Economy in Hired Labor

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

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

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

Economy in Hired Labor

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Necessary Evil.

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

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

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

A Strange Preference.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

High-Sounding Heresy.

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

“Our girls have higher ideals than housework!”

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

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

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

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

Safe Doctrine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why should I do it?” was my reply.

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

“True. But that affects me—not you.”

She was slightly staggered, but rallied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marion Harland

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

Economy of Materials and Cooking

This is the fourth article in October of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on October 24, 1909, and is a continuation of Marion’s series on economy.

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

Economy of Materials and Cooking

This is the third of a series of articles written by Marion Harland with a view to helping the housewife at a time when the practice of economy may mean the keeping of a home.

The two articles preceding this were “A Stubborn Fact,” dealing with the question of necessary economics and “Economy in Buying.” Next Sunday’s article will be entitled “Economy in Hired Labor.” The writer of the articles will welcome letters and suggestions from readers.

THE admirable editorial which is the keynote of the present economy series supplies us with another and a pregnant text:

“Our garbage barrels are filled with material upon which European families would grow fat. Meat that here upon the average table would be a tough and tasteless mess, if properly treated, would set forth a feast of soup, finely seasoned, a garnished stew and, for the breakfast following, a hash which, with the cheap vegetables boiled with the meat and some little additions of salad and cheese and coffee rightly made, would tempt the palate of the patron of the most expensive restaurant. And all at less than the cost of a tough hunk of indigestible and flavorless stuff set upon tens of thousands of American tables to deaden, not gratify, appetite and to breed dyspepsia.”

Plain, strong language this, but not a whit plainer and stronger than is demanded by the facts in the case before us. We provide more lavishly for our tables than any other people on the globe. The householder who rises early and sits up late and eats the bitter bread of carelessness, in order to join the ends of expense and income on the first day of the year, will state as a self-evident fact that “the nest is always the cheapest.” Furthermore, with the honest (?) pride of the freeborn American citizen, that “the best is none too good for him.”

A year ago I awaited my turn in a butcher’s shop, and as my wont is—

Whene’er I take my walks abroad,

I kept an eye upon my fellow-customers. A neatly dressed woman said something in a low voice to the man behind the counter, who walked to the corner of the shop and uncovered a pile of what looked like odds and ends of meat. She made her selection and purchase and went her way. In reply to the query I presently put him, the man smiled indulgently and let me have a closer view of the reserved fragments. That was what they were—the ends of steaks and chops and roasts pared away in trimming, and laid aside, not as offal, but as salable stock. All were clean and there was nothing unpleasing about the pile.

“They are never bought by Americans,” the man explained, “except now and then by a ‘cute’ boarding-house keeper. The French and Germans get them whenever they can. How do I happen to have so many? You see, not one lady in ten who trades with me gives orders to have the trimmings of roast or steak sent home. Yet she knows that they are trimmed into shape after she buys them. Unless we have orders to that effect, we never send the trimmings. Most cooks don’t like to be bothered with them.”

I learned, too, that the odd bits—for which our American housewife pays and which she does not get—are bought by the canny foreigner for 6 and 8 cents per pound. I did not remind the civil dealer that we pay for the steak and roast and chop before it is trimmed into shape. Hence, that he pockets a tidy profit upon each sale, even when he charges at the second one-third as much as the easy-going native housemother paid at the first.

Since it is my invariable practice to order the “trimmings” sent home with the bulk of the meat, it was none of my business to disturb his complacent computation of the petty gains that are beneath the average customer’s thoughts.

As surely as Michelangelo discerned the embryo angel in the shapeless block of marble, the clever economist sees in the collection of odds and ends at the far end of the marble counter the possibilities of soups, ragouts, hashes, cannelons, meat pies, curries—and an infinite series of other savories. The trimmings of her neighbors’ tables would set forth hers for a week, and her family be well fed.

Our editorial has a smart slap at this form of improvidence:

“We sit and growl at the impossible prices of meat, and all the while we insist upon having nothing set before us but prime ribs, porterhouses or sirloin steak, leg of lamb or round roast.”

A sharper thrust at the native housemother comes in the next paragraph:

“Because there is practically no proper cooking of cuck, flank, rump, neck or shin parts of mutton or beef.”

I subjoin to the justly severe comment upon our national cuisine the assertion that our housemother looks down disdainfully upon what a very “uppish” cook of mine once stigmatized as “innards.” I have had queens of the kitchen of the same feather and lineage who objected to cooking the giblets of poultry, as “ongentale.” If the old saw respecting the behavior of a beggar on horseback applies to them, it cannot be fitted to our well-to-do American matron. The best is none too good for her John and the children. Her wiser compatriot, who has made economy a study, buys a lamb’s liver at 10 or 12 cents and orders it to be left at her door, and this without a blush of shame. She has taught her boys and girls to like it when ‘mother’ cooks it.

It is washed and wiped; a few slices of fat salt pork are put into a frying pan, and when they are crisp are taken out. Into the fat goes a sliced onion, and when this is slightly browned the sliced liver is laid in the same hissing fat. It is left there just long enough to scar both sides of each piece. Then pork, onion, liver and fat are turned into a casserole. A half cupful of stock from the stockpot is added, and half a dozen button onions that have been parboiled. This is seasoned to taste with salt and pepper, covered and set in the oven for an hour. It should be done tender by then. Next, the gravy is drained off and the covered casserole is kept hot over boiling water. The gravy is thickened with browned flour and seasoned with a dash of kitchen bouquet and a teaspoonful of chopped parsley. After boiling, it is poured back into the casserole. It is served in the same when it has stood, covered, for five minutes in an open oven that the gravy may soak into the liver.

Calf’s liver cooked in like manner is excellent. Or, if you wish to serve it whole, lard it with strips of fat salt pork, treat it as directed just now, and lay in the casserole. A spoonful of tomato catsup added to the seasoning improves the dish. Lay it upon a platter when done, pour the thickened gravy about it and garnish with the button onions. Half a can of French mushrooms (champignons) make of the baked liver a really elegant family dinner. The mushrooms are cooked in the gravy when it is strained off for thickening.

Cut it horizontally. What is left shrould be put under a weight. If properly seasoned and cooked, it is a fair imitation, when cold, of the famous (and costly) pate de foie gras. And this at an outlay of less than 70 cents, even if the champignons be added. Meat for two meals for four people for 35 cents a meal may be had by following the recipe I outline. I engage, also, that those who have never liked liver before will “Take to it” in this guise.

Beef’s Tongue.

A beef’s tongue retails in city markets for $1. Wash and wipe it and parboil for half an hour after the boil is fairly on. Take it up (saving the liquor in which it was boiled), rub all over with butter and put into a covered roaster when you have poured a cupful of the pot liquor about it. Roast until a fork pierces it easily. Turn the gravy into a saucepan and thicken with browned flour, two tablespoonfuls of stewed and strained tomato, a tablespoonful of onion juice, paprika and salt to taste.

