“Fair Linen”

This is the final article in May of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on May 30, 1909, and is an article on laundry and use of linen and table cloths. It is Marion Harland’s opinion that a simple clean cloth is better than a “fine” dirty one.

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

“Fair Linen”

ECCLESIASTICAL manuals enjoin that tables and chalices be “covered with a fair cloth.” I am using the word in a housewifely sense; that is, that the “cloth” should be free from spot or blemish and shining clean. It is not, of necessity, “fine linen,” such as takes before it, in the mind of the Bible reader, the “purple,” descriptive of Dives’ ungodly pomp.

I heard a true story the other day of a colored preacher’s version of the celebrated parable. According to him, the rich man “fared presumptuously every day.”

I have use for this malapropism here and now. The housemother who insists that her fair linen must also be fine must have a deep purse and keep it well filled, or she may be said to “fare presumptuously” in the century of advanced and sustained prices. Muslin and linen of medium quality, glossy from the smoothing iron and folded evenly when not on duty, are “fairer” than cloths of a finer mesh that are badly laundered and laid carelessly on the shelf. This is especially true with tablecloths that are awkwardly dealt with. I have in my mind’s eye a certain household, often seen in my youth, where the tablecloths were always wrinkled and tumbled.

“Miss Leslie says we must not use the word ‘mussed,’” observed a neat neighbor, quoting from her cook book, “but nothing else will describe Sarah’s tablecloths.”

A Careless Footman.

I wondered, in my inexperience, why this was true, until I bethought myself to watch the footman as he cleared the table after meals. He seized the damask cloth (always fine) in the middle, shook the crumbs out of door or window and “humped” it upon a chair or sideboard until he was ready to double it up loosely and tuck it into a drawer, where lay a dozen others, some smooth and clean, and beside them those condemned to the washtub. I formed the opinion then which I maintain up to this present writing, namely, that there is but one right way of removing a cloth from the table.

Imprimis, it should never be shaken out of the door or window. The crumbs should be removed with a folded napkin. A “scraper” of metal, be it sterling or plated, abrades the surface in time. The crumb brush, however soft, is seldom perfectly clean. In taking up the crumbs it sheds dust. The folded napkin neither scratches nor smirches. The crumbs removed, the damask must be folded in the original creases left by the iron and put away where it has room to lie out straight. Some canny housewives have a separate drawer for the cloth in use, and lay a heavy board upon it when therein bestowed. If I dwell somewhat at length upon this essential to “fair linen,” it is for economy’s sake as well as because a smooth cloth is more pleasing to the eye than one that is tumbled—“mussed,” as my old friend put it.

Glazed like Paper.

Table linen which has been treated to a bath of raw starch water and, while yet damp, ironed until the surface has the glaze of calendered writing paper, keeps clean twice as long as that which is tumbled and shaken rudely, and looks well to the last day. From another notable housemother I learned that a chance grease spot may be masked in the latter hour of active service by rubbing chalk into it before folding. By the next time of using, particularly if the application be made overnight, the alkali has eaten up the grease. The chalking makes the laundress’ task easier, also.

Napkins must not be “Starched,” in the technical sense of the term, although they take a finer gloss if dipped into the thinnest of starch water, rolled up hard, beaten lustily with the fist to insure evenness of distribution, then ironed until the requisite degree of polish is produced. They look “fairer” and will resist dirt far better than limp napkins. For be it remembered at each stage of laundering and using, that dust is dirt and that dust is everywhere. It flies off from the glossy linen; it adheres to the rough-dry.

The like rules obtain in the management of muslin sheets and pillowslips. It is a luxury to sleep in linen or in cambric sheets. A linen pillowcase is almost a necessity to healthful slumbers on summer nights. It is a “must-be” to the fevered invalid. Yet there are tens of thousands of well conducted homes in this country where the linen sheet is practically unknown and in which a few linen pillowslips are kept religiously for the sick-room. The next best thing to the cool deliciousness of the flaxen web is a cotton sheet, so smooth that it feels (almost) as good as linen and is as comely to behold.

Two correspondents have written to us of the saving of the housemother’s time and of the superior healthfulness of rough-dry sheets. One represents that the pressure of the iron, forcing the flattened threads closely together, prevents ventilation and retains the insensible perspiration that should not be left to clog the pores. Without entering into a controversy that would leave each disputant the more strongly attached to her own dogma, I may remark that is avails little for the exudations to filter through the sheet if they be then and there arrested by blanket and counterpane.

