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

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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

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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

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Under My Foreign Vine and Fig Tree – Our First Christmas Dinner in Italy

This is the third article in December of the School for Housewives 1906 series published on December 23, 1906, and is a discussion on keeping house in Italy.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of Boston Sunday Post.

Under My Foreign Vine and Fig Tree

Our First Christmas Dinner in Italy

“Nume——ro
Ot——to!
“Ter——zo pian——o!
Via San Sebastian——o!”

THUS “Boy,” aged 5, set our Roman address a to a tune of his own making, and chanted it twenty times a day at the top of lusty lungs, for mnemotechnic purposes. He was never suffered to go into the street alone, and when there, was held closely by the hand of his nurse, who regarded “those Eyetalians” as bandits all ready and eager to kidnap fairer-skinned babies—Americans in particular. But in case he might slip his moorings, the name and number of the old and brief street, where we had set up our Lares and Penates for the winter, were fastened upon his glib tongue by the process.

“Terzo” (pronounced “tertzo”) “piano” meant that we toiled up two flights of stone stairs to the third floor of the building—once a palace—that looked out from the back windows upon the Pincian Garden—a never ending delight to old and young. Orange trees flowered in the court at the rear, and the steep little street made a short run in front down to the world-famed Piazza di Spagna.

Where Italy Yields to France

Location was all we could have asked. Nor were the interior accommodations amiss to tenants who had, by now, become in a measure accustomed to stone walls, brick and stone floors, and kitchens like penal calls in dimensions and bareness.

Our Parisian kitchen was tiny, but bright and even gay with the touches of decorative art the French lend to the commonest household appointments.

Marie, albeit not a commissioned “cordon bleu,” sported a ribbon in her cap border, or upon the pockets of her broad white apron. Her marketing always included a bunch of flowers, to be divided between the salon, dining room and kitchen. Her very manner of disposing herbs intended for soups and garnishes had a suggestion of festivity.

My Italian kitchen was, if not absolutely gloomy, dingy and ugly. Instead of the white tiled rang and floor, we had an iron stove and a brick floor. There were four holes in the top of the stove, in one of which burned a low-spirited charcoal fire. A box of charcoal stood in one corner; in another was a heap of kindling in the form of balls of shaving dipped in rosin. They made a quick, hot flame, and sufficed to boil the kettle for afternoon tea, and to make the coffee for breakfast, or to cook the eggs for the same meal.

The body of the range was taken up by what the Italian-speaking member of the family informed me, after consultation with the presiding genius of the precincts, was a plate-warmer.

“Where, then, is the oven? You must have misunderstood her.”

Another consultation ensued, in which the native was raked fore and aft by the energetic young foreigner, the former emerging from the dialogue flustered and tearful, but resolute and respectful.

“She insists that no private kitchen is fitted up with a range oven; that, while she can boil, broil, fry, stew and saute like an angel, she never was called upon to bake bread or roast meat. Such joints as are not to be braised must be sent to the bake shop around the corner. Just as one sees in Hogarth’s pictures,” concluded the student of art and languages, with evident relish of the situation.

A Gem of a Cook

We bowed to the inevitable more complaisantly than would have been possible a year earlier, and entered upon our apprenticeship in Italian cookery. The cook—Septima by name—was prettier of feature and slimmer in build than Marie, but so much less neat in apparel and person, not to mention methods, as to suffer grievously by comparison until we learned to value aright the sweet temper, the gracious deference, the unfailing cheerfulness and desire to oblige, which endear the Italian servant to the employer whom she serves long enough to give the superior the opportunity to become well acquainted with cook, waitress or lady’s maid.

From the second day of her residence with us we saw that Septima’s interests and ours were identical in her creed. Having taken service with us she was bound by honor and by feeling to take our part against tradesmen and peddlers. We were as sheep without other guardian than herself in a wilderness of extortion and crookedness. She did our marketing, beat down prices in all directions, and ate so little that we were uneasy as to her health, wiry and industrious though she proved to be. The excellence and variety of the fare cooked in the dingy kitchen over the dreary holes in the uncomely stove were, to the last day of our sojourn in the Eternal City, a continual surprise.

At 9 o’clock each morning she brought in the breakfast tray. It wound have been vain to hope for the materials of the simple meal at an earlier hour. She made delicious coffee. Like our French cook, she knew little and cares less for tea. It was, as she informed us, the drink of “forestrieri” (foreigners) and aristocrats. With coffee, she was joyfully at home; she could make good chocolate, even milling it, when ordered to prepare it in that way. We wisely took the tea-making out of her hands, brewing the breakfast and afternoon cup at the table by the help of a spirit lamp. Our breakfast bill-of-fare was invariable. Crips, tender rolls, left hot at the door, and kept warm in the hollow that should have been the oven; coffee and tea for the elders, and cocoa for the children; pats of unsalted butter we came to like so well that it took us a long time to get over our distaste for salt butter after our return to “The States;” a boiled egg apiece, and—an innovation upon Continental custom—honey in the comb, or marmalade. In the two years we passed in Italy, Germany, France and Switzerland we never wearied of what would seem monotonous fare to untraveled Americans or English, accustomed to the hearty first meal of the day. Yet, strange to say, we found it tiresome in a short time when we attempt to introduce the Continental breakfast into our home across the sea.

Light Luncheons

Luncheon consisted of a dish of hot meat, or an omelette, one or more vegetables, a salad, biscuits and cheese—the latter often of goat’s milk, and a sweet of some kind. The light wines of the country, hardly more intoxicating and sometimes not sweeter than vinegar, are the universal beverage at luncheon and dinner. The prejudice against the former water supply of Rome and Florence impelled foreigners to fall in with the national fashion. Part of Septima’s wages was half a lira (ten cents) for the purchase of wine for her daily consumption. She brought it home in her market basket—a flask (fiasco) of thin red liquid that smelled and tasted sour, which scarcely any other flavor. I doubt if it did her one-tenth of the harm that Bridget’s stewed tea works upon her stouter stomach and nerves. I am sure that it would be a difficult task for any one—be he native or forestieri—to drink enough wine of the quality brought by the peasants of France and Italy to make him drunk.

But to the chief meal of the day—never served earlier than 7 P.M.

Let my first Christmas dinner in the land of poetry and painting stand for a fair sample of the matter and manner of the same.

