Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Bad Housekeeping!

You all know the love I have for my collection of vintage homemaking books. I respect them too; such a treasure trove of useful knowledge, interesting recipes, fine encouragement and spiffy vintage house-dresses...but there are times when a trawl through my collection hoiks up some truly stinkin' pieces of cod-scientific, laugh out loud, very nearly dangerous and personally painful advice which I will now share with you, for your delectation and for giggle purposes only. Ladies, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME.

First, from the lady who brought you "baby-waders" and "holiday ammonia", that 1930s Nigella, dear old Aunt Kate. In her very useful and nicely illustrated Household Guide she has some eye-watering advice for the pregnant lady.

At the beginning of the eight moth, special attention should be given to the breasts to prepare them for the baby. The nipples should be scrubbed twice daily with a soft nail brush kept especially for the purpose. As they become hardened, a harder nail brush can be used. If a good, superfatted soap is used, the treatment should not hurt. Sponging with cold water is another good thing for firming up the breasts.

Ouch! Does she get "gas and air" whilst she scrubs 'em up? Sounds more painful than child birth!

Next, more maternal advice, this time from the doyenne of good, Victorian, housekeeping, Mrs Beeton. It seems that in the days before vitamins it was thought that rickets was caused by painful infant teething. This is what our very own Mrs B suggests we do for our little ones...this extract is quite sad really...

We shall say nothing in this place of "rickets", or "water on the head", which are frequent results of dental irritation, but proceed to finish our remarks on the treatment of teething. Though strongly advocating the lancing of gums in teething, and when there are severe head symptoms, yet it should never needlessly be done, or being satisfied that the tooth is fully formed, and is out of the socket, and under the gum. When assured on all these points the gum should be cut lengthwise, and from the top of the gum downwards to the tooth, in a horizontal direction, thus, and for about half an inch in length. The operation is then to be repeated...That this operation is very little or not at all painful, is evidenced by the suddenness with which the in fact falls asleep after the lancing, and awakens in apparently perfect health, though immediately before the use of the gum lancet, the child may have been shrieking or in convulsions.

Poor little mites. It was very tough in Mid-Victorian Britain if you were a child.

Now, let's lighten the mood a little with a few extracts from the otherwise exemplary, post-war manual, The Happy Home. And, let's face it ladies, none of us likes moths in our woollies, we should get rid of them once and for all...indeed, the happy home should have a zero tolerance attitude to creepy crawlies.

House cleanliness is essential for the general prevention of damage by moth, which can be extensive if steps are not taken to prevent or destroy these pests...Before putting woollens away for the summer have them cleaned and washed...then, pack them in drawers with a sprinkling of paradichlorbenzene crystals or D.D.T. preparation and cover with newspaper.

Yes, wrap up your woollies with D. D. T. I like this no-nonsense attitude to extremely dangerous chemicals. Let us not be wimps in our housekeeping!

Now, for an extract (again from The Happy Home) which may be responsible for giving British the reputation for having the most tiresomely dire food in the whole of Europe. A reputation which I always thought completely unfair until I read this...

Autumn Menu
Creamed tripe
Macedoine of fruit in jelly
Baked tomatoes
Sardine savouries

Yes, tripe(creamed, yummy), jellied fruit and sardines on toast all in the same meal. What more could a man returning from war want from an evening meal? Oh, bring on Elizabeth David!

Well, I hope you enjoyed this little journey through my homemaking archives. It just makes me wonder which advice we're given now on home and health will seem to our granddaughters wholey unreasonable, terribly dangerous and mildly amusing. Any suggestions?


~~Louise~~ said...

Hi Dulce,
I suppose I should not be rolling on the floor laughing till it hurts. But, I just can't help it. Now, I know why I love vintage books and magazines.

IMHO, the popular notion of putting the sponge in the microwave to rid it of bacteria may go down in history as unsafe advice that future generations will question.

Marie N. said...

Well, I AM glad I was not giving birth in Victorian England! Using a nailbrush can be uncomfortable even on the fingertips sometimes.

I'd not heard of lancing the gums before. it hurts to think about. After that trauma I'd want nothing more than sweet sleep too.

The American folk remedy is to rub whiskey on the teething child's gums. Some take it further with a "some for you (baby) some for me (mom) attitude!

Simone said...

I don't fancy the 'health' tips or the autumn menu! My mum used to say that exfoliating your skin was bad. She'd say to me 'you're rubbing off the protective layer'. What do you think to that one?!!

Anonymous said...

I can just imagine the happy home...after scrubbing her nipples for half an hour with wire wool, Mrs Smith, driven to distraction by little Jemima's cries, took a kitchen knife and lanced her child's gums. Surprised that contrary to advice the child simply bled significantly and made even more noise, she went and sniffed her DDT drenched cardigan to calm her nerves. Later, whilst undressing for bed she looked down at her rather bowed rickety legs, and thought mournfully to herself, "if only mother had lanced my gums more regularly! At least I have what it takes to be a good mother: bleeding nipples, DDT and a clear knowledge of the effect of gums on health." Hearing Jemima start to cry again Mrs Smith sighed, picked up her trusty knife and strolled to the nursery.

What a book that would be! Dickens, eat your heart out. YIKES!! Glad I'm a modern gal!!

Thanks for the chuckle chuck.

Dulce Domum said...

Hi Louise
I've never heard the sponge in the microwave advice before!

Hi Marie
Ah yes, an old fella once advised giving the little 'un whiskey when he saw her shewing on a toy in the supermarket. "But what about me?" I cried "mummies need whiskey too!"

Hi Simone
I remember my granny muttering stuff about protective layers, and "washing all the goodness away".

Hi Sarah
ROFL! You forgot the tripe...that could be the most macabre, gothic part of the story!

Anonymous said...

Oh yes the tripe, any good Northern girl cannot forget the tripe...oh and pigs trotters...bleurgh!

Anonymous said...

Oh my! I think you all have pretty much covered it. (o;

Dulce Domum said...

HI Michele
Have we left you speechless!!!???