Almost Like a Dream.

Haven’t I told once here of the fond desire of my childish dreams to be a queen, and only because I was sure that she slept every night in clean linen sheets, a change for every day in the year? The fancy was recalled to me by reading, after the death of the late Queen of England, that she indulged in the luxury I had coveted, and that she was fastidious with regard to the absolute smoothness of the sheets. Two maids—so ran the tale—spent two hours daily in clipping the threads that fastened the sheet to the mattress the day before, and in stitching the fresh lower sheet in place. Not a wrinkle must mar the fair expanse of fine linen. I give the modern edition of the crumpled roseleaf story for what it may be worth. It is the more credible because every one of u would have her bed changed nightly if she could afford it. Apart from the first outlay for material, there would be the laundry bills-a bagatelle to queen and multi-millionaire, but a mountain-high impediment to the fulfilment of our desire.

With the approach of warm weather the craving for fair bed and body linen grows upon us. We read with thought that approximates pain the injunctions of the theorists who write practical housewifely articles for a woman’s page and for “Clever Cookery” and “Dorothea’s Domestic Diary” upon the danger and disgrace of changing body linen but twice per week, and bed linen but once. “My clothes abhor me!” complained poor, tortured Job. We reverse the order and hate our clothes when we lay them off at the close of the longest days upon the calendar. Sunday and Thursday mornings are the happiest days of the seven.

To Economize.

Let us reason together on this point. I know, for I, too, have heard them discourse. How it stings the self-respect of the woman who must consider laundry bills, or overrun her income continually, to hearken to the dainty, disdainful prattle of women who “cannot conceive how one can reconcile it to one’s sense of decency, not to mention health, to wear a change of underclothes more than one day at a time after June 1!” One of them habitually refers to underwear as “internal garments” in my hearing, and evidently prides herself upon the delicate and ingenious phrase.

And, indeed, why should not we imitate their custom while we ridicule their speech? Upon removing body linen at night, hang each article separately where the air will visit it freely all of that night and for 24 hours thereafter. Keep two sets on hand and in alternate use. If they hang in an airy place during the off day they will be sweet and, to all intent and purposes, clean when you put them on.

Strip the bed upon rising and hang the sheets in the wind. Take off the pillowslips, and when the pillows have been aired for an hour or more, cover then with cases kept for the day, and on which you never sleep. Let the night set air with the sheets. Turn, beat, and throw the mattress across the foot rail of the bed, where the air can get at all sides of it, and let it remain thus for several hours.

By following these precautions against stuffiness you will be as neat of body, if not as complacent of spirit, as the penny-a-liners who dictate and the ultra-fastidious few who assume to practice what the former preach.

With all my heart I love “fair linen!” But I love yet more fairness and consistency I will not preach to the woman of moderate means and six children of the insanitary “indecency” of not enduring each of the half dozen in clean clothes “from the skin out” every day in the week. I am stupid at mathematics, but I have the multiplication table tolerably well in hand, and it requires no ready reckoner to make up the laundry list of that household, allowing three “internal garments” per diem (exclusive of seven pairs of stocking a week) for each child. And the parents must not be a whit less “decent” than their offspring!

Take a paper and pencil and work out the sum for yourself, and let me know by return mail in how many households in your town or village such a “Wash” would be tolerated. Don’t’ forget to add seven pairs of sheets for each bed, pillowcases to match, and that no “self-respectable mistress of a family ever allows the same napkin to appear twice on her table without being washed.”

Nonsense, is it? Then why give ear or thought to it?

Make your linen “fair in the beginning, change it as often as you can afford to review it and keep it well aired between times.

My old colored “mammy” was oracular, and never unwise. One of her familiar sayings was: “If yo’ ken’t do as well as you wan’ to do, why jes’ do de bes’ you ken!”

Marion Harland

Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

Borrowing and Lending

This is the fourth article in May of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on May 23, 1909, and is an article on discouraging housewives from borrowing or lending.

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

Borrowing and Lending

SO LITTLE akin are they, it has passed into a proverb that the habitual borrower seldom lends. The best of books admonishes us not to “turn away from him that borroweth,” reminding us that the righteous man is “ever merciful and lendeth.”