Our dear friends, the K——s, who had been abroad twice as long as ourselves, but who had kept moving for so much of that time that they had never “kept house” anywhere, were in Rome for the winter, and, as usual, at a hotel. A week before the great festival we determined, in pity for the homeless and out of our love for the particularly charming exiles, to ask them to dinner. The invitation was accepted with gratification that was pathetic in the light shed upon the acceptance by the last sentence of the note:

“You may guess what this feast will mean to us when you know that for eighteen months we have not broken bread in a private house—birds of passage that we are!”

Four days later, without taking counsel with Septima, whose ultra-economical propensities might, we feared, interfere with our hospitable designs, we went to the poultry market in the immediate neighborhood of the Pantheon. Up to that December day I had resented the profanation implied by the proximity. Today I thought more of the probable difficulty of finding a turkey large and plump enough to express the fullness of our desire to make up to the pilgrims for the privations of the last year and a half than of the history and the meaning of the mighty temple, for we had already noted and remarked upon the insignificant fowls roasted to our order at the convenient bakehouse. We had remarked, also, and in bewilderment, that they shrank more in the cooking than might have been expected from their plump outlines when Septima held them up for our inspection on her return from market.

The biggest turkey in the exhibition on the sunny side of the Pantheon was alive. That should not be an obstacle to our purchase, the dealer assured us, obligingly. In ten minutes he should be dressed and ready for our larder. To show his willingness to make his words good, he forthwith began to strip the wretched creature of the breast-down, despite frantic squawkings and struggles. Nor was this all or by any means the worst of the operation. While we looked on in wonder and pity we could not recall enough Italian adjectives to express, an assistant of the obliging center tied a string so tightly around the gobbler’s neck that the strangling bird, like the young woman who horrified the elder Weller by drinking six-and-twenty cups of tea at a church party, “swelled visibly before our eyes.” I beat a hasty retreat into the open door of the old temple, my companion smothering his disgust in the consciousness that, if he did not keep his eyes upon the prize, he would probably be exchanged for one less eligible as soon as his back was turned.

We held the “facchino” who took the turkey home for us under guard until the puffed-up body was safe in Septima’s hands. She praised his fair proportions generously, while assuring us mournfully that she could have brought him for three lire less than we had paid to “that wicked robber.” She was not shocked when we told of the manner of the fowl’s decease. Her wide, innocent stare supplied the rest of the story.

The simplicity of her “Why not, Signora?” needed no comment.

A Novelty in Soup

The first course of that memorable dinner was a clear soup, based upon a strong stock of veal and lamb bones and thickened with “manestra.” Manestra, be it known, includes countless kinds of paste, compounded of flour and water, eggs and a little salt. One and all, they belong to the macaroni family, and Italy is the home of macaroni. The maestro of our Christmas soup was in the shape of stars, emblematic of the Star of Bethlehem. We had a constellation in each plate. Parmesan cheese, finely grated was passed with it. It is a savory accompaniment to all soups that contain macaroni in any form, and one soon learned to enjoy the seasoning, which seemed odds to the uneducated palate.

A fish of noble proportions and handsome figure had been selected as the second course. I had instructed Septima to boil it, and how to prepare a Bearnaise sauce to accompany it, discovering, to my delight, that she had made it before, and was adequate to the preparation without my supervision. Potatoes a la Parisienne were to be served with the fish. It appeared duly and in fine shape, whole, from nose to tail, imbedded in celery tips and parsley, the alternation of pale and dark green skillfully managed and enhancing his comeliness. An exclamation escaped my surprised lips at the first mouthful. The fish was ice-cold! Luckily, the guests were familiar friends, and had a keen appreciation of the humorous. I had never eaten cold cooked fish, except as a salad, but they had, and were ready with the information that the fashion was common in southern Europe. I had not told poor Septima of my wish to serve it hot, and she, coupling my order that the fish should be carefully boiled whole with that for the sauce tartare, did as she had often done under similar conditions. Really—as the Edinboro’ gallery god said of one of Mrs. Siddons’ grandest outbursts—it “was nae sae bad!” We condoned the untimely introduction of a fish salad, and found it uncommonly good when masked by the sauce, even relishing the queer adjunct of hot potato.

The next course was a royal dish of Frittura. (See recipe column.) It was a chef d’oeuvre in its way, and amply redeemed the blunder that preceded it. I have never eaten frittura out of Italy, and despair of making the uninitiated reader comprehend what gave it an honorable place in our menus.

It was attended by risotto, a recipe for which will be found in another column.

The turkey, somewhat shrunken in the cooking that had let out the air from the artificially distended body, but respectable still as to size (for a transatlantic fowl), was done to the brownest and juiciest of turns. He was stuffed with chestnuts, and lay in a nest of greenery, with egg-shaped croquettes of polenta tucked snugly about his sides. Instead of giblet gravy, the liquid left in the roasting pan was made thick with dried mushrooms, soaked, stewed and finely minced. Stewed artichokes, baked macaroni and fried fennel—a species of celery some of us liked from the first, and others never learned to relish—were passed with the turkey.

Tasty Game and Salad

The game course was broiled snipe, wee birds shot on the Campagna, and sold at an absurdly low price in the Roman markets, or what seemed small to us until we found that one made but half a mouthful. They were fat and sweet at this season and an appetizing bonne bouche.

Instead of the toast on which they would have been served in America, a round of chestnut polenta, fried to a delicate brown, lay under each of the savory mites.

The salad succeeding the birds was mixed lettuce and chicory, with French dressing. Fromage de Brie, such as one never gets on this side of the Atlantic—soft as cream and nearly as sweet—and strips of the black bread of the country support the salad.

The conventional Christmas pudding might have been brought in tins at the English grocery in the Plazza di Spagna. We maintained the Italian character of the feast by substituting a lighter and a toothsome native sweet dish—chestnuts smothered in whipped cream, attended by luscious cream puffs from Nazarri’s, the famous confectioner of the old city. Mandarinoes (miscalled “tangerines” in the United States), oranges and certain crescent-shaped grapes we liked so much that we mourned their disappearance from the fruits-shops soon after Christmas, and figs were our fruits. Olives, candied cherries, nuts, celery and sugared ginger were hor d’oeuvres.

Coffee, black, clear and fragrant, follow us to the salon.