Simmer gently at the side of the range while you wash the tongue with the yolk of an egg (beaten) and coat thickly with browned and crusted crumbs. Set in the oven, uncovered, for five minutes, or until smoking hot and slightly incrusted. Butter again and serve. Send in the gravy in a boat.

Carve perpendicularly. This tongue is delicious cold.

A “Left-Over” Soup.

A good soup may be made by adding minced vegetables to the stock in which the tongue was boiled. Simmer until the vegetable dice are tender; season with celery salt, color with caramel and drop tiny cubes of fried bread on the top.

Calf’s Head.

In a story depicting the trials and training of a young and ambitious housekeeper, who “thought she knew it all.” I have narrated, among the other “Distractions of Martha,” her struggles to prove the manifold capabilities of a calf’s head. I repeat now what was said there is serio-comic fashion: that a calf’s head may be wrought into more savory and popular forms than any other bit of meat known to the ingenious cook. It costs from 50 to 60 cents to begin with. The stock in which it is boiled makes delicious soup; the boned head, after it is boiled, may be breaded and baked, or made into that joy of the epicure, “tete de veau a la vinaigrette,” or into imitation terrapin almost as good as the genuine delicacy, for which we pay a dollar a plate at restaurants. The tongue is nice eaten cold or pickled; the brains may be fashioned into toothsome croquettes or fried in batter.

In skillful hands the calf’s head may be counted upon for four meals, and when all the seasoning ingredients that help to make these are considered from a financial standpoint the entire outlay should no exceed $1.

Sheep’s Head.

Who but a Scotch housemother ever thinks of cooking a sheep’s head?

I put the question to a notable housewife the other day, and she thought I meant the fish of the same name. She had “never imagined that anybody would eat a real sheep’s head!” Then she said, “Ugh!”

I stood up stoutly for my “head.” It yields the most palatable Scotch broth I have ever tasted. And there is no better in the world than that family soup one has in perfection in the Highlands. I have a recipe which was given to me in rhyme by the president of the University of Glasgow.

Nor is a boiled sheep’s head, served with caper sauce and accompanied by creamed turnips, a contemptible dinner for the American who arrogates as his the right to have the best things going. You may buy the cleaned head in a city market for 40 cents. In the country the butcher will toss it over to you with a laugh as a gift—with the wool on!

Take it home, scald and rub powdered resin into the fleece down to the roots, strip, and you have the foundation for enough nourishing broth to last a moderate-sized family for two days.

Scotch “Brose.”

Speaking of Scottish fare reminds one inevitably of the natinal dish of that hardy and frugal race.

“What did you have for breakfast?” asked a tourist of a bare-egged muscular Highland laddle.

“Brose,” was the answer.

“And what for dinner?”

“Brose,” still cheerfully.

“And what will you have for supper?”

“Why—brose!” surprised at the stranger’s inquisitiveness.

“And do you not get tired of eating the same thing all the time?”

“An’ wha’ for suld a mon weary o’ his meat?”

“Meat” with him stood for his daily food.

“Brose,” alias oatmeal porridge, has nutritive qualities to which the brawn and endurance of the Scottish peasantry bear triumphant testimony.

With us these would be better understood if oatmeal were properly cooked. The mother who would have her children strong in muscle and bone and generally hardy throughout their systems should learn the values of this cereal in the course of her economical studies. Soak it for hours. Distrust the plausible advertisements that commend this or that brand requiring no soaking and but 20 minutes’ cooking. That is a concession to the American habit of living fast and hard. Soak the Irish or Scotch meal long, and boil it longer. The fireless cooker cooks it to perfection without waste of fuel. Bring the sodden meal to a boil on the range, then shut it up in the heart of the cooker and leave it there for eight, ten, or twenty-four hours. It is then digestible and full of properties that foster wholesome growth in the young and keep adults vigorous.

Economical Pastry.

Butter is a grievously heavy item in the expense book of our frugal housemother, and one to which Bridget-Thekla-Dinah lends the full weight of her hand—one, too, that must know no degree. “Cooking butter” is not admitted to the economical calculations of sensible home caterers. Better buy and use half as much than purchase the second best. For table use, to spread on bread and eat out of hand, have fresh and sweet butter. And when you cannot afford to use the same for cake and pastry, go without them. Make plainer cakes and cookies, using half butter and half lard. Very fair “family pastry” may be made with the cheaper shortening alone.

Never waste a teaspoonful of good shortening, be it lard or dripping. Try out the dripping from roasts and set aside for frying.

You know, I suppose, that it may be used over and over, unless when you have fried fish in it? Strain what is left in the frying pan into a bowl half filled with hot water in which you have dissolved a bit of soda no bigger than a pea. When it is dead cold you will have a cake of clean, odorless fat on the top of the water, and all impurities will have sunk to the bottom. Take off the cake and keep it in a cold place.

Lemons may be kept soft and sound by leaving them in cold water in the refrigerator. You may get them by the dozen cheaper than by the single lemon.

Apples for apple sauce, and for pies for which they are cooked and strained should not be pared. Core them and cut into quarter or eights; then cook without sugar to a soft mass that may run through a fine colander or vegetable press. The peel gives a goodly flavor and plenty color to the sauce, and not an eatable bit of the king of fruit is lost. Sweeten to taste while hot and you have the veritable “bouquet” of the apple, instead of a taste and smell like preserves.

Chicken Broth.

Another small (which is not a “petty”) economy is to order your butcher or provision merchant to send home the heads, necks and feet of the fowls you buy from him. They make rich, good broth. Scald and scrape the legs, and scald the feathers from the heads. Then cook slowly until all the gelatinous strength is extracted. Let them get cold in the water, take off the fat, strip the meat from the bones and squeeze out all the moisture. Then throw the bones away. By adding rice to the liquor, seasoning with onion juice, pepper and salt, with a dash of minced parsley, and, just before serving, stirring in a cupful of milk thickened a little with a roux of butter and flour cooked together, you have a nourishing, savory broth.

I might draw out this talk indefinitely without exhausting the now-more-than-ever-before vital subject of the utilization of materials we are in the habit of underrating as foods for human beings. The list of palatable “left-overs” alone would fill many pages like this.

And this I must leave untouched.

Marion Harland

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

Economy in Buying

This is the third article in October of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on October 17, 1909, and is a continuation of Marion’s series on economy.

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

Economy in Buying

This is the second of a series of articles by Marion Harland which have been written with a view to helping the housewife at a time when economy may mean just that little that puts the balance on the right side of the household ledger.