Shakespeare, more worldly wise than merciful, says:

Nether a borrower nor a lender be,
For loan oft loses both itself and friend.

There are not a few who read that second line who respond with feeling born of experience. “That’s as true as gospel!” It is a fact that is not creditable to this poor human nature of ours, that long holding and usage of another’s property blunts one’s sense of honesty. At least a dozen correspondents have written to me at various times to inquire if somebody who is shutting up her house for the summer or going South for the winter, will not lend the music-hungry inquirer her piano during her absence. I have but one reply to make, and that is a plagiarism of punch’s celebrated advice to those contemplating matrimony—


The Dividing Line.

The borrower becomes attached to the instrument, and when the real owner reclaims it there is hard feeling in 99 out of 100 cases. The continual handling of a borrowed thing, be it real or personal estate, is distinctly demoralizing. This truth underlies much of what we reckon as pilfering and downright theft on the part of hirelings. The ambitious maid dusts and shakes and mends her mistress’ garments, eats from her china and partakes of delicate food her own kindred cannot buy, until familiarity breeds vague perceptions of “meum and tuum.” She borrows her employer’s gowns and jewelry now and then, as the bank official borrows money he means to return before it is missed. In each case the transition from borrowing to robbery is easy and so nicely graded that the sinner hardly knows when he crosses the diving line.

Here is the key to many a tragedy that has wrecked families and shocked a community.

The allusion to the piano recalls a true happening that came directly under my own eyes. A woman was going abroad with her children for a term of years, and at the request of a cousin lent the latter a fine parlor organ to be used during the absence of the traveling family.

He cousin represented sensibly that it would be better that the instrument should be used than to leave it closed in the vacant dwelling of the owner. At the end of three years the wanderers returned to home and friends and proceeded to put their belongings into place. When the musical relative made no sign of restoring the organ to its accustomed niche the owner inquired when it would be sent back. She did this in the timid, hesitating manner each of us has adopted for herself at one time or another in referring a petition for something we considered as a loan and the beneficiary regarded in a different light. The borrowed sat aghast.

“It never occurred to me that you would ever care to have it again!” she protested, in an aggrieved toe. “In point of fact, I had really forgotten how I happened to have it. It was quite an old affair, you know, and fashions change so in the matter of furniture! And I made sure you would bring home so many new things—in short, I am awfully sorry, Mary, but you must see how it came about. When we move into our new house last spring and bought a grand piano for the girls we sent the old organ off to the auction rooms.”

“an extreme case,” you will say. Yet the principle is the same with that which leads you to forget to return the book borrowed so long ago that you can hardly recall to whom it once belonged, and to leave magazines borrowed every month from the friend across the way lying on your table until they are soiled and dog-eared, and then to toss them into the waste paper basket or pile them upon the shelf of a lumber closet.

A correspondent applied to us last week for duplicates of six or eight numbers of a magazine she wishes to have bound, explaining that they were borrowed by a friend who “forgot to return them.” The loser asks plaintively: “Can’t you give us a lecture on this some time?”

A Well-Known Beggar.

Coming down to lesser offenses in the same line, that housemother is exceptionally fortunate who has never had a neighbor who was a professional borrower. Jane Welsh Carlyle has left us a spicy comment upon Mrs. Leigh Hunt’s housewifely ways that will stick in the memory of readers who have never troubled themselves to inquire what English literature owes to Mrs. Hunt’s husband.

“She borrowed daily and everything from my kitchen—tumblers, teacups, a spoonful of tea, a cupful of meal—not having a copper in her purse.”

Therefore, the borrower was certain that she would never return any addition to her larder obtained in this way. She was a pauper—an improvident and extravagant beggar.

I wish I had not to add that she was a type of class! For the first few years of my married life I lived next door to a well-to-do woman whose peculations conducted after this fashion were notorious. She borrowed something from me, or from my servants if I were not home, on an average four days in every week. It was invariable something “Mistress has forgotten to order from the store this morning.”

“The Cupboard was Bare.”

As invariably, I was assured that the article would be returned very soon. Her cottage was literally the bourne from which no loan ever returned.

And my experience was not singular. I was the greatest sufferer among her victims from the accidental proximity of our homes.

Nobody ever called that woman a thief. She attended church regularly and maintained the shallow reputation of a respectable resident of a law-abiding town.