A big bowl of camellias, crimson and white, formed the centerpiece of the table. We bought them from street peddlers for 2 and 3 cents apiece. A spray of holly was at each plate. In the salon or drawing-room were broad dishes of the glorious purple violets that grow nowhere else in such profusion as in Rome, and are never so fragrant under any other sky as that of Italy.

Frittura.

One pound of lamb’s liver, cut into dice after boiling it and letting it get perfectly cold. The giblets of chicken or other poultry, boiled in salted water, cooled and cut into pieces of uniform size. A calf’s brain, cooked and cooled, then cut small. A dozen small oysters, drained dry; small artichokes, Also boiled and cooled, then divided in to halves or thirds. Cold boiled celery, in inch pieces. Cauliflower, treated in like manner. Cold cooked potatoes cut into neat dice. When all are ready sprinkle with salt and pepper; roll in egg, then in flour and again in egg. Let them get very cold before frying in deep fat-dripping, if you have it. First, cook the liver and giblets, next the oysters, then the vegetables. In Italy all are cooked in pure, sweet olive oil. Drain and serve very hot.

Risotto.

A cupful of rice, washed and cooked for twenty minutes in plenty of boiling water. Drain and keep hot. Slice an onion and fry in butter. (In Italy the butter is displaced by oil.) Add to the fat and onions a cupful of stewed tomato, and when it boils, two sweet peppers, previously seeded, scalded, cooled and minced. Heat for a moment, in the rice lightly, cover, and let all simmer for ten minutes. Turn into a deep dish; strew Parmesan cheese on top and serve. This is but one of many varieties of the national risotto.

Polenta.

This is really generally nothing but cornmeal mush, thoroughly cooked, cooled and fried in oil.

Chestnut polenta is made of the large chestnuts of the country, boiled, then ground fine and kneaded into a thick dough or mush. It is offered for sale at the street corners in the winter, in the form of huge cakes, that look like big cheeses. They are piping hot, and, sliced as one would cut a pie, form the only supper of many a gamin and grown-up tramp.

Chestnut Stuffing for Roast Turkey.

Boil, shell and take the inner skin from the chestnuts. While they are hot, mash them smooth and work into the paste a tablespoonful of butter to a cupful of the chestnuts, and salt and pepper to taste.

Chestnut and Cream Charlotte.

Boil, shell and skin the chestnuts. While they are hot, mash or run them through the vegetable press. Sweeten to taste, and beat to as of it paste with a little cream. Mound in the middle of a glass dish; set where it will get very cold, and just before serving heap sweetened whipped cream over and about it.

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The Housemothers’ Exchange

Plum Puddings and Fruit Cakes for the Holidays

This is the first article in December of the School for Housewives 1906 series published on December 2, 1906, and is a discussion on puddings and cakes for the holidays.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of Boston Sunday Post.

Plum Puddings and Fruit Cakes for the Holidays

HE who doubts that fashions come and fashions go in the culinary world as truly, if not as fast, as the modes of gowns and hats in another sphere, should read up in cookbooks the history of cakes for the last half century.

As the nominal chaperon of a small granddaughter, I was permitted to attend a children’s lawn party last summer. While the babies of assorted sizes were regaled with sponge cake and ice cream upon the turf below us, we seniors, sitting on the veranda, sipped “afternoon tea” and were served with cake adjudged to be too rich for young stomachs. It was as yellow as gold; it was tender, yet firm; it was as sweet as honey and yet so spicy that it was fragrant.

The Rapture of Reminiscence

As the palate appreciated the ineffable deliciousness of the dainty, two of us uttered in delight not far removed from ecstasy—

“Real poundcake!”

Both of the speakers were grandmothers. Women of the second generation shared our pleasure, but not the rapture of reminiscence. When one granddame sighed, “I do not think I have eaten genuine poundcake before in thirty years,” the juniors confessed that they had never tasted it before.

It transpired, presently, that the mother of the hostess, a Southern woman, had compounded the delicacy, assisted by her colored maid.

Like the “venerable men” eulogized by Webster at the inauguration of Bunker Hill Monument, it had “come down to us from a former generation”—a generation that had time to take pains in whatever it undertook. A pound of loaf sugar, crushed and sifted through muslin; three quarters of a pound of washed butter; a pound of flour dried in the oven; a pound of eggs; one nutmeg, grated; a teaspoonful of mace, and a glass of pure old brandy went into that peerless loaf. The mixing was done as carefully as the weighing. Then came half an hour of steady beating (think of that, ye hustlers of the twentieth century!) that left it velvety in consistency and in color like molten gold.

This sounds like bathos to our up-to-date cook. I forgive her, if she has never known real poundcake.

“Snowball” Sponge Cake

I spoke, just now, of the sponge cake served to the children. I did not see it or taste it. I am, nevertheless, as sure as if I had done both that it was as little like the “snowballs” that were the joy of my childhood as cup cake resembles the luscious pound loaf I have described but feebly. Sponge cake (the real thing) was guiltless of butter. So is the modern plagiarism. I could run over the original recipe backward—so familiar was it to my charmed ears:

Twelve eggs; the weight of the eggs in sugar, half their weight in flour; one lemon—juice and rind. Beat yolks and whites separately and very light, the sugar into the yolks when they are perfectly smooth: next the juice and grated lemon peel, then the stiffened whites; lastly the sifted flour, very lightly and rapidly.

As with the poundcake, the rest was skill.

The perfect product was never tough. It melted in the mouth like butter, never sticking to the teeth, and although most delicious when freshly baked, did not desiccate into sweetish dust when cold.

What might be called “the sponge cake of commerce”—most often sold in the shape of lady fingers (save the mark!) and jumbles—better befitting the name—is coaxed into lightness by ammonia and baking powders. It is always either tough or sawdusty.

In all the changes and chances, the downfalls and upheavals, in the realm of cake-making, the queen holds her own. Fruit cake has never been superseded by angel or by devil cake, by any of the countless varieties of cup or layer cake. She smiles serene indifference upon Lady Baltimore, while French, lady, marble, caramel, Washington, Lincoln and Lee “win no regard from her calm eyes.” She is empress, and her dynasty is perpetual. Two hundred years ago fruit cake was an indispensable feature in every feast of note. The reveler of today holds it in equal esteem with his great-great-grandfather.