The first of these articles, published last Sunday, was entitled “A Stubborn Fact,” and dealt with the necessities for the practice of economy today. The third article, to be published next Sunday, will be entitled “Economy in Cookery,” and the fourth, which will follow, bears the caption, “Economy in Hired Labor.”

Resolve firmly at the outset never to buy what you do not need just because it is cheap.

This is the rock upon which the born bargain-maker wrecks purse and peace of mind. If put into the confessional, how many of us could plead “not guilty” if asked to search the records of memory for instances of this form of extravagance? Who of us has not excused the folly by “It is true, I did not really want it at the moment; but the time might come when it would be useful, and it was so ridiculously cheap it seemed a shame to let it slip through my fingers?”—the unvarnished fact being that the shame lay in spending money for a useless thing.

We talked together last week of the stubborn fact that each of us whose income does not mount well into the tens of thousands must face the absolute necessity of curtailing expenses that were comfortably covered ten yeas back by salary or dividends or rents that did not equal two-thirds of what we are today receiving. I pause at this point to modify a statement made in that paper. I said that family expenses are now 35 per cent more than they were three years ago. After my manuscript went to press I had an opportunity of looking more narrowly into statistics involving the rates of living in all sections of the United Sates, as compared with the outgo and income, five years earlier in the century. Figures that cannot equivocate show that, as a body domestic and politic, we pay out 52 per cent more for the necessaries and comforts of living than we expended for the same in the year of our Lord 1900.

Set alongside of this starting truth the fact that salaries and wages have not advanced, on an average, 10 per cent in the most prosperous region of our common country, and there gapes before us a pretty big hole to be filled up by economies, great and small.

To return to the practice of these, “blue pencil” the memorandum of today. I illustrate by an individual case: a dear young friend, to whom I speak as plainly as to my daughters, called upon me on her morning round of marketing, and in the course of the conversation lamented the difficulty of bringing her household expenses within the limits of the allowance made for the purpose by her generous husband.

“I cannot bear to ask for more,” she said. “His business suffered sadly in the general depression of last year and has not recovered from the pressure. Yet out family is no larger than it was five years ago. And I do try to be economical. My heart sank like lead when I saw the length of the memorandum my cook and I made out this morning.”

She drew it from her pocket and opened it.

It was formidable in my more experienced eyes.

“Do you mind letting me read it?” I asked.

“Not a bit. I wish you would run it over and show me how to abridge it without starving John and the babies—not to mention the maids”—this last with a conscious laugh.

“Six pounds of butter,” I read aloud. “Fourteen pounds of granulated sugar, ditto of powdered, cake of chocolate, bottle of vanilla, 12 oranges, 12 lemons, four packages of oatmeal, ditto crackers, bottle of olives, ditto of mixed pickles, four cakes of sandsoap, one-half gallon of salad oil, barrel of flour.”

“That last item was a blow!” she interposed, pointing to it, actual tragedy in voice and gesture. “But the bottom of the last barrel was craped this morning for the semi-weekly baking. I heard once of a good old saint who said that ‘the angels must hear when she scraped the bottom of the meal barrel, for she always had something valuable sent to her that very day!’ I thought of it when I found that I must overrun this month’s allowance by exactly the amount it will cost to get this barrel of best family flour. I wish I had the old lady’s guardian angel—or a bigger allowance!”

Then I fired a direct question at her:

“Why do you buy flour by the barrel?”

Her answer was as direct:

“It is cheaper in the long run.”

“I know!” I interrupted. “When you came in I was reading a magazine article of a practical housewife who knows whereof she speaks, on ‘The Struggles of the Half-Way Poor.’ By the way, there are more of that class in our favored land at the present speaking than ever before since the ladings at Jamestown and Plymouth. Hear Mrs. Well-to-Do’s advice to the half-way poor woman:

“‘My dear child, I wish you would understand how much more expensive it is to get things in small quantities! I save literally hundreds of dollars yearly buying flour, potatoes and apples by the barrel. * * * If you can buy a tub of butter now at 25 cents a pound, when you are paying 35 at retail prices, see what you save! If you do not learn these household economies, you will never be rich.’

“‘No,’ laments the other inwardly, ‘and as I shall never be rich I shall never have the money to spend on a quantity of staples at once.’”

I closed the magazine and proceeded with the “improvement” of my text.

“In my salad days, when I was green in judgment, I, too, was a warm advocate for buying at wholesale. It was not until I had lived abroad for a term of years and studied the ways and means of those incomparable household economies, the French cooks and German housefrauen, that I came to a just sense of proportion on this subject. Here lies the point: If you mean to sell at retail what you buy at wholesale, it is all right to buy by the large quantity. If the barrel of flour is to be used in your family, subject to the measurement and pleasure of the average maid—let her nationality be hat is will—it is wiser management of your allowance to make small purchases. Bridget, Thekla, Dina, gauges the depth of a []-pound bag of flour more truly than that of barrelful. Generally this last is an unknown quantity to her. She will make biscuits, bread and cake with a more lavish hand when she may dip at her discretion (which is likewise an unknown quantity), into the barrel. Did I ever tell you of the answer Mrs. B.S. cook made to her mistress when she (Katy) was about to throw six fine, large potatoes with the kitchen refuse into a garbage pail? ‘Sure, mem, there’s a whole barreful in the cellar’

“Katy struck the keynote of an ‘opus’ that may be said to be a ‘continuous performance’ is nine out of ten households where wholesale buying is practiced.”

My guest scratched out “barrel” and substituted “bag.”

“Fourteen pounds of each kind of sugar!” she read, thoughtfully. “That ought to last our family three weeks, unless Jane indulges her fancy for extras in cakes and puddings too freely. Would you get half the quantity?”

Without waiting for an answer she ran on:

“And we wouldn’t eat a dozen oranges in one week. Nor a dozen lemons. I suppose you would say the same of four boxes of crackers and of oatmeal?”

I laid my hand on the busy pencil:

“I dictate nothing, dear! You are the proper judge of what you have a right to spend and to save.”

I meant what I said. I knew, however, that I had dropped good seed into good soil. I would fain believe the same with regard to the larger audience I place before my imagination in turning back to my desk.

Had I elected to take that memorandum in detail, as I am reading, with my mind’s eye, scores of expense books conned ruefully by fellow-housemothers, I could have cut down the sum total in other ways than by advising retail in place of wholesale purchases. Jane evidently meditated chocolate cake. A plainer compound would have tasted as well to John, if properly concocted. Olives need not appear upon the table at the same time with mixed pickles, and, unless mayonnaise dressing be a triweekly treat, it would be prudent to get a quart and not a half gallon of oil.

If your list of “must haves” for the day was pruned judiciously, my sister student in this hard, new school, the curtailed result would amaze you and gratify the financier of the household. Separate “may gets” from “must haves.” And buy nothing today because there is a bare probability that it may be wanted tomorrow.