The memory of hundred of my readers will match these illustrations of the borrowing vice from their own memories. One easily lapses into the ugly trick. It is most convenient to run into a neighbor’s for a drawing of tea or a cup of milk, or for pepper, a lemon or “a half cupful” to piece out what we have just discovered is not enough butter, or sugar, or flour for the cake we have begun to make. Sometimes, I admit, if one’s nearest neighbor is of her own kindred, or a very intimate friend, the act is justifiable. Delayed payment of the loan is never excusable. It was a kindness done to you in the moment of need. If justice and common honesty do not move you to repayment, gratitude should.

The safe and the only really neighborly kind plan is never to borrow. If you find the particular corner of the cupboard upon which you would draw “bare,” do without the article you are looking for or punish yourself for forgetfulness and improvidence by sending or going to the shop for it. You lower your ladyhood by borrowing. This is a hard saying. It is a saying based upon a half century of domestic haps and mishaps that qualify me to lay down the law to my juniors.

As to books, having finish this talk set yourself at once to a critical survey of your library shelves, “upon honest thoughts intent.” If you find none that is not lawfully young own, will you not refresh my spirit and honor your friends by notifying us of the fact?

Marion Harland

Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

“At Moving Time”

This is the third article in May of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on May 16, 1909, and is an article on how to properly pack and move to a new or summer home.

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

“At Moving Time”

“YOU have a disagreeable duty to do at 12 o’clock. Do not blacken 9 and 10 and 11, and all in between, with the color of 12. Do the work of each and reap the reward in peace. * * * The best preparation is the present well seen to—the last duty done.”

Thus said George Macdonald, the apostle of the present; whom common place people heard gladly.

I borrow the bit of practical, “commonsensible” wisdom as the starting point of our chat upon the crucial period of springtime to the housemother who must migrate to other quarters just when the birds have come back for the summer and are chirping—it may be merrily, perchance peevishly—over nest-building. Blessed among women is she to whom the vernal breezes bring no sinking of heart in the anticipation of the ordeal the old adage declares to be equal in destructiveness to three fires. Those who own the homes in which they live, or who are settled for a term of years in leased lodgings made so pleasant by long residence that one forgets they are not one’s very own possession, may enjoy the opening of the bud and blossom season. Their less fortunate neighbor, who has known ever since Christmas that April or May will be written “exodus” in her calendar, is the parishioner in George Macdonald’s world-wide parish to whom I address motherly counsel.

Every Corner and Crevice.

You may be about to exchange a rented flat for what my wee granddaughter describes as “a real, whole house of your own.” Or improved financial status may justify you in transferring family and furniture to more commodious quarters that those you now occupy. Nevertheless, the idea of the process is an abiding shadow. You think of it as your first awakening in the spring morning that comes so much sooner daily as to curtail the few hours of sleep that is haunted by foreboding and forecasting the ways and means of work that must be done and worries that may not be avoided.

Turn back to sainted George’s simple counsel and write is upon the tablet of your heart. Then begin in good time to “tackle” singly the inevitable disagreeables. Get ahead of the task instead of letting it drive you. Begin operations at the top of the house, if you have an attic. If not, commence with the closets and corners and cuddies that stand for the garret of better-lodged folk. Get together all the unmistakable rubbish.

No Time for Sentiment.

Despite your best efforts and yearly clearances of whatever may be catalogued as “trash,” you will be surprised and shamed at the result of exploration into the aforesaid corners. Letters that you ought to have torn across and consigned to the waste basket as soon as they were read; Christmas, visiting and postcards, there was even less excuse for keeping; backless books and back numbers of magazines you should have passed on to me, or to some other circulating medium, months ago, tattered music, and the miscellaneous mass of trifles that once seemed too good to throw away and which you confess loathingly were always too worthless to keep over night, prominent among them being broken china you meant to have mended, and children’s toys you “just couldn’t bear to” toss into the scavenger’s cart, the while you recognized the absurdity of putting them away—I need not prolong the list. We “have all of us been there!” Leave the obvious lesson they teach for another day’s consideration and make short work in righteousness of the uncomely debris. While you are about it, think of nothing else.