“Indigestible,” say our diet dictators. “Horribly expensive!” cry frugal housewives. All the same, children cry for it, and the four-dollars-a-week housemother pinches in here and overruns there to have that on Christmas Day which will set the younglings to singing—

“Some gave them white bread, some gave them brown;
Some gave them plum cake and sent them out of town.”

To the maker of the immemorial ballad “plum cake” stood for the most costly bribe in the gift of the harassed townspeople. Before coming to recipes for the royal loaf, let me remind the maker thereof of a few important preliminaries to the ceremony.

Collect and weigh all the ingredients before you begin to mix the cake. Appropriate a table of fair size and settle yourself in a corner where you are not likely to be interrupted. Neglect not the least detail of spoon, or spice sifter, or grater. Pay especial attention to the fruit. The currants may be labeled “Cleaned.” See that you wash them in three waters. The third may be clear. The first and second will justify my caution and your obedience. Drain and dry them when they are clean, drying in the open oven and in a heated colander lest they should sweat. Rinse the raisins in clear water, and dry them. Do not chop nuts if they are to go into the cake. Cut them small with a sharp knife, or shave them thin with the same.

All must be perfectly dry when they are dredged or the fruit will make the cake heavy. Shred the citron fine with keen clean scissors.

Thirty odd years ago I italicized a sentence in a paper upon this subject, which I shall now set up in capitals:

“THERE IS NO ROYAL ROAD TO SUCCESS IN CAKE-MAKING.”

Every step must be as carefully taken as if upon it depended the fate of the undertaking.

Pound Fruit Cake.

One pound of butter; one pound of powdered sugar; one pound of flour; one pound of seeded raisins; one pound of currants; half a pound of shredded citron; twelve eggs; one even teaspoonful of cinnamon; two teaspoonfuls of nutmeg; one teaspoonful of cloves; one wineglass of best brandy. (Cooking brandy will not do.)

Rub the butter and sugar to a smooth cream; heat in the whipped eggs and stir hard for two whole minutes before adding half of the flour. Beat the flour in with long, even strokes; add the spices, and when these are well incorporated with the other ingredients “fold in” the whites, i.e., with long, almost horizontal, sweeps of the spoon, alternately with there served flour. The brandy goes in last, and this must be with as few strokes as will suffice to blend it completely with the batter.

This is a large quantity. For a family of ordinary size half as much of each ingredient will do.

The whole will make two large loaves. Cover with thick paper when you put it into a steady oven, and do not remove the paper under an hour. It will require nearly, if not quite, two hours’ baking.

The novice would best commit the baking to an experienced cook.

A Cup Fruit Cake.

One cupful of washed butter; two cupfuls of powdered sugar; two and a half cupfuls of sifted flour; half a pound each of currants and seeded raisins; a quarter of a pound of shredded citron; a teaspoonful each of cinnamon and grated nutmeg; six eggs.

Cream butter and sugar, add the beaten yolks of the eggs, next the flour and the well-dredged fruit and citron, the spices, and whip upward for one minute before adding the whites of the eggs whipped to a standing froth. Fold them in lightly and quickly.

Half-Pound Christmas Cake.

Half a pound of butter and the same of sugar; half a pound each of currants, raisins and shredded nuts; a quarter pound of clipped citron; one teaspoonful each of powdered nutmeg, mace and cinnamon; one heaping cupful of flour; seven eggs, whites and yolks whipped separately.

Mix as directed in the preceding recipe, being careful to dredge the fruit well. A pleasant flavor is imparted to the cake by mixing a tablespoonful of rosewater with the nuts while mincing them.

Raised Fruit Cake.

Set aside on baking day a cupful of dough that has had the second rising. Work it into a cream made by stirring together a cupful of butter with one of brown sugar. Have at hand half a cupful of raisins and currants dredged with flour and an equal quantity of shredded citron. Mix through the half cupful of fruit half a teaspoonful of cinnamon and half as much powdered mace, and work it well into the dough. This done, beat two eggs very light, yolks and whites together, and knead them into the mass until it is very light. Five minutes should be enough. Finally, mould in to two loaves, throw a cloth over them and set in a rather warm place for twenty minutes before baking.

This is a popular cake with English children, and is sometimes called “Twelfth Night Cake.”

White Fruit Cake.

The following formula for an excellent white fruit cake was contributed by a member of the Exchange:

Put three-quarters of a pound of fresh butter into a basin, and beat until white and creamy. Add by degrees three-quarters of a pound of sifted powdered sugar and beat this mixture for a few minutes. Separate the yolks from the whites of eight eggs; add yolks to butter and sugar and beat again ten minutes. Then stir in half a pound of sultanas, half a pound of raisins seeded and cut into halves; six ounces of glace cherries and candied pineapple, also cut in pieces; a quarter of a pound of almonds (sweet), blanched and baked to a golden brown; the grated rind of a lemon; a saltspoonful of cinnamon (ground) or a wineglassful of brandy.

Whisk the whites of the eight eggs to a stiff froth and mix lightly with the other ingredients. Have ready a pound of flour, sifted, and two teaspoonfuls of baking powder added to it. Scatter it in by degrees, stirring in one handful before the next is added. Bake in a paper lined, buttered tin from two and a half to three hours. Cover the cake with boiled icing. It may be made quite fanciful by pipings of colored icing, glace cherries or other fruit to correspond with the colors used.

T. V. (Lockport, N. Y.).

We are indebted to another—a Massachusetts housemother—for a tested family recipe for what may be ranked as a cousin-german of our empress—to wit, PLUM PUDDING.

Christmas Plum Pudding.

One pound of butter; one pound of suet freed from string and chopped fine; one pound of sugar; two and a half pounds of flour; two pounds of currants, picked over carefully after they are washed; two pounds of raisins seeded, chopped and dredged with flour; one quarter of a pound of citron shredded fine; twelve eggs, whites and yolks beaten separately; one pint of milk; one cup of brandy; one ounce of cloves, one-half ounce of mace; two grated nutmegs. Cream butter and sugar, beat in the yolks when you have whipped them smooth and light; next, put in the milk, then the flour, alternately with the beaten whites; then the brandy and spices; lastly the fruit well dredged with flour.

Mix all thoroughly, wring out your pudding cloth in hot water, flour well inside, pour in the mixture and boil five hours.

MRS. J.O.D. (Hyde Park, Mass.).