I am painfully aware that the principle of purchasing by the day will meet with little favor with older readers brought up, as I was according to the tenets of an age that was lavish by reason of growing prosperity. We have been so long accustomed to the idea that it is sound economy “in the long run” to get staples at wholesale that we reluctantly learn the lesson appointed to us by changed conditions. A woman told me outright yesterday that she “could not reconcile herself to the thought of living from hand to mouth. One might as well be a pauper at once. The French are in the lead of all nations in the matter of cookery. It was from a Frenchwoman of means, who had a “corden bleu” in her kitchen, that I first heard of the advantages of buying just what one wants, and in precisely the quantities that are required for a specific purpose. It was she, likewise, who reprobated as extravagance the purchase of fruits and vegetables in advance of the season. I winced slightly when she alluded to it as “the trick of the vulgar rich.” Yet she was right. It is patent to the dullest of us that when berries and peaches are in their richest maturity they are at the cheapest, because ripe fruits will not bear transportation or keep so long as immature, that must bellow in cold storage.

Watch the markets if you would live well at reasonable rates. Don’t be ashamed to price without buying. It is only by vigilance and inquiry that you lean what you may afford to get without exceeding your lawful means.

When practicable, do your marketing and shopping in person. Again and again I have changed my menu for the day, and for the better as to quality and price, after entering a shop. I have found that the roast I had intended to se before my family was neither so cheap nor so good as the fresh beef’s tongue just brought in. Or I had thought of poultry. If I had ordered by telephone, I should have lost the opportunity of discovering that fowls of all ages were “up,” and reconciled myself to the disappointment by resolving as a brilliant thought, to try, that very day, the recipe Mrs. Blank gave me last week for hamburger steak, baked as a “cannelon” and overlaid with sliced and fried bananas.

In the next week’s talk I shall have more to say of the important art of making the best of what we have rated as indifferent materials. I say “art” instead of “knack,” and advisedly. The proficiency of the French cook in this respect falls little short of genius.

One word more of the telephone as a shopping medium. I honestly believe that enough is lost annually by the woman who gives all her orders over the wire to pay carfare to and from markets a dozen times over. The tidy little instrument, within reach of my hand as I write, is a terrible temptation when business presses, or the weather is inclement, or I am indolently glad to read the last new book that is worth reading, instead of scanning grocers’ shelves and butchers’ counters in hope of spying “just the thing” I want. Nevertheless, I am false to my consciousness of what is prudent and right when I confer with the obliging tradesman over the wire. He prefers it to seeing me in person, of course. One less discreet than the majority confessed to me that “the” telephone customer is far more profitable than she who must see before she purchases.

Neither the “half-way poor” nor the wise and tender mother who would make means that were ample a decade ago do as much for her household now can afford to employ agents at this juncture of national and individual history.

Marion Harland

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

Facing a Stubborn Fact

This is the second article in October of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on October 10, 1909, and is the first article in a series on economy.

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

Facing a Stubborn Fact

This is the first of a series of articles by Marion Harland, the object of which is to aid housewives toward economy in the household during the present reign of high prices for necessities.

The second article of the series, to be published next Sunday, will be entitled, “Economy in Buying.” The third and fourth, to be printed on following Sundays, will be entitled “Economy in Cooking” and “Economy in Hired Labor.” Correspondence on the general topic and suggestions along the lines of these articles will be welcomed by the editor of the page.

An able editorial in one of the leading papers announced some weeks ago:

“The stubborn fact that confronts every American is tat the era of waste has ended, and economy is henceforth not to be a voluntary method of accumulating wealth, but a daily necessity to escape pauperism.”

A hard saying, this, but the statistic by which our prophet sustains it are harder still.

“The mom ca’ed me a leear!” spluttered an Irate Scotchman to a friend.

“And ye didn’t knock him doon!” reported the other.

“Nae, nae, mon! The warst of it was that he proved it!”

The anecdote recurred to me as I finished reading the summary of stubborn facts. We have been shutting our eyes and ears to them for six years and more, saying to legislators, political orators and fearless press, ‘Prophesy until us smooth things.” When the price of flour climbed steadily from $5 a barrel up to $8, we cried but upon the authors of trusts and the manipulators of corners. As surely as it is recorded in Holy Writ that the wages of iniquity shall not prosper, so certainly, we argued, prices must come down with a run, bringing the violent dealings of trust factor and corner dealer upon his own pate. And pending a consummation so devoutly to be desired that we had full faith in its coming before we should ourselves feel the pinch of poverty, we went on buying the finest of the wheot and using it with as free a hand as when it was the cheapest.

I was waiting for my turn in the shop of a highly respectable meat merchant on day, when a woman who stood net the counter asked the price of spring lamb.

“Twenty-eight cents a pound,” was the answer.

“And three years ago you sold it to me for twenty!” ejaculated the customer. “I wonder where you butchers expect to go when you die after robbing us at this rate?

“We give ourselves little concern on that score, madam,” returned the man, respectfully. “We shall find friends in both places.”

I laughed, as did others who heard the repartee. But, as Bunyan hat it, “I fell amusing,” and when the shop was cleared of other customers, I fell into quiet, serious talk with the vendor of flesh-foods. Without calling his attention to the possibility that some of his fellow-creatures might precede him to some of the “places” of which he spoke with such philosophical composure, if prices kept on rising, I asked him plainly why it costs me 35 per cent more to feed my family than it did three years agone.

Waiting for the Drop.

“We were assured that prices must fall with renewed public confidence. Capitalists were afraid of Roosevelt’s strenuous measures. Nobody could tell what he would be about next. Wait until Taft or Bryan is safe in the White House and the seething caldron will settle into a great calm,” and so on through the thousand-and-one etceteras with which we have been quieted until the soothing syrups have lost their efficacy.

The man is intelligent, and he had begun to take the state of the market seriously before I awoke to the “stubborn facts” in the case.

He talked to me of the increased cost of breadstuffs and feed; of the consequent rise in butter and milk, and in cattle of all kinds; of the absolute necessity that farmlands and lay laborers in other departments should receive higher wages to keep the life in themselves and families.

“It’s like arrow of bricks—don’t you see, ma’am?” he wound up by saying. “If one goes down, the rest must tumble. Where is it all to end?” with a despairing shrug. “I’ve long ago given up guessing as to that!”

I thanked him, and (perhaps ungratefully) ordered a piece of beef for a pot roast instead of the spring lamb I had promised myself for Sunday’s dinner. Then I went home deep in thought, and sat down that evening for a second reading of the editorial I had scarcely glanced at a breakfast time.

