The Dignity of Left Overs

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

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

The Dignity of Left Overs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mixtures Resented.

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

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

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

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

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

A Divine Precept.

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

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

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

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

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

Save the Bits.

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

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

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

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

Served on Lettuce.

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

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

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

Marion Harland

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

The Waiterless Dinner Party

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

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

The Waiterless Dinner Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

Without Apology.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“4. Are vegetables put into small individual dishes?

“5. Are butter knives used at all?

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

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

Two California Girls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Nice Touches.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“To thine own self be true.”

Marion Harland

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

The Child and Its Christmas Effort

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

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

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

The Child and Its Christmas Effort

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Guiding Hand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marion Harland

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

Gifts for the Country Cousin

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

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

Gifts for the Country Cousin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Added Personal Touch.

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

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

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

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

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

Imagination and Goose Sense.

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

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

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

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

Marion Harland

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

Economy in Hired Labor

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

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

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

Economy in Hired Labor

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Necessary Evil.

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

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

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

A Strange Preference.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

High-Sounding Heresy.

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

“Our girls have higher ideals than housework!”

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

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

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

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

Safe Doctrine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why should I do it?” was my reply.

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

“True. But that affects me—not you.”

She was slightly staggered, but rallied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Marion Harland

OTHER ARTICLES ALSO PUBLISHED…
Family Meals for a Week
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

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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

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