Monday, 16 June 2008

Bits from Books

Here are some nice extracts from books I've found recently which I think you may enjoy! The first is from an American cook book, Fireside Cooks and Black Kettle Recipes, by Doris E. Farrington. It's a lovely book about the history of American cooking and features recipes from Colonial times up until the mid-nineteenth century. Here's what she says about the Colonial lot know how much I love a proper larder (it's my inner hobbit...)Colonial cooks kept their supplies in the larder off the kitchen or within spaces surrounding the cooking-fireplace, depending on the season. Some fortunate cooks living on farms and in town houses had cellars, with earthen floors for cool storage of large barrels.

By stocking her cupboards as follows, a cook was assured of a workable set of ingredients. These items were not, however, within the means of all families.
3 barrels of flour: 1 large wheat, 1 large cornmeal, 1 small rye flour,
one barrel of beef, one barrel of pork, salted, one barrel of beef and tongues, salted, one barrel of pickled oyster, one barrel of pollack, one barrel of salt, one barrel of molasses, one barrel of brown sugar, one barrel of corn husks, sugar (depending on what the pocket book allowed), keg of pickles, firkin of butter, firkin of lard, a noggin of apple butter, a piggin of maple syrup, eggs, cheese, barrel of cider, barrel of rum, barrel of homemade beer, wines and cordials, dried fruits and vegetables, preserved fruits, jams, jellies and assorted pickles, apple butter, rose water, assorted spices, dried herbs, tins of tea, coffee and chocolate, candles, flaxseed, bees-wax.

I love the measurements...a piggin, a noggin and a firkin...also can you imagine the thrill of having a larder so well stocked. You can understand harvest festivals and thanksgiving celebrations more when you think how important a full larder was to our ancestors.

Anyway, onto my next extract. It's from Ragtime to Wartime. The Best of Good Housekeeping 1922 to 1939. You can by this 1980s book for pennies from Amazon and if you're at all interested in social history (especially women's social history) you'll find it 50p well spent! Here's an extract from the very first article in the very first British edition of Good's a rallying cry to all housewives!
Any keen observer of the times cannot have failed to notice that we are on the threshold of a great feminine awakening. Apathy and levity are alike giving place to wholesome and intelligent interest in the affairs of life, and above all in the home. we believe that the time is ripe for a great new magazine which shall worthily meet the needs of the homekeeping woman of today.

There should be no drudgery in the house. There must be time to think, to read, to enjoy life, to be young with the growing generation, to have time for their pleasures, to have leisure for one's own - to hold one's youth as long as possible, to have beauty around us - line in colour in dress, form and colour in our surroundings; to have good food without monotony, and good service without jangled tempers...

The good housekeeper is "the keystone of the arch" and "the pillar of the house". She is worthy of a great magazine, and it will be our aim to make Good Housekeeping worthy of her.

Reading between the lines in this article we can see the devastating social affects which World War One had on the population. The notion of what was "British" began to crumble and with it the very structured, obvious class system, the remnants of the Empire and perhaps a certain Victorian stuffiness. Middle class families could no longer afford an army of servants (so many men were killed that working class women took over their jobs in light industries and no longer wanted to work the incredibly long hours of kitchen maid and parlour maid). Also, women wanted to take care of the men who did survive the war, some of whom were horribly damaged, both physically and mentally...there was a fervent drive to make home a sanctuary for these men. I could say more, but I shan't go on! I just find this period of time so very interesting.

Anyway, next up is a beautiful poem called Waiting, by Christina Rossetti. It's from A Book of Joy, by John Hadfield, an anthology of beautiful words and picture. The picture below, features with the poem in the book and is too called Waiting, it's by Millais.

Somewhere or other there must surely be
The face not seen, the voice not heard,
The heart that not yet - never yet - ah me!
Made answer to my word:

Somewhere or other, may be near or far;
Past land and sea, clean out of sight;
Beyond the wandering moon, beyond the star
That tracks her night by night:

Somewhere or other, may be far or near;
With just a wall, a hedge, between;
With just last leaves of the dying year
Fall'n on a turf grown green.

Such a pretty poem with a plaintive quality...slightly adolescent I think, and because of that terribly romantic. I suppose I'm quite romantic really, not in my actions but in my notions, I bet that's why I like poetry. But enough of this self-analysis, I've got windows to clean...but as Good Housekeeping tells us, "there must be time to think, to read..."


Marie N. said...

As I was reading I was thinking to myself -- I don't know what these measurements are! I'm glad I'm not the only one. With the internet at hand I'll soon find out.

Dulce Domum said...

Ah, yes, the internet, the source of all obscure knowledge!

Patty said...

That would be a well stocked larder indeed ! My family is all from New England and most folks there keep large amounts of food in their pantrys. Come winter with all the snow, you have to be prepared. So this custom of having a well stocked larder still remains to this day. Even though I am in Texas now, I am a yankee through and through and have plenty on hand at all times.
I enjoyed your post very much

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Patty
I have another American cook book "The New Yankee Cook Book" it's really evocative of hearty New England fayre!

Gumbo Lily said...

Oh, I love these bits. Especially from The Best of Good Housekeeping....a time for...

~Jody (whose larder is not nearly stocked according to Fireside Cooks)

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Jody
I like the Good Housekeeping extract the best too. A nice mixture of inspiration and common sense.