Here is a lurid sidelight gained by the second perusal:

“A few weeks ago a New York newspaper reported that hundred of small butcher shops in the city have been closed simply because the increase from 2 to 5 cents a pound in the price of meat has put it altogether out of the reach of thousands of people.”

A significant and gruesome item of information succeeds the announcement:

“A Washington estimate was that the advance amounted to an increase of $1,600,000 in the daily receipts of the Beef Trust.”

A Question of Pride.

This very plain and familiar talk with my fellow-housemothers does not soar (or sink?) to the contemplation of the stupendous figure I quote at close connection with the paltry []e of 5 cents per pound in the poor man’s meat.

One phrase in the extract with which my Talk begins must rivet the attention of the least thoughtful reader who has natural pride in his native end:

“The Era of Waste has ended.”

We fell into the habit of regarding ourselves as a thrifty people so long [] that the imputation stings our self-love. Out of a wilderness we have created a paradise that challenges the admiration of the world. We are proud of our natural resources and vain of the genius and industry that have developed them. No need to put out the question to those who have studied the special and domestic economies of other countries. American prodigality abroad is a byword and a hissing among the nations. American extravagance at home is not confined to the rich by inheritance and by speculation. Nor, let me remark, to the shiftless poor.

In my Talk of last week I defined the term, “Our Great Middle Class.” The Era of Waste has prevailed with them as truly as with the rich who have more money than they know how to spend the the poverty-ridden who live from hand to mouth. Our national proverbs reflect this unflattering truth. We sneer at “Candle-end savers.” We aver that such and such a one would skin a flee for his hide and tallow.” The returned tourist relates, with scornful glee, how he saw an English “tripper” in Switzerland put the remnants of the candles, for which he had been charged in the bill, into his valise, with intent to save that item of cost at the next stopping place. It is certain that if the portable Holland housemother discerned possible profit in a flea’s yield of hide and tallow she could not conscientiously neglect the duty of flaying it.

I asked a farmer’s wife who had the sole care of the poultry yard, if she knew that potato parings, corn cobs—in fact, the refuse of all vegetables—if put into a great pot and cooked soft at the back of the stove, are excellent and fattening food for chickens. I was led to the suggestion be seeing her garbage pail, piled with parings, husks and “scraps,” emptied upon the manure heap.

She laughed in my face. I knew from accent and look that she despised me in her heart.

“More trouble than it’s worth!” she said, briefly. “I ain’t one to look after trash.”

Let us look at the situation squarely in the face. Business optimists ply us with yet another patent of soothing syrup in the prediction that “things will right themselves as soon as this tariff question is settled.”

Perhaps they are right. I am not a political seer. I do know, as a common-sense woman who is in touch with tens of thousands of other women from Nova Scotia to California, that there is a big deficit to be made up before the return wave of prosperity can refresh our households. I speak that which I do know in asserting that the rainy-day fund in hundreds (maybe thousands) of homes was never so low before as now. The shrunken savings-bank account must be drought up to something like the proportions that rejoiced the deposer’s heart prior to the “hard times.” The wind that has blown straight and hot from the desert all these weary months may shift to a quarter promising beneficent showers. But we have the ravages of the drought to repair. And some of us do not forget that the winds that inflate business interests generally are slow in reaching salaries. To change the figure and adapt my meaning to housewifely compression—the brand of yeast that raises trusts and “big” concerns is not available for domestic use.

Briefly, then, it will be a long time before we can hope to rise from the universal depression succeeding the stringent “times” under which we have staggered until we have almost forgotten how to walk upright. She is a wise and prudent woman who accepts “the stubborn fact” and sets about the work of reconstruction without delay.

It is the little leaks in the household that tell upon the stability of the whole. And nobody but a woman can detect and stop them. If your grocer’s bills are too heavy, examine the items closely and see what swells them out of proportion to your allowance. It will be a disheartening task. For you are using no more butter than you thought necessary for the family two years back. You curtailed the quantity of cake made weekly some months ago. But the bills for the ingredients are half as large again as when the children had all the sweets they wanted. And so on and so forth, to the sum total that sickens you, heard and body.

Remedy Lies Ahead.

“We have all been there,” my toiling discouraged sisters! “In point of fact,” as Cousin Feenix says, we are there now, and wading more heavily in the slough of despond than ever before in our housewifely experience. Whether or not the firm land of promise be within hail, our present duty is plain. Each of us owes it to herself, to her family and to her country to learn and practice economies that make for thrift and prosperity in older lands than ours.

One and all, you will bear me witness that I am not an alarmist. But I have watched with growing uneasiness the development of agencies which have brought us up against the reef our sensible editor has lettered “A Stubborn Fact.” And I would not prove myself the true friend I am in heart to every member of our mighty guild if I did not speak out at this crisis.

Let us gird up the loins of our minds and spirits and reason together as to the course to be taken in the grave emergency that is not without terrors to any one of us.

In our next Talk we will discuss practical, everyday ways and means by which we may relegate the era of waste to a past we have out grown.

Marion Harland

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

The Sunday Night Tea

This is the first article in October of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on October 3, 1909, and is an article on Sunday night dinner and families having to do without their maid-of-all-work.

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

The Sunday Night Tea

THE Sunday night tea is a memorial feast.

I have said that in effect before, and I repeat it now with emphasis. It is a standing and visible token of the respect paid by the great middle class of America to the wishes and privileges of the hired girl. That is what we called her in the day when the Sunday night supper was instituted for her express benefit. She is a “maid” now, and there are three where there was then one. But the institution stand sure and fast.

Let me guard that phrase—“the great middle class.” It has not the invidious meaning on this side of the water attached to it as in England. It signifies the backbone, the thews and red blood of the nation. The men who are hewing out their own fortunes; the women who are building and keeping homes; the architects of the best future of our land—make up the ranks. To come to practical details, I include in the term families of moderate means, in which regard for education of children is a duty; in which the expediency of laying aside a “Rainy day fund” for those who have no inherited wealth is a judicious economy. These are the households where the maid-of-all-work (a species that is growing rarer and dearer with every passing year) represents hired labor, the rest of the work falling upon the mother and her daughters; or, where the family is larger and the income justifies, there may be two maids.

Her Own Way.

Be her nationality what it may, the maid must have her Sunday afternoon or evening “out” or “off.” I append that last monosyllable advisedly. I know of more than one household in which the “hired help” sometimes elects to remain within-doors on Sunday evening or afternoon, when the weather is bad—or she is not feeling “quite fit.” She takes her half day off, all the same. Sometimes she retires to her bedroom and sleeps or lazes away the rest hours. I have seen one, at least, who dressed in her Sunday best and sat with a book in the orderly kitchen while her reputed mistress got up the evening meal, the maid never lifting her eyes from the book or paper on the table before her. When the china and glass were out of the way—washed and wiped by the employer—the real sovereign of the small realm was ready to receive “company.” If the fragrance of tea and toast ascended to the drawing rom later, blended with the cackle of Milesian mirth, the (alleged) mistress was conveniently deaf. “Norah is a treasure—neat, industrious, a good cook, honest and willing. And it is not easy to get a really general housemaid nowadays.”

