demand more thought than the women. But even here you may make a wise choice if imagination and common sense are again put to work. The young men are easily pleased. A tie, a fancy handkerchief, a pipe—no man ever had too many pipes—a pair of silk socks, gloves. With an older man the choice is harder. The pipe may do here again, or a tobacco pouch or desk furnishings, unless he is likely to be overloaded with these.

When in doubt for man or woman, old or young, a safe gift almost always is a magazine subscription. Here is a gift which comes every month and lasts a whole year. Books are good, if you know you country cousin’s tastes, but a magazine is better. Select that which will, to your mind, meet most nearly the wishes and the preferences of the one to whom it is to go, and you will rest content in the thought that in one instance at least your choice of a Christmas gift is likely to be a success.

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

Economy in Hired Labor

This is the fourth article in October of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on October 31, 1909, and is the final article of Marion’s series on economy.

Marion’s views related to hired help do not surprise me as her opnion is reflected in her previous writings on the topic. The same can be said of the educated and working girls of America. It was the matron’s belief that all girls should be taught how to run a home before anything else.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

Economy in Hired Labor

The fourth of a series of articles on the necessities for economy in the time of high prices is presented today. Previous articles were: “A Stubborn Fact,” written with a view to awakening housekeepers to the present necessities for economies; “Economy in Buying” and “Economy in Cooking.”

Marion Harland will welcome letters and suggestions from readers of these articles. Every idea may be a help to some one who wants help.

If I were required to indicate the chief source of wastefulness in the average American household, I should say, without hesitation, “The Hired Domestic.”

The reason thereof is patent. It is older than the Christian era. “Whose own the sheep are not.” The principle of self-preservation informs human motive. It would be folly to expect the hireling to take as good care of our possessions as we do. This is especially true in a country where she is a recognized nomad, here today and nobody knows where tomorrow. A high order of conscientiousness is needed to move one to absolute fidelity to neighbor and employer. And the antecedents of our paid employe do not tend to the cultivation of the finer virtues.

Forbear we, then, to throw the blame of extravagant mismanagement of our property and finances upon the foreign peasant, or the descendant of an enslaved race whom we have promoted to a place upon our domestic staff.

The monumental fact stands fast that she is the most expensive of modern luxuries. A stranger to the responsibilities of the property owner, she knows little and cares less for the value of what has cost the employer more money than she has ever seen in her life. How could it be otherwise? A pearl to a child is no more than a glass bead. Old family silver weighs less in the mind of Bridget-Thekla-Dinah than the gaudy plated ware she gets by hoarding trading stamps stripped from the soap her nominal mistress lays in by the box. Like ignorance of values, fostered by the sight of plenty that is wealth to her unaccustomed eyes, makes her leave the cake of soap to melt in the tub or dishpan when there is a boxful in the storeroom.

A Necessary Evil.

But why waste time and space in proving what is an ever-present and fretting sore in the housewifely soul? Each of us knows that her servants cost her annually so much more than their nominal wages that she dares not allow herself to compute the amount in calculating family expenses. Each of us recalls the calm satisfaction that pervaded her being when, during an interregnum in the domestic dynasty, she did her own work and wondered with exceeding admiration at the way “things” lasted; moreover, how servants contrive to consume so much time in performing the tasks she got out of the way in season to have whole hours of the day for other occupations.

“Granted!” I hear the chorus from a thousand fellow-sufferers. “But we can’t do without them. They are necessary evils.”

The object of this sympathetic talk is to reason together among ourselves as to this necessity. Let me premise that reasoning and talk are not intended for women whose incomes are entirely adequate to the expense of keeping one, two or three of the “evils.” Nor yet for those who have stated occupations and professions sufficiently profitable to warrant remitting housework to competent hirelings. I have in view—as usual—the Mighty Middle Class who must watch the outlay of every dollar and make the dollar do the work of 100 cents. I aim especially to reach families where the daughters have sought situations in shops and factories, leaving the mothers to the mercies of third-rate maids-of-all-work. Call the class, if you will, by the apt title we learned last week from a clever magazine article, “the half-way poor.” The father’s income provides house rent, food, fuel and plain clothing. Florence and Gladys would dress better than the family means warrant. They are fond of a “good time,” and don’t fancy gallery seats at the theatre; and, above all, they like to have money of their very own to spend as they please and no questions asked.