After a long vacation the Private Secretary is heard from again, and with a baker’s dozen of practical household hints. Although he persists in calling himself “ a mere man,” it is obvious that he has sowed beside all waters to which housemothers do resort.

Quere: Does his wife prompt him?

“Do you know—

1. That if you will make a strong suds of silicon and very hot water, and wash your silver in it, then pass through another pan of boiling water, and wipe piece by piece, you need never scrub it with powders, that / will, eventually, wear it thin?

2. That if the inside of a silver teapot is darkened by much brewing of mixed tea (it’s the green that does the mischief), you may clean it by putting a teaspoon fill of baking soda into it, filling it with boiling water, and setting it over the fire in a pan of boiling water for five or ten minutes—you may wipe it out clean and bright?

3. That you may clean the pewter-ware bequeathed to you by your great-grand aunt by washing it in boiling water, covering it with a thick paste of woodashes, sifted through mosquito-netting, then mixed with kerosene, and after six or eight hours polishing it with old, soft flannel?

4. That delicate stomachs that cannot digest ham, much less fresh pork, can assimilate thin slices of breakfast bacon?

5. That, while creamed coffee is rank poison to some dyspeptics, nearly everybody is the better for a small cup of black coffee taken after the heaviest meal of the day?

6. That this same black coffee, drunk as hot as one can swallow it, is a prime remedy for nausea, from whatever cause?

7. That matches should never be left in closed houses in paper boxes, since mice are passionately fond of the tips, and often play the incendiary unintentionally?

8. That bananas, peeled, dipped in egg, then rolled in cracker-dust and baked in the oven, are more palatable and far more wholesome than when they are fried in the usual way?

9. That the same may be said of croquettes?

10. That if, in putting away papers and books which are not to be used for some months, you will put camphor balls or gum camphor among them, the mice will not touch them?

11. That silver may be protected from tarnish in like manner?

12. That almost any scorch may be removed from cloths (linen or cotton) by simply washing and boiling in the usual way, and hanging in the hot sun while wet?

13. That, when the fat takes fire on the stove, it is better to sacrifice a kitchen rug by throwing it upon the flame than to try to put it out by throwing water on it? The burning grease will float farther, and blaze more fiercely from the water.

THE PRIVATE SECRETARY,
Camden, N. J.

Marion Harland

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Christmas Chat & Christmas Candy

This issue of School for Housewives was published in the San Francisco Call on Dec. 24, 1905. In the section entitled Christmas Chat, Marion remarks that a cross Christmas shopper is hard to come by where if we compare to today’s standards where many holiday shoppers are mowing down others for expensive gifts.

One aspect that puzzles me on the traditional Christmas tree is how ancestors prevented the tree from catching fire. You would think that the many candles would make it easy for a tree to catch fire if the flame was too close or too strong.

This year my Christmas funds are rather low I am inclined to make all of my gifts this year through art and sweets. While my skills are not as strong as the young woman mentioned in the section on Christmas candy I do look forward to make some delicious brownies, cookies, and other yummy goodies. A series of hand painted Christmas cards will help round out the gifts.

Christmas Chat

CHRISTMAS is the Children’s Day. I said that in my Thanksgiving Talk, but the thought is one that it is well to impress upon our minds as the holy season draws near. For, to enjoy this day of days in the true Christmas spirit, we must all be as little children. Just for a little while let us lay aside the thought of the toil and the stress, the getting and losing, the petty vexations and the still more petty jealousies of daily life. On this day we are all children together, thrilling with the joy of doing something to make others happy, with the delight of giving and with the eagerness to see all the good things that have come to every one else.

There is much talk – some of it decidedly wise, some of it heartlessly foolish – of the evil of gift-making. Without stopping here to go into the ethics of the matter, it may be well to call attention to the fact that at no other season is there so much good natured and unselfish jollity as during the holidays. Note the crowds coming home on street and railroad cars late in the evening, laden down with parcels of all sizes and description, footsore and weary, perhaps but merry and laughing. A cross Christmas shopper is an anomaly. For one such there are thousands of the happy kind. If one doubts the worth of this season, and is cynically tempted to ask. “What’s the use?” with regard to all the fuss and preparation let him simply read the papers and he will be answered. Is it nothing that in hospitals all over the country scores of children’s wards are graced by Christmas trees; that in countless institutions for the poor, the sick, the homeless, there are food and to spare, and gifts and joyous words; that there is one day in the year, when, to use worldly jargon, it is “fashionable” to be good to everybody? Let the sad faces brightened, the lonely made glad, the homeless that ???, answer the question. Is it nothing that on one day in the three hundred and sixty-five all Christendom follows the Golden Rule?

WHEN GIVING IS A TAX

But evil creeps in when the giving because a tax and ceases to be a pleasure. And it is the place of the housemother to see that this is not the case in her nest. The giving must not be dome “grudging nor of necessity,” if it would be gracious.

In one family there was in Lang Syne, a method of making presents which divided the burden (if it can be so called) equally among the members of the household. Several months beforehand a Christmas box or fund was started. Into this locked box were dropped, by each member of the family, such coins as he could spare. They accumulated gradually until a fortnight before Christmas, when there was held what was called “a family council.” All – the father and mother and the children – met to apportion to each person his or her gift. First, the father was told to go out of the room, and a vote was taken as to what should be given to him and the money for that was taken from the box. Next, the mother was banished and the father recalled, and her gift was chosen. Afterward, one child at a time left the room, and the others decided on what he or she should have. Of course, the parents’ gifts took more money than did those of the little children, for toys did not cost much, and in the arrangement the children concurred joyfully. Surely such a method was an illustration of the principle – “In honour preferring one another.”

In another home, where many friendless students – boys and girls far from home – spend Christmas, there is a tree, and on this is a gift for each person, and every one of the number who receives gives something to every other person.

GIFTS AT 25 CENTS APIECE

But there is one law that must not be disobeyed; no gift shall cost more than 25 cents. To depart from this would be considered unkind and unfair. One may pay as little as he wishes for a gift, but one cannot go beyond the sum named. The arrangement gives rise to much merriment. One girl whose hair was always falling down, as it was so heavy that it defied the stoutest pins, received a paper of hairpins elaborately tied with violet ribbon; another, who complained of cold hands and feet, received a tiny doll’s hot water bag and muff; the old-maid aunt, who had tea in her room every day, had a cheap, but pretty, Japanese teapot; to the youth whose dandelion-down moustache was struggling to face the world, was given a gorgeous shaving mug. It may all seem silly to the cool-headed and practical observer – silly and childish. But who would be practical, and who would not be a child at Christmas time?