So much for the reasons that have bound the Sunday night tea upon us as irrevocably as custom and tradition have decreed the Fourth-of-July fireworks.

Some blessedly optimistic housemothers assure us that they “rather like it. It is a relief from the hot dinner or supper to which we must sit down six evenings in the week.” Now and then one adds that “John and the boys enjoy it. It is fun to have me cook for them. And they like the unceremoniousness of it all.”

Personally (and I suspect if others were as frank I should hear many an “Amen!”) I look forward to the cold or semi-cold supper of the first day of the week with decided disfavor. It is right and humane and Christian that it should hold a place among our national institutions, and I make the best of it. That “best” is contriving that some especial delicacy shall invariably grace the board, and that there shall as invariably be one hot dish. The English call it a “cover,” signifying that there is heat to be kept in.

For a term of years, thanks to my self-freezing process, ice cream was the children’s Sunday night treat. We still have it in hot weather when the grandchildren visit us. Salads are the regulation dish, and of these there is endless variety. If the piece de resistance be cold meat, it is made as unlike as possible to the pallid chips and chunks and slabs that usually pass under that name. Pressed or moulded or jellied into comeliness, and garnished tastefully, it graces the foot of the board appetizingly to eye as to palate. Baked cream toast is a frequent and welcome visitor; likewise baked Welsh rabbit. “The boys” like both.

The chafing dish in the hands of an expert does wonders to alleviate the chill and cheerlessness of our First-day night supper. Among the almost countless delicacies the elder daughter or the mother may prepare before the gloating eyes of those who are as hungry on Sunday evening as one weekdays, I name as popular and “comforting” to the inner man Spanish eggs, olla podrida omelet, creamed oysters, shrimps and eggs, panned oysters, broiled mushrooms, cream cheese, golden buck, corm omelet and creamed fish.

I could fill the page with the titles of other dishes suitable for the memorial feast. Recipes for a few of these I have named will be found below. Tea and coffee *hot) are made on the table; likewise cocoa, iced tea and coffee are kept in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve them.

A Sunday Night Frolic.

If there be but one maid in the household, and she be “off,” the waiting is done by members of the family. One wise mother has trained her boys, lads of 10 and 12, to wait quickly and dexterously on Sunday night.

They make a genuine frolic of it, and vie with one another in the display of their skill. The plates are changed noiselessly by the little mock footmen, each girded with a white napkin while on duty. They are as grave as the primmest of English butlers, and play the part to perfection. The smallest children may be taught.

Another mother has three young daughters, who take turns in serving and waiting, while even the smaller children help. The office may be made graceful. Perfect breeding preserves the most lowly service from any touch of vulgarity. No household duty is in itself menial.

Spanish Eggs.

Heat a great spoonful of butter in the blazer of the chafing dish or in the frying pan. Have at hand a cupful of tomatoes, peeled and cut up small, or a can of tomatoes, drained from the liquor; four green sweet peppers that have been seeded, parboiled, cooled and minced fine, and eight eggs. When the butter hisses put in the tomatoes and stir briskly together with the minced peppers. When they have cooked three or four minutes break in the eggs, stirring all the time. Season to taste, adding a teaspoonful of onion juice, and as soon as the eggs are done serve.

Olla Podrida Omelet, Another Spanish Dish.

Make a roux of a great spoonful of butter and the same of browned flour by stirring them together in a frying pan. When the mixture bubbles add a cupful of tomatoes, peeled and cut small; a half cupful of mushrooms cut fine, three tablespoonfuls of minced tongue or chicken or veal (cooked and cold) and a teaspoonful of finely chopped red onion. Sit to a smoking mass—about six minutes will do—and break in six eggs. Stir constantly, tossing up the “podrida” to incorporate the ingredients well, seasoning with kitchen bouquet, white pepper and salt to taste. When the eggs thicken serve upon rounds of toast.

Shrimps and Eggs.

Prepare a roux as in the last recipe. When it hisses and heaves all over the surface stir in three sweet green peppers, seeded, parboiled and minced fine, together with a teaspoonful of onion juice. Cook three minutes before stirring in a can of shrimps from which you have drained all the liquor. Wash the shrimps and cut each in half before cooking. Simmer four or five minutes and break into the pan six eggs. Sit until the eggs thicken to your liking and serve.

Cheese Golden Buck.

Rub a cream cheese to a soft paste with warmed butter; season with salt, a little French mustard and a dash of cayenne. Set over the fire in a double boiler and stir until hot all through. Beat three eggs without separating yolks and whites, and stir and toss into the cheese. Have at hand rounds of buttered toast and spread the “buck” upon them.

Green Corn Omelet.

Grate or shave the grains from six ears of cold boiled corn. Have in a saucepan a tablespoonful of butter, heated. Put the corn into this and set in boiling water, tossing it until very hot. Leave the saucepan in the water while you make an omelet of six eggs and three tablespoonfuls of cream. Dish; season the corn with salt and pepper, and when the omelet is dished lay the corn upon it and fold the omelet over the inclosed vegetable.

Marion Harland

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

Whose Duty Is It? Mother’s or Daughter’s

This is the forth article in September of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on September 26, 1909, and is an article on the importance of teaching daughters how to be housewives before they are married.

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

Whose Duty Is It? Mother’s or Daughters

FIVE years ago the question was asked in my hearing concerning a girl graduate: “What will she do with herself now?”

She was the only single daughter in the family. Three older sisters had married and gone to homes of their own. The mother is not strong, and the father, although not rich, makes a comfortable living for house household. They keep but one servant—a maid-of-all-work—and much of the dining room and the upstairs works falls upon the mistress of the modest establishment on washing and ironing days.

With these facts in mind, I asked: “Why need she do anything except stay at home, take her share of the labors of the household and be a comfort and joy to her parents in their declining years?”

My companion looked at me with a sort of patronizing pity. “You can’t expect a lively, independent young girl, who is college-bred and full of ambitions of her own, to settle down in that humdrum fashion. The day for that kind of thing has gone by.”

“I held my peace even from good,” says the Psalmist of a season when silence seemed to him to be “golden.”

Ignorance—Not Bliss.

In humble imitation, I refrained from speaking out what was in my mind that instant, assured as I was that what I would have said were the words of truth and soberness. But, like Paddy’s dumb parrot, I “kept up a moighty dale of thinking.” And when my mind and heart are very full, I have a habit of talking both out to my family.