A Strange Preference.

Since I began to reflect seriously upon the subject of this paper I have made it my business to collect data as to the number of young women engaged in shops, officers and mills who are eking out the family income by their labor, and whose parents find the addition to what is made by the men of the household welcome, and even necessary, to a comfortable maintenance. My conclusion, after consultation with employers, superintendents and fellow-workmen, is that, at the lowest computation, one-fifth of these are thus employed from choice rather than from necessity. I have given a summary of the motives that lead them to prefer this kind of work to remaining at home and taking part in domestic duties.

There are large mills in the neighborhood of my country home, and I meet scores of operatives in the late afternoon. We all know the general type of these girls, loud and eager to attract the attention of the men they meet; decked in shabby finery, and all with “wide dispread” coiffures embattling their heads. It is natural that they should be gay and garrulous in the reaction from the routine of daily toil. It is neither natural nor decorous that girls from 15 to 20 should traipse in bonnetless gangs along the public thoroughfares at an hour when all the business world is “homing.” I know the stories of some of them—so many that my heart sickens in the recital—and my wonder grows that mothers of the class of girls represent do not take alarm at the frightful percentage and insist upon keeping them safe at home.

“But that is another story.” I wish to heaven it were less common!

The farmers’ and mechanics’ wives of a former generation never dreamed of other domestic help than they had in their sisters and daughters. Each family was a close corporation, as it is now on the European continent and in many parts of Great Britain. Even where the fever of emigration has unsettled the old order of things, there is always one stay-at-home daughter to take her share in toils for which increasing age is disabling the old mother. It is superfluous to add that Bridget and Thekla contribute steadily and liberally of their earnings in the new world to the support of “the old folks at home.” Witness the incredibly large sums that go through the mails over the sea from foreign servants on this side.

Florence and Gladys are not to be classed with “the foreigners.” They belong to native families; they were graduated from good public schools; they “go” with nice people, including nice young men, and each has the sure and confident expectation of “marrying well” when she has had her fling in what is to her a truly “Society,” with a tall capital letter, as the same word signifies “the best people” to the millionaire’s wife.

“Marrying well” implies the ability to “keep a girl” when the bride becomes a wife. For—and here comes the most pitiful side of the story—not one of the operative daughters, who might live at home if she would, know the rudiments of practical housewifely. A gardener whom I once employed had married a factory girl—a prettyish little doll, who could not broil a steak or make a biscuit to save her life. The husband did the cooking, and spent his evenings at the sewing machine cobbling clothes for the expected baby.

“Keeping a girl” (for Florence and Gladys have not quite attained to the “maid” nomenclature) stands with them for exemption from work they, with other shopgirls, have been taught to regard as degrading. If “Mother” has kept a third-rate specimen of the genus, her daughter will have a fourth-rate specimen of the costly luxury. She is always that! She wastes more of the food bought with honest John’s wages than would have sufficed to feed the Irish or German or Southern old folks and their progeny; and our whilom operative is exceptionally lucky if the girl does not pilfer as well as waste.

Would I “make a household drudge of a fine young creature who is capable of higher aims?”

That was the substance of a reply made by a professor in Hampton Institute to my application for a couple of girls who would work in a country house for good wages during their vacation. I represented, timidly, as I saw the gathering cloud upon the professor’s face, that many college boys are waiters in hotels in the summer, and thus help to put themselves through the course.

“Please recollect that our pupils have higher aspirations than domestic service!” was the opening sentence of the retort that quenched my desire to “lend a hand” to some ambitious and independent learner.

High-Sounding Heresy.

I had a similar, and, if possible, more crushing answer from a noted philanthropist who runs settlements and girls’ clubs in a metropolitan city:

“Our girls have higher ideals than housework!”

It is a marvel that Florence and Gladys should echo the high-sounding heresy? For heresy I hold it to be, in view of the truth that if women d not lean how to keep houses, the home will cease out of the land.