One woman this year has (so far as her own practice is concerned) reversed the usual custom of giving to those who expect her to do so, or to when she has been in the habit of making gifts. She is now preparing gifts for those from whom she expect nothing, and who cannot send her anything. One great comfort in remembering the poor is the fact that one may not be accursed of giving in the hope of a return in kind.
As this is the home fest, let greens and other decorations be such as can be arranged by the members of the family. To many of us the odour of evergreen brings back a rush of memories of bygone Christmases, of happy faces, of cheering greeting. Let us not deny our children such memories for their future days. Have the prevailing colour green and red, the former much in evidence, the latter added to give a touch of brightness here and there; an exclamation point, as it were, to the general scheme. Get great boughs of cedar and of pine. Suppose each bough does drop its needles all over the floor – just now we will not pause to consider that. Over the mantelpiece bank the boughs, and fasten one across the top of each window.

PRETTY WINDOW DECORATIONS

A pretty idea is to frame each window in green. For this purpose use the ground pine or running cedar, tacking it with tiny brads to the window casing so that one looks out upon white world through a green frame. If one is whore holly and mistletoe grow, use both in abundance. But, if they must be bought at fancy prices, use them sparingly. Instead of the red of the holly, have wreaths and festoons tied with bows of bright scarlet baby ribbon. Of cotton-back ribbon, suitable for this purpose, one may buy a roll of ten yards for 12 cents. If holly is very expensive, be satisfied with having a sprig of it at each cover at the table, to be used at a boutonniere by each diner. Even if one can only have a small piece of mistletoe, hang this, in time honoured fashion, in the middle of the drawing room, and let each member of the family caught beneath it pay the penalty. The grandfather and grandmother will be younger for the merry joke, and the little folk always experience a thrill of excitement when thus aught and kisses. Anything that promotes mirth, or that produces a laugh, is to be advocated.

The questions of the Christmas tree is perennial. In many families the grown people still cling to the dear old emblem. Even when Santa Claus has grown to mean only the Spirit of Christmas, and the dressing of the tree is no longer a mysterious rite performed after each of the younger members of the household is in bed, “while visions of sugar plums dance in his head” – still we hate to part with the tree. Of course, a great deal of work, and a great deal of disorder later. If there are children in the family, put aside these considerations, and trim the tree, large or small. It means more to the little ones than we can imagine, unless we have very distinct recollections of our own youth.

A TINY TREE ON A TABLE

A pretty expedient, when a large tree is out of the question, is a tiny one o stand in the centre of the dining table. Have this fastened firmly in a wooden stand, and wind over the stand strands of running cedar. Then trim the tree. It must be made a veritable fairylike structure. At any toy shop one may buy tiny candles an inch or two long, with holders. Fasten these all over the tree. A pretty notion is to hang on this bush of evergreen a tiny scarlet box of bonbons for each person at the table. At the end of the meal, these are taken off and the contents eaten with, or after, the coffee. Tiny coloured beads, and strands of tinsel hang from the miniature branches. From the chandelier over the little tree suspend a red tissue paper Christmas bell, such as one sees for sae at thousands of shops at this season, and from the edges of this bell fasten yards of green smilax or other vine to meet the top of the tree. Streamers of ground pine wound with narrow scarlet ribbon can run to the four corners of the table. Sprigs of cedar dropped here and there upon the cloth add to the “Christmassy” effect.

All these things should be but the outward and visible sign of an inward and spiritual joy – a brightness that must make the whole year more glad because of the Gift of Gifts that came to the world on the first Christmas Day.

Marion Harland

Christmas Candy

A GIRL, who was famous among friends and family for her skill in candy making, found herself facing the problem one Christmas of an almost empty purse and a long Christmas list.

There was only one thing for it – either to give some of her candy, or to abandon the idea of Christmas presents at all. Somehow, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without giving, so the candy won the day.

Fortunately, she knew plenty of kinds to make. For days before Christmas she was busy getting the numerous things ready. Nuts had to be shelled and blanched; harmless colouring matter secured, and the prettiest little boxes and baskets made of crinkled tissue paper and pasteboard, or of heavy watercolour paper, decorated prettily with watercolour paints.

The day before Christmas she shut herself up in the kitchen, with pans and kettles and plates – anything and everything ready “to her hand” for the work.

Her fudges were many and varied. Some made exactly like chocolate fudge (with the chocolate left out), were a delicious invention of her own, the result of an experiment one day when she wanted to make candy and found she had no chocolate. Two cups of sugar, one of milk, and a good tablespoonful of butter were put in a double boiler and allowed to boil for five minutes then taken off the fire and beaten until the top began to glaze ever so slightly. Into the mixture was poured a cupful of finely chopped nuts and half a teaspoonful of vanilla; it was stirred again quickly and turned out to cool.

A TASTY CHOCOLATE FUDGE

Leaving out the nuts and adding half a cake of bitter chocolate made the most delicious chocolate fudge. When some of her chocolate fudge turned out an apparent failure, she dumped into it a cup of molasses, put it all on to a boil up for five minutes, and turned out a batch of caramels.
Maple sugar fudge she made by boiling two cups of crushed maple sugar with one of cream. But it was a wonder o get just right, and unlike the chocolate fudge, stayed a failure when it turned out that way.

Chocolate fudge poured over a thick layer of chopped marshmallows made a fudge variation that was immensely popular, partly because the marshmallows offset the cloving sweetness of the fudge.

But the newest form of fudge was made with honey and cream, using equal proportions and beating “extra hard.”

Fudge biscuit she made for the girls who were at boarding schools, and who couldn’t get home for the holidays. She packed them in small cracker tins. They were simply small crackers, spread thickly with fudge, with another cracker laid on top.

With fondant as a foundation, all sorts of interesting cream candies and bonbons were made. To make this fondant, she put two cups of granulated sugar, half a cup of water and a pinch of cream of tartar into a double boiler, letting it boil until a little dropped in cold water formed into a soft ball between her fingers. This was hard to do, for the moment when it is just cooked enough to form, instead of separating, is the moment when it must come off, or be too stiff. She let it cook, and then stirred it until it grew creamy, then turned it out and worked it, like a batch of bread, until every lump was out of it and it was a smooth lot of cream.