Of course there may be worse to come but do not blacken the present tribulation with the color of tomorrow. And don’t sentimentalize over the rubbish. The “loan exhibitions” of today night be less crowded with hoards nobody cares to look at except the lenders thereof, if our foremothers had been less romantic in their attachments to fractured china and dried flowers, samplers and rice-paper pictures worn in the back of the watches of Strephon and Corydon. Let us have an eye to possible embarrassments on the part of our great-granddaughters and sternly resist similar temptations. Cremation is (or ought to be) “the destined end and way” of perishables that have no intrinsic value.

Decently and In Order.

Having cleared decks for the real business of moving, fall to work upon china and glass, reserving just enough to enable you to carry on the daily living that must go forward in the few days intervening before the actual flitting. For many years it was my wont to put this delicate bit of work into the hands of the “profession” in our transits from town to country and vice versa. After watching the methods of the men who were sent from china shops for the purpose, and keeping a close account of breakage, I came to the conclusion that I could handle my fragile properties as well as they do, and if glass and porcelain were to be wracked, preferred to do it myself. For the past decade nobody, save a careful handmaiden working under and with me and I myself, has packed crockery, china and cut glass. And I record, more thankfully than boastfully, that thus far not one piece has come to grief during this period.

First, we have six, eight or ten barrels, bought for a small sum from the grocer. Next, we lay in a large quantity of newspapers, having begun to save them for weeks beforehand. For very fine and thin ware we have tissue paper for the inner wrapper, inclosing it with the newspaper, rubbed soft between the hands. Plenty of paper is used upon each article. All that belongs to each set of china or glass is put into one barrel, which is then carefully marked. If more than one barrel is required for the set, the second barrel is marked in the like manner. This saves time and confusion in unpacking and resettling the content. A thick layer of excelsior is put into the bottom of the barrel and lines the sides. The same goes between the layers of paper-enveloped pieces. If one bit of “fragile” touches another, breakage is inevitable. Cushion all thickly and pack closely. Fit a cover on the barrel, that the content may not work loose in the transit.

We pack our linens, blankets, etc., next in order. Old packing trunks are used here when we can spare them. If not, we buy drygoods boxes for linens and for books. These last are laid close together in the cases. Several thickness of papers line the vases, and each bound book is wrapped with paper to avoid abrasion.

Books are uncanny things to pack. One might fancy that they disdain intimate association with others of their kind. The sharp edges of the bindings have a trick of punching the backs of one’s handsome volumes, and the sides rub crossly into those of their neighbors, bruising and scratching them unless the strata are separated by a double fold of paper. Here, again, put each family of books together and mark the box with a list of contents. Sheets and pillow cases, napkins and tablecloths, blankets and coverlets hunt in couples, and need stouter cases than china. Books are even heavier. If they are to be transported to another town or to the country, the cases should be banded with iron or wooden hoops.

Do not try to crate furniture with your own hands. Leave that to the handy man of the family, or, failing such a one, send for a regular workman in that line. Old cloths, carpets and rugs may be utilized in this work to protect fine furniture from rubbing and from dust.

Throughout the task “keep a quiet mind.” And do one thing at a time. Hold the thoughts steadily to the idea that you are moving out. Moving in is one of the discoloring “to-comes” against which our preacher warns you. Let each hour and day take care of itself, and the weeks of readjustment and toil will look after themselves in the order appointed.

One frequent cause of discomfort and subsequent illness attendant upon moving-time is the too common practice of living from hand-to-mouth for days together. No regular meals are cooked or served. The delicatessen shops and bakeries supply food that mother and maids are too busy to get ready. Set your face like a benignant flint against this violence of health laws. Now, if ever, you and your helpers need nourishing, quiet meals, eaten at stated times and as leisurely as if the abhorrent business of removal were not—literally as figuratively—on the carpet. Talk of other matters while at table. If, at the bitterest end of the ordeal, you cannot contrive a table, use a packing case in lieu thereof. See that a real tablecloth is reserved to give a semblance of decency and order to the ceremony of a family meal. Picnics are well enough in their way, but at this crisis, body and mind should have support and the domestic routine be maintained.

“In the suds,” is an expression handed down from a day when the housemother bent her own back and plunged her arms up to her elbows in Monday’s washtub. It has come to mean much more to us, namely, a state of slatternly disorganization and discomfort incompatible with self-respect and orderliness of mind and action.

Keep out of the suds in moving time.

Marion Harland

Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

Spring Vegetables

This is the second article in May of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on May 9, 1909, and is a talk on vegetables.