To finish the story begun above: The young girl in question took an expensive course of tuition as a trained nurse in another city than in which her parents lived, and within three months after graduating married a resident of that place and set up housekeeping. I met her mother the other day in a shop. She is a great sufferer from rheumatism, and walks with pain and difficulty. But she had just returned from a visit to Clara,

“Who, poor child! is having a fearful time with housekeeping. She had no time to learn anything of it before her marriage, of course. No girl has, nowadays.”

One Among Many.

When I got home, oddly enough, I found awaiting me a letter from a friend whose niece married, last spring, a young doctor with whom she had become acquainted while taking her course in a training school for nurses. They were married the week after she received her diploma.

“I cannot help thinking it would have been wiser to postpone the wedding until Emma had an apprenticeship in her mother’s kitchen,” wrote my correspondent. “She is as ignorant as a baby of the rudiments of what a woman must know, unless she has abundant means and can employ trained servants. I foresee a grievous novitiate for the young bride. We—you and I—know what trials await her who sets up in business for herself before she has mastered the a b c of her trade.”

I read the letter to a youthful matron whose mother insisted upon putting her into training in active housewifery on Saturdays and in vacations while she was still a schoolgirl. In the year that elapsed between her graduation and her marriage the apprenticeship was steady and systematic.

“I used to gird at her rules sometimes,” commented the matron in harking back to her experience. “I bless her hourly for it now. My knowledge of practical housewifery saves hundreds of dollars yearly, to say nothing of sparing me time, nervous tissue and temper.”

“Among other duties that developed upon me during the last year of my novitiate was marketing. I set forth gayly the first day, with my memorandum in my pocket and a careless smile on my lips. It was the easiest matter in the world to walk into a shop and ask for what I had written down before leaving home. So I entered my butcher’s salesroom and ordered ‘a nice roast of corned beef.’ My mother was an old customer, and the butcher had seen me with her from the time I was a child. So he took the liberty of saying, with a kindly, amused smile: ‘Excuse me, Miss Blank, but corned beef is never roasted. Are you sure you don’t want fresh?’”

Multiplied Responsibility.

That was a minor mortification by comparison with the great fight of worries that are genuine afflictions which beset the woman who, to quote one of our speakers, sets up a business of which she is profoundly ignorant. It is not true, as some persons who should know better affirm, that “any girl with a fair outfit of common sense may learn practical housewifery, including cookery, as well after marriage as before.”

Setting aside other duties incumbent upon wifehood, the responsibility of providing what is to be cooked; of judicious selection of materials, consulting times and seasons; of preparing food that is wholesome, palatable and economical; of directing servants who ingeniously and invariably take advantage of an incompetent and inexperienced employer—I appeal to the great army of housewives with whom our familiar chats are held the year round whether or not I am right in declaring that our profession involves all this and so much more of intelligent effort as to demand long previous training before one stepped into the ranks of workers.

It is not a “trick” to be learned in a week or a month of a year. I, for one, have been laboring diligently at it for over half a century, and account myself still a learner.

Answering the question that heads our page, I say, then, without hesitation, that the mother who allows her daughter to grow up without a fair knowledge of practical housewifery is guilty of absolute cruelty to one whose need of the knowledge may be sore in days to come. I add that the girl who fails to appreciate the value of training in the profession that falls to the lot of seventy-five out of every hundred women in America is short-sighted and improvident. She is sowing for herself a crop of tare and bitter herbs.

Where there are several daughters, and the means of the family do not justify the employment of more than one or, at the most, two servants, the xxx to cook girl of a xxx xxx-tion of daily tasks makes the wheels of the machinery run smoothly.

Carry into your profession the systematic arrangement of work that prevails in your father’s factory or your brother’s office. As I say it, the memory recurs to me of one well-regulated home in the great and influential middle class of American social life in which this plan worked to a charm. The mother held the reins of government. No woman who is set at the head of her own household by her husband should ever resign the office unless hopelessly invalided. She is “called” to the place as truly as a queen to her sovereignty.

Rotation in Office.

As time made her subordinates expert, she did less manual labor, but her superintendence never relaxed in vigilance. One girl took charge of the kitchen for one month; the upstairs work devolved upon a second for the same time; a third, the dining-room, china, silver, etc. Rotation in office brought in orderly sequence each department into the hands of each girl during the quarter year. The only outside help brought into the house was a laundress and now and then a housecleaner.

It goes without saying that the house was beautifully kept from top to bottom. Intelligence and personal interest in the matter in hand insured that end. It may seem less credible to some readers that the machinery of daily toil was so cleverly concealed that, as one writer reported to me, “The house appeared to run itself. Mother and daughters were never slovenly in dress or fagged in appearance. Except that one of the girls arose quietly from table at meals to make needful changes in the courses, I should not have missed the services of a waitress. And how swiftly and noiselessly these changes were accomplished no one can imagine who has not seen a trained gentlewoman do housework. It was a fine art, through and through.”

It passes my comprehension—the cool indifference with which some daughters see their mothers toil in the treadmill where they have wrought for fifteen or thirty years while their families were growing into man’s and woman’s estate, carrying upon their shoulders accustomed burdens which their children, with pharisaic superciliousness, “will not lift with so much as one of their fingers.” “Only mother!” The life of many and many a girl is pitched to that key.

It was a refreshing contrast when, last week, I saw a pretty girl put her soft white arms around the withered neck of her mother, and press ripe red lips to the faded cheek, with—

“You know, mother is advanced to the dignity of consulting physicians now? Oh, I might say, lord high admiral. We make her sit still in state, and the tribes come up to her for judgment.”

I forgive the confusion of figures in consideration of the beautiful reverence to one who had earned the chief office. She is too feeble now for active duties, but her children arise and call her blessed for the work she has done.

Home-Making a Profession.

A serious editorial appeared in one of our leading dailies not long ago, headed, “Learning a Profession.” In it the course pursued by sensible parents with respect to preparing their sons for their lifework and their neglect of a similar duty to their daughters were strongly contrasted.

Even the “advanced” advocates of public careers for our sex cannot deny that, for the average woman, Providence has clearly indicated home as her sphere and home-making as her profession. And the school in which this is to be learned is, as unequivocally, her girlhood’s home under the loving tuition of her mother.

By the time the child can handle mop and duster her apprenticeship should begin. When she is of marriageable age she should have her profession so well in hand that the heart of her husband may safely trust in her as a true helpmeet. The calamities of the earlier years of the novice in housewifery would fill a library.

Were I to solicit a comparison of experience on this head from the members of our Exchange I should have no room for any other matter for a year to come.

Marion Harland

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Olive Oil

This is the third article in September of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on September 19, 1909, and is an article on the benefits of olive oil and to use only the purest.

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

Olive Oil

IMPRIMIS; it must be Olive Oil!