EVOLUTION OF A CONFECTION

Some of it she flavoured with vanilla and rolled into little balls (some with a nut in the centre) and dipped into chocolate, using a long wire with a loop on the end for dipping. The chocolate was the ready sweetened kind, melted and kept soft by being stood in hot water.
These were the beginnings. From them sprang all sorts of pink and violet-tinted bonbons, dipping balls of the cream in the tinted cream. Peppermint cream and chocolate covered peppermints were made by adding a few drops of oil of peppermint to the fondant, and wintergreen drops by the addition of essence of wintergreen.

Everton taffy came out crisp and delicious. Half a pound each of butter and granulated sugar were boiled for fifteen minutes, and poured out in buttered tins.

Her fondant ran short before she came to the dish of English walnuts, which had been carefully shelled to keep the halves unbroken. So she stirred confectioner’s sugar and cream together until it was of the consistency of the fondant, flavoured it with vanilla and put half an English walnut on each side.

It was a long, hard day’s work, with results in the shape of burns and blisters, a face very much flushed, and aching muscles; but when the various kinds were sorted, and packed in their pretty receptacles, her gifts “loomed up well, after all,” as her small sister (and general helper) observed.

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
A Cup of Tea
Benefits of Price Schedules for Servants
Consideration You Ought to Show in Christmas Shopping
Marion Harland’s Chat With Housemothers
Recipes

Christmas Bells & Simplicity Marks the Modern Maid’s Wedding

This is the third article in December of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Dec 10, 1905.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Washington Times.

When I transcribe these articles from newspapers, it is sometimes difficult to determine what is supposed to be the main article by Mrs. Harland. In this instance, I thought possibly the poem Christmas Bells as Marion was an author of a number of publications outside her cookbooks and syndicated articles.

As it turns out, I was incorrect as this is actually a reprint of a poem by Sarah Webb Vilas entitled My Shrine. I found an earlier publication in The Home-Maker – An Illustrated Monthly Magazine Vol. 3 October 1889 to March 1890 edited by Marion Harland.

This has led me to believe that her article may possibly be “Simplicity Marks the Modern Maid’s Wedding” which I have also transcribed for reading pleasure.

Christmas Bells

FLUSHED warmth within’ without white cold;
In library-chamber vast and old,
I, basking in the fragrant red
By logs of birch and cedar fed –
So still the night – heard, toll on toll,
The distant belfry call to soul
Belated, or distraught with sin,
To pray the holy Christmas in.
From carven mantel, grim and brown,
The Virgin and her Son looked down;
At right and left knelt martyr-saint;
Tulips and roses, fashioned quaint,
Bloomed at their feet, and cherubs’ eyes
Surveyed them with a glad surprise.

Was’t midnight-bell
That wrought the spell,
Or incensed glow
That, flickering slow,
Showed caravan shapes instinct with life?
While, breaking forth in tuneful strife,
Like fall of streams and hymns of birds,
Weird music throbbed and soared in words –
(The while the far-off rhythmic beat
Of towered bell chimed low and sweet).
The story of the ages grew –
Tales of the tempted and the true;
Of vanquished Self, and Vice withstood,
And Evil beaten down by Good;
How saints had lived; how martyrs died
By sword, and rack, and scourge, and tide;
Had found in dungeon trysting-place,
Had clasped the stake in rapt embrace.

And evermore,
And o’er and o’er
Angelic tongues
Blended the songs,
Harmonious billows of one sea –
“This have we done, dear Christ, for Thee!”
Now far and faint, now near and clear –
“All hail to Thee! O Christ most dear!”
The bell made answer straight and strange;
On chime and voicings fell a change,
From age-browned oak on me were bent
Regards of griefful wonderment.

“And thou? and thou?
Art silent now?
For sun and showers,
Fruit and flowers,
For watch and ward by night and day;
For dangers ’scaped in darksome way;
For hourly grace and passion reined;
Foes reconciled and friends retained;
For ransom paid and debt forgiven;
For love and life and hope of heaven –
Hast thou no need of praise to bring?”
“And thou? And thou?” The voiced ring
Still calls my humble soul to prayer,
While flares and falls the perfumed glare
On carved saint and child divine –
To me, this Christmas tide, a Shrine!

Simplicity Marks the Modern Maid’s Wedding

A sort of reaction is taking place against the elaborate weddings so long in vogue, with the result that several brides have had the simplest sorts of ceremonies, carrying out the idea of simplicity in decoration, and even in the wedding dress itself. When present-giving is carried to the extent that it was with one bride, who returned just her duplicates to one well-known firm of silversmiths and had a credit there of something over a thousand dollars, it becomes something most unpleasantly overdone.

The exchanging of presents too, by brides for presents to send to other brides, has been carried on to the same way as the exchange of euchre prizes which became so annoying that several stores were forced to refuse such exchanges. For not only was the original purchase returned, and something else taken out, but that second purchase probably was returned, and its equivalent brought back until there was no end to it.

It seems dreadful that anything so closely connected with sentiment as a wedding gift should be put to so prosaic a use, but it is done every day.

One bride who declare that an invitation to a wedding reception was a “hold-up” for a present, refused to have a reception on that very account, contenting herself with announcements, and comparatively few of these. A good many persons were annoyed at seemingly being over overlooked but the reason leaked out and the tide of feeling changed.

Another bride refused to have bridesmaids because she couldn’t afford to give them their dresses and she felt it unfair to put them to that expense. It’s a pretty hard thing for a girl to have to refuse to be bridesmaid for her dearest friend, but many a girl has had to, and then, for the life of her, not been able to avoid a pretty sorry feeling of discontent.

But one might go on indefinitely quoting the little prettiest little acts of consideration. There was the girl who planned just simple summer dresses for her bridesmaids; and the other who asked her nearest and dearest friends to sit in the front pews of the church so as to be near her, and to give them a pretty little distinction, asked them to wear their white dresses. She herself sent them the flowers they wore – the richest, most velvety of roses.