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

Spring Vegetables

IT IS a strong argument in favor of the theory of the “survival of the fittest” in each generation hat such a respectable percentage of our ancestors lived to a reasonably old age, when one reflects upon what they ate. True, recent publications embodying he results of the latest reports of scientific men convey the gratifying fact we have, as a race, gained nearly 10 years upon what was the average of human life 75 years ago. The gain, we are told, is largely due to improved medical and surgical methods, but yet more to sanitary conditions unknown to our grandsires and to intelligent observance of dietetic laws.

The fact remains that those hale old forbears lived, labored and died in a good old age (some of them) in circumstances we now consider as well-neigh fatal to mortal creatures. They slept on feather beds in chambers the windows of which were sealed up early in the winter by tacking list or pasting paper along the edges of the sashes and not reopened until the first of May. They ate salt pork and buckwheat cakes for six months of the year of the year; and from Nov. 1 to the middle of May subsisted upon what we now term “coarse vegetables,” to wit: Potatoes, cabbages, onions, turnips and, when they could get them, beets. Even these gave out for the most part before the winter was over, and what remained was rank, pithy and stale generally.


With all these odds against them, one granddame of my own is set down in the family genealogy as having died at 104 years of age, and for 10 succeeding generations her descendants had an average age of 75 years. In each generation one-fourth of them lived to be over 80.

Early hours, quiet lives and an abundance of fresh air they could not wholly excluded from their sleeping and living rooms had much to do with the longevity of the sturdy pioneers. Still, we marvel how they did it!

What has all this to do with “spring vegetables?” Much, every way. Chiefly because it is undoubtedly true that we owe the increased length of days and our better preservation into the prolonged period to the conditions I enumerated in the earlier sentences of our “talk.” Cereals and fruits as breakfast foods were unknown in those olden days, and the green vegetables that never leave our markets and tables from year’s end to year’s end were eaten by our forefathers in the short season that allowed them to grow in badly tended country gardens. With the first frost they vanished and were no more until the next summer.

Green Things.

Recollect well when celery was a rare delicacy even on the tables of well-to-do people. Now it is a daily visitor to the dinner tables of all who wish to have it. It should have a prominent place in our springtime menu. As a nervine it is of high value upon the dietary of those who have made nature’s “simples” a study. Women—also children—who have grown “unaccountably” (?) cross and sleepless after the winter’s double term of schooling should be encouraged to eat freely of celery. A tea made of the roots and outer leaves, and sweetened to taste, will act gratefully upon those troubled with insomnia. Celery is likewise beneficial to sufferers from nervous dyspepsia, gout and rheumatism.

Every bit of the bunch for which you pay 25 cents may be utilized. The heart-stalks are laid in ice water until served as an accompaniment—which is also a corrective—of meat. The outer and coarse parts are stewed or fried. They are good in either way. The tea I spoke of may be brewed from the roots and leaves.

Lettuce has cooling and soporific virtues. Seasoned as a salad and eaten with brown bread and butter, it acts directly upon the blood heated by “spring fever,” and when dipped into mayonnaise and laid between thin slices of buttered brown or white bread forms a delicious and wholesome sandwich.

The coarser outer leaves may go into the composition of the delicate and toothsome cream of lettuce soup that should be better known to our average housemother. “We” utilize the inferior qualities of lettuce by cooking them as we would spinach. This makes a popular and seasonable variety in spring dinners.

Spinach takes rank with dietitians among the most valuable of our esculents. It is a gentle purgative to the blood, clearing out the febrile deposits of the winter’s sluggishness and introducing new and vital elements. It improves the complexion, I remark incidentally, and containing, as it does, iron and salts of potassium, stimulates the jaded appetite. It is prepared for the table by boiling in a double kettle, adding no water except that which clings to the leaves after washing. When tender it is drained of the juices that would make it too watery, chopped fine and seasoned with butter, pepper and salt, a good tablespoonful of sugar, a dash of nutmeg, and at the last with a few spoonfuls of cream beaten well into the mass.

A Medicine.