A mother whose bright son is expected to raise the family in the world, as a mechanical engineer, told me pridefully that she had not had a plumber or other mechanic in the house for three years. “Johnny mends all the locks and bells and puts in window glass, and actually takes the range and water pipes to pieces and set them right again. I told his father today that the boy had saved us literally hundreds of dollars in the last four years.

The proud parent has two daughters, one of whom is a stenographer and the other a “saleslady” in a department store. A “girl” is hired to cook, do chamber and general housework and to assist in the washing.

I dare to assert, without asking any questions, that either Florence or Gladys could have saved as much in the four years as Johnny has done, had she remained at home to do all the housework except the washing and ironing and what part is assumed by the patient, white-haired mother. I learned, incidentally, that neither of the girls contributes anything to the family income beyond table board—$5 per week. She could save twice the sum by putting her shoulder to the domestic wheel. Furthermore, she could, by her companionship and care, cheer and prolong the afternoon of life for the parent who is now the sole homemaker.

Safe Doctrine.

I believe firmly, and I have advocated strenuously for 40 years, the doctrine that every girl should be taught some specific business by which she could maintain herself if need demanded. I believe, and maintain yet more warmly, that the acquisition of this knowledge should not hinder her from leaning what no woman can afford not to know; how to order her own house aright in every department. In a little work to which I referred last week, “The Distractions of Martha,” I tried to show that mere theoretical knowledge of cookery and marketing is as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal in the march of everyday living and doing.

What an important part the study of practical economy plays in this daily walk I have striven to show in this series. What a frightful leak in household expenses is made by intrusting the management of materials, the preparation of food and the disposition of left-overs to one who is, at the best, indifferent to her employer’s interests I could not tell in full were I to write on until strength and space fail me.

“Bridget has a heavy hand with butter.” Yet her cake and puddings are not a whit superior to those her mistress makes when Bridget is off on her vacation or busy with the washing, although one-half of the butter goes into the composition of the sweet. Thekla throws into the swill pail the sour milk that would make enough cottage cheese for luncheon. Dinah “never heerd o’ nobody eatin’ cold cornbread,” and tosses it to the chickens. Her mistress (always and everywhere nominal!) would have toasted and served it, hot and crisp and sweet, for breakfast.

And so on, ad infinium and ad nauseam to the employer who cannot by using every effort, accommodate a non-elastic income to the rising prices.

“Then you would banish hired girls from the home entirely?” I am asked. I am sorely tempted to answer in the bold affirmative, when a tide of experiences and memories surges in upon me. For they, of all our laboring class, suffer least from the general increase in prices and the stand-still of salaries. Let me illustrate:

A cook who had been with me three years, and had her wages raised twice in that time, asked, tentatively, “what I thought” of giving her a third raise.

“Why should I do it?” was my reply.

“Why, you see, ma’am, everything is awful dear. My brother tells me rents are going up dreadful.”

“True. But that affects me—not you.”

She was slightly staggered, but rallied.

“And there’s coal, ma’am. It’s rising every day.”

“I have reason to know that. What difference can it make to you? I pay for heating and lighting my house.”

“But it costs so much to live! Do you know, you can’t get pork chops for less than 16 cents a pound? And they used to be 12.”

“Again, I can see that I am the poorer for the rise in meat. But you get as good board as when prices were down. You don’t have to pay for your food.”

She made a final stand: “At any rate, ma’am, I paid 3 cents a yard more for a gingham dress last week than I ever did before.”

Six months later she married a man, young enough to be her son, who drinks hard. She has now, for the first time, practical demonstration of the increased cost of living.

It is not strange, I repeat, that those whose own the income is not should care little how fast it goes. The responsibility and the suffering are ours. Ours, too, is the duty of lessening the suffering by every intelligent and honest means.

We cannot look for help to our hirelings. That is clear. The prodigal son merely stated an iron fact when he bemoaned himself that in his gather’s house the hired servants had abundance “and to spare.”

So ancient and so well established is the principle that we are ready to rank it among natural laws.

I incline to the suspicion that one unrecorded reason for Sarah’s hard dealing with the bondwoman Hagar was that the latter squandered the barbaric abundance of the wealthy patriarch’s tent.

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Family Meals for a Week
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