Once upon a time, and not a hundred years ago, a certain “promoter,” who is now a millionaire, took me into confidence concerning the “tricks of the trade.” Said trade, at that time, was the education of the great American public into the manifold merits and innumerable uses of the product, the name of which stand at the head of this page. He was the originator and backer of a firm which advertised “Genuine Oil of Lucca.” The phrase, borrowed from Sydney Smith’s celebrated recipe for salad dressing, was flaunted conspicuously in their circulars.

“The spoon with Oil of Lucca crown” made a taking trade-mark.

A Scheme Unmasked.

The speculation was booming fast and loudly when I had my talk with the parent thereof. If his advertisements were to be believed, he had fenced in every olive orchard in the pretty Italian town famed for its oil. Every drop offered for sale was shipped direct to his warehouses on this side of the Atlantic, and thence distributed to every city in the Union.

I have wondered since if the promoter had not a glass too much of heady champagne that evening, but his brain seemed steady and his speech coherent. Something, perhaps cleverness, had loosened his tongue. He confessed, with never a flicker of a blush, that “Lucca” was, to borrow from the Irishman’s excuse for the frozen pies he hawked as hot, “just the name of ‘em.” All the olive oil that filled bottles with the foreign trade-mark came from California.

“And every whit as good as the Italian,” he averred. “But the public must be gulled with the foreign name. We really use a fair percentage of genuine salad oil. The rest, say one-half, is the best quality of cottonseed oil. And why not? It is a pure vegetable product, and harmless, and, I dare say, nourishing. Bless your heart, my dear madame, the grocers know it, if the consumers do not. We put a well-flavored oil, with all the earmarks of the bona-fide ‘Lucca,’ within reach of the people of limited means. And,” rising into complacent animation, “we are public benefactors when you come down to the solid bottom fact. Time was when none but the rich could afford to eat salads every day.”

Find an Honest Grocer.

To prove the excellence of the counterfeit, he sent me a bottle of “Italian oil,” bearing the illuminated admonition to “crown the spoon with oil of Lucca.” To do him justice, it was not unpleasant to taste or smell. It lacked the slight greenish tinge, scarcely perceptible except in a strong light, and the faint but unmistakably nutty fragrance by which the connoisseur identifies pure olive oil. I dare say that lie was right in asserting that it was harmless. Cotton is a vegetable product.

Let that pass, with our ingenious promoter and his works. Return we to our starting point. Take the pains to get real olive oil. The pure-food laws make this easier now than in the day when our speculator with the elastic conscience took compassion upon my ignorance of business methods. Don’t be beguiled into buying cheap brands. Go to a responsible man and tell him what you want. Honest grocers are not so hard to find as some would have you think. Real, unadulterated olive oil may be had and at reasonable process. My grocer keeps it in half-gallon cans, sealed, and warrants it pure. It comes cheaper than the bottles bearing the same brand.

In Southern Europe, where olive trees are more plentiful than cotton plants, oil is used for frying to an extent that would seem incredible to the American housemother, who calls upon the butter tub or the lard can for the same purpose. There is absolutely no greasy smell about the omelets and croquettes fried in French and Italian kitchens; the oil, being lighter in weight than butter, does not interfere with the airy puffiness of beaten eggs and batter. If one be disposed to doubt of the oil sold in foreign markets and that for which we pay twice as much on this side of the water, let this fact be the test.

Fifty years ago it was not uncommon to hear objections to oil in salad dressing. Women with ultra-delicate stomachs “could not endure the taste and smell.” In my own early housewifey life I had the pleasure and the fun of converting three such prejudices by feeding them for days at a time with salads served in separate dishes from that passed to the rest of the household, hence presumably dressed with butter instead of oil. They were sensible folk and when, after hearing their praises of the salad, I made full confession, I was thanked instead of chided. If the oil be good and the blending of the various ingredients skillfully done, perhaps with a dropper, there is literally no distinctive flavor of the chief element in the compound. It adds velvety richness to the completed whole, attainable by no other process.

This is so well understood now, even by the old-fashioned cook, that I need not argue the point.

The value of olive oil as a medicinal agent has now taken firm hold upon the comprehension of the average housemother. We once were wont to think of it as a mild medicament for babies, working it into a syrup with fine sugar to delude the infant into the idea that it was confectionery. It takes a more dignified place in the family material medica now. A tablespoonful of the best olive oil, taken three times a day, is prescribed for stubborn constipation. It acts as a gentle laxative, and painlessly, at the same time nourishing the whole body and building up wasted tissues.

Anemic children have been restored to health by perseverance on the part of parents in feeding them with pure olive oil, in doses of a teaspoonful every three hours per day for a month, gradually increasing the quantity. The oil must be of the best quality, not half cottonseed grease, and perfectly sweet. In time the child becomes fond of it. I have in mind one little fellow who looked forward zestfully to the threat of a full tablespoonful before each meal. He gained flesh under the regimen, and flesh of the kind that rejoices the parental eye—firm and rosy. His skin was clear and soft, and even his hair improved in texture and luster.

One disciple of the olive-oil school assumes me that at least four cases of threatening appendicitis have come under his observation that were warded off by a steady course of pure olive oil—a tablespoonful every three hours for a week. Symptoms of tuberculosis have been arrested in another family by the same practice, continued for a whole winter and bringing out the patient in the spring not only well but plump.

As a flesh food it takes high rank with masseurs. Puny babies should be rubbed with it daily, at least twice, after the morning and night bath. It must be worked gently and evenly into the whole surface of the body with the palm of the operator’s hand. If the child shows signs of having taken cold, especial attention is paid to the throat and chest. An incipient cold and sore throat may be averted by administering a teaspoonful of oil, beaten to a cream with half as much powdered sugar, and fed to the child three times a day.

A crowning advantage of what may be called the “olive-oil treatment” is that the patient, young or old, cannot be injured by it. It is food as well as medicine, and no matter how it is used it is never a “drug.” Life might be sustained for days by a diet of pure oil, if the stomach could retain it.

Travelers in Southern Europe and in the Orient are struck with wonder and admiration at the important part played by the olive tree in the lives of the inhabitants. In Palestine the otherwise bare hills are clothed with the silver-gray foliage. The fruit is gathered whole for export; ground into pulp from which the precious oil is expressed; the pomace left from the oil press is dried for fuel, and the roots of old trees, removed to make room for younger or to be wrought into articles of use and ornament, are the chief firewood of the country. I saw no other in Jerusalem and Jericho. But for the olive groves the native population would starve.

Then and there, as never before, we entered into the full significance and beauty of the words which the disinherited son of the dead judge of Israel attributes to the olive in the stinging satire hurled from the hilltop at the rebel host in the valley beneath:

“But the olive tree said, ‘Shall I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honor God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees.’”

Marion Harland

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