Rhubarb, alias pie plant, is a good second to spinach in the work of making over the system for the coming season by ridding it of the accretions and secretions of the winter that clog blood and brain like the stagnant residuum of a freshet that has converted the banks and meadows of the stream into breeding places of miasma. Scrape the stalks of the plant; cut into short lengths and put over the fire in a double boiler, with no water in the inner vessel. As with spinach, the generous juices of the stalk will supply all the needed moisture. Do not sweeten until it has boiled tender. Take, then, from the fire, add plenty of sugar while the rhubarb is hot, and set aside to cool. To cook the sugar in the vegetable is to convert it into a preserve, injuring the flavor and lessening the beneficial effect of the fresh esculent. The specific action of rhubarb is upon the blood and kidneys.

It is highly recommended to persons suffering from an excess of uric acid in the system.

“A New Broom.”

Young onions are many degrees higher in the social scale of the vegetable tribe than the full grown, highly flavored elder of the same name. We have them gathered from our country cold frames as soon as they are as large as the end of a man’s thumb. As dear Charles Lamb says of his suckling pig on the spit: “He is a weakling; he is a flower.” The baby onion should be handled as tenderly. Boil it in two waters, drain, butter and smother affectionately with cream sauce. Elsewhere I have written: “For bilious complexions, influenza, insomnia and muddy complexions the value of the onion as a steady diet can hardly be overrated.”

Asparagus is another fine standby these early spring days, being a gentle sudorific; hence an accessory in the business of improving the skin and inciting the escape of bilious and feverish humors.

Tomatoes, cooked and raw, should, have driven the old-fashioned and always dangerous mineral drug out of the field of domestic practice. The fruit-vegetable contains a vegetable calomel that does the work of the drug, with none of the risks attendant upon the use of the older blood and stomach purifier which practitioners of the ancient school of healing leaned upon with all the weight gathered from tradition and faith. My memory runs back to the time when “a course of calomel” was part of the spring cleansing. Sometimes it was regarded as especially beneficial if succeeded by “salvation.” That diabolical result is, happily, unknown to this age. It involved a sore mouth, excess of saliva and, oftener than not, loosening of sound teeth. And this was healing!

Let us reckon among our causes for thanksgiving in the blessed, budding, bountiful springtime that we take our course of calomel in the guise of luscious red tomatoes, spicy pie plant, young onions that melt in the mouth, juicy asparagus and spinach—“the broom” that maketh clean the human system and without friction.

Marion Harland

Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

Our Boots and Shoes

This is the first article in May of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on May 2, 1909, and is an article on how to treat boots, shoes, and callououses.

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

Our Boots and Shoes

THE caption suggests to readers of popular literature that of the interesting history of army life, written by the widow of Gen. Custer—“Boots and Saddles.” The three words translate the trumpet call for mounted drill preparatory to the day’s march, maneuvers or fighting.

The association of ideas is not inapt. In putting on our boots and shoes were gird up our loins, figuratively, for the business of the day. No working man comes down to breakfast in his slippers or in his stocking feet, no matter how warm the weather.

Do our careful mothers ever ponder seriously the question as to the share easy and well-fitted foot covering has upon the temper the children bring to the breakfast table and take to school? It is a hard task to study when the shoe really and literally pinches the tender foot. It is as hard to keep in a good humor during the painful hours that must pass before the hot and fevered toes are released from bondage. The indifference of the average boy to the appearance of his lower extremities, his positive dislike to brushing his shoes and his avowed hatred of a new pair, in the face of the fact that the old boots are shabby beyond even his power of denial, seldom have the weight their importance demands in the parental counsels.

Measured Versus Ready-Made.

In my early youth nobody wore ready-made shoes. We children were taken to the shoemaker as regularly as to the dentist, and much oftener, and fresh measurements were made for each pair of new shoes. In consequence, we never had corns. Grown-uppers, who were seduced by vanity to wear shoes too small for comfort, and to sport pointed toes when square had gone out of fashion, had a monopoly of corns and bunions. I recall with agonized distinctness the growth of the first of the very limited crop of them that I have had the misery of harvesting. The direct cause of the evil was a pair of satin slippers bought in haste to wear to a party, and repented of in wretched leisure. They were the first ready-made shoes I ever owned. Nowadays, nobody but the rich and the fastidious have shoes made to order, ad chiropodists are abroad in the land as a direct and inevitable result. There are no two feet in the world which are exactly alike, as there is not in the forest a leaf that has a perfect fac-simile in another. Yet millions of boots and shoes are turned off from lasts which bear one and the same number.