As to the wedding itself, there’s room for a deal of consideration to be shown there It isn’t every family to whom a big affair doesn’t come as a severe tax. And, for that matter, any sort of elaborate display of decoration seems a little out of keeping with the solemnity which belong by rights to the ceremony.

The simplest sort of a church wedding was given by a girl who felt (as so many girls feel) that her wedding wouldn’t be quite real unless she had it in a church. Only the altar was decorated, and that simply, but prettily, with white flowers and foliage and plants. There were no invitations issued at all, but all of her friends were told about it, and whoever wanted to come, came. There was none of the usual crowd curious to see the dresses; only the people she wanted about her, and who really wanted the pleasure of being present on her one great day. From the standpoint of sentiment it was an ideal wedding.

Another bride held no reception – she was like the other girl, and held that receptions meant presents – but word was passed along somehow, and everybody drifted home with her from the church. Her presents had been put out, so that a survey was made, everybody had a chance to wish her joy, and in the dining room was a great wedding cake with its three mystic tokens hidden away somewhere in its interior, and ices.

It is hard to plan things on a modest scale for the one important occasion of your life, but so much less strain attends that sort of thing, and there’s so much more time in the last few days in which to get close to your family that it pays. And the bride who has the courage to considerate at the expense of a little of her own pleasure has a quality about her that is like a talisman to insure future happiness.

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Christmas Dinner Suggestions
Housewife’s Exchange
Recipes by Marion Harland
Recipes for Candy Makers
Told by the Cheeks

A Foreword of New Year

This is the second article in December of the School for Housewives 1905 series published on Dec 10, 1905, and is about ringing in the new year with a clean house and a clean score!

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Washington Times.

A Foreword of New Year

The Real Resolution

IF EVERY reader of this page were called upon for a candid expression of opinion as to the observance of New Years Day those who have never given the latter much thought would be surprised to learn how many are disposed to regard the anniversary as a bore, and the festivities connected with it as a mistake.

Christmas frolics have left us jaded, and blunted our appetites for pleasure. Christmas giving has depleted our purses. We have no money left for Near Year presents, and if we had, the impression is so general that these are the “Arriere pensee” of conscience stricken donors, recalled by the receipt of Christmas gifts to the fact that sundry of their dear 500 friends were overlooked by themselves at Yuletide – that there is scanty grace in giving.

Memory and Tears.

As to the patent and pious resolutions enjoined as a conventional ordinance by ancient and goody-goody appointment the most serious-minded of us dismissed the habit of formulating them when age and experience had showed us the emptiness and inefficiency of spasmodic righteousness.

The dawning year, as a true poet of the last century sang –

“Is a time for memory and for tears.”

Each heart knows for itself the bitterness and the sweetness of memories that crowd upon it at this season, and to each his own griefs are scared. I have no sermon today for my dearly-beloved and loyal constituency – only a word of cordial good cheer, a hearty “god-speed,” and then a brief practical conference with my fellow-housewives.

A pleasing custom prevails in some families of having the house swept, scrubbed and garnished before the coming of the blessed Christmas Day.

As one youngling phrased it: “It would be a shame for Santa Claus to come to a dirty house!”

Another put it more aptly:

“Everything should be in order upon Our Savior’s birthday!”

I confess to the same feeling with regard to the Near Year that the thrifty housemother has as to the “shiftlessness” of carrying the week’s wash over into the next Monday, and leaving Saturday’s mending incomplete when workbasket and thimble are laid aside for the rest of Sunday. There may be a tinge of superstition in my aversion to the thought of seeing the sunshine on New Year Day through dingy windows. The impulse to clear decks for action during the last week of the old year is natural and commendable. As the warm-hearted, hot-headed heroine of “hitherto” longed, in her unhappy childhood, to “rub out and begin all over again,” we would, if possible, forget the mistakes, and rid ourselves of the drawbacks of the past year, and press forward to cleaner – therefore, better – things.

Begin with your bookshelves. Unless you are given to periodical weedings of your library you have no right conception of the quantity of “trash” you have accumulated in a twelve-month. Books that are not worth a second and even a third reading are not worth keeping. If you can get rid of them in no other way, sell them by the pound to a junk dealer or old clothes ma. If you do not mean to have your magazines bound, sort and ship them to a hospital or soldiers and sailors’ home – or, failing these, send to me (inclosing stamp always) for the address of some one of the many who hunger for reading material they have not the money to buy. Sufficient unto the year is the rubbish thereof. And whatever may be the title of a book which nobody reads, and which nobody ever will read, that book is rubbish, be it bound in calf or in paper.

Next, attack closest and drawers, and rid your house and would of what you have kept for months – maybe for years – because they were not fit to give to anybody, were of no earthly use to yourself, and yet were adjudged by some abstruse law of economics to be too good to throw away. Were your thrifty soul to depart from the workaday world tomorrow, the entire collection of cracked and broken china, out-of-date collars and cuffs, scraps of unmatchable stuffs, remnants of forgotten gowns, and mortified bonnets would be consigned to the flames by your heirs and assigns. Spare them trouble and spare your memory from disgrace by cremating the ungainly and unprofitable assortment before the bells ring out the false and ring in the true.

If, in the course of righteous work, you happen upon some forgotten article that would be of real service to the poor widow you visited at Christmas, consider that you have found a bit of her property and restore it to the owner.

I promised not to preach; but you will not take it amiss if I counsel you to carry the New Year cleaning up and clearing out work into a higher sphere than that of pantry and bookshelf? Get rid of old grudges and family feuds, of unholy enmities, mean jealousies – all you would not have cling to your soul were you sure this year would be your last on earth. “Rub out and begin again!” Don’t resolve to do it, but do it – and at once! One right deed is worth ten thousand inactive resolutions.

If there be in God’s world one fellow being to whom you would not hold out a helping hand, if he or she were in need convict yourself at the bar of conscience of sin, and repair the fault.

Begin the New Year with a clear score. Don’t wait to be dunned by remorse.

Let the midnight bells that tell the death of the past, and the birth of the future, ring in for you –

“The larger heart, the kindlier hand.”

And so, as Tiny Tim – happiest of the household, although a sickly cripple – has taught us to say:

“GOD BLESS US, EVERY ONE!”

MARION HARLAND.

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Four Dollars a Week Enough
Housemothers in Conference With Marion Harland
Little Talks With Discontented People – No. 1
The New Shades for Lamps and Candles