The cost of shoes made to order puts the comfort, which custom has made a luxury, of covering the feet with gear designed expressly for each particular pair beyond the reach of people of modest means. I do not dispute the assertion. The next best thing is to be exceedingly careful in the selection of what we buy in the stead of these vanished treasures. It is not enough that the mother sends her child’s “size” down to the shop when the boy or girl “cannot possibly wear those old frights a day longer;” not enough that one of the frights accompanies the order, to insure a fit. She should go with the lad or lassie, and see for herself that the shoes do not bind here and bulge there. If Jennie be inclined to plumpness, it is almost certain that the buttons of the boots should be moved nearer to the edge of the flap on the rounded claves. If Jack be a spindling younker, the fastenings of the stout boots should be tightened about ankles and shins, or the shoes will “wobble” into flabbiness, and a shoe that is too loose induces the growth of callosities as surely as one that is tight. There are degrees of fitness even in ready-made boots and shoes. The watchful purchaser is quick to note whether or not those displayed for selection accord with the shape of her child’s foot.

She should not be ignorant, furthermore, that leather has its grades of excellence, irrespective, sometimes, of outward seeming. Morocco should be firm under the fingers, yet pliable; kid, elastic and not flimsy. Practice soon makes her familiar with these points, and her touch more trustworthy than if she had never studied qualities.

And having bought the boots, let her take them home to ripen. One wise woman whom I have the hood fortune to know does not wait until the family stock of shoes gets shabby. When he boots she insists that Jack shall brush nightly, because he is always in a hurry in the morning, begin to wear slightly on the sole and get grayish on the toes she trots him down that very afternoon o be fitted to the successors of the veterans. These secured, she lays them upon the shelf of a cool closet that has no steam pipe near, and leaves them there for a fortnight. When she can compass it, she lets them ripen for a month. Then they are worn for an hour or so a day, increasing the term of service daily until, as the grateful wearer owns with a grin, “They are almost as comfortable as the old.”

Kid gloves stiffen and harden in lying by unused, even when enveloped in oiled silk. Shoes, if the material of which they are made be good, are improved by the waiting.

A Rest Cure.

A “capable” New England housewife in Mrs. Whitney’s “Odd or Even?” declares that “gowns need rest as much as the people.” In proof of which she displays one of her own, that looks so nice as to be mistaken for new, which has had no other treatment than a month’s rest in a dark closet. I have fancied that our boots and shoes are the most sensitive portion of our outer integuments. The period of usefulness of my own footwear is a proverb in the household. I attribute the good looks and longevity of the boots, low shoes and slippers to my practice of removing the first named from my feet as soon as I come home, after walking or driving, and donning either the second or the third. My feet demand the change, and so do the wearied boots. I carry the idea further into practice by never lying down for rest without taking off my shoes and enduing my grateful feet in bedside slippers, and this although I know my siesta or lounge will not exceed 10 minutes in duration. Feet and shoes are the better for the rest and change.


Judicious care and cobbling will prolong the useful period I have referred to beyond the expectation of one who has been in the habit of letting shoes wear out hopelessly before getting new and then throwing the ancient servitors into the scavenger’s cart. Have boots and shoes half-soled, and recapped at the toes, and set them aside to let the new leather mellow, against the time for going into the country for the summer, or to be worn under rubbers in muddy and snowy weathers. Those same rubbers are a decided injury to shoes. They injure the shape, and, by retaining the heat and perspiration of the feet, rot the leather. Therefore, keep a second best pair for days when rubbers are indispensable.

Patent leather boots are undeniably pretty, and when boots are merely tipped with the glossy material, not unwholesome wear. When the foot covering is composed entirely of it (excepting, of course, the soles) it is most undesirable, particularly for active children. The insensible perspiration upon which the healthy condition of the skin is absolutely dependent is converted into moisture which cannot escape into the air, and must be absorbed by the skin and flesh. The feet are soaked into tenderness that renders the body susceptible to sudden changes of temperature, heightening the risks of taking cold when the air-tight covering is removed. The wearer of patent leathers almost invariably suffers from cold feet.

A word as to the treatment of corns, bunions and callosities on the soles of the feet may not be amiss here. If the feet be properly clothed; if the use of rubbers be confined to seasons when it is really necessary to wear them, and they are taken off as soon as one enters the house; if patent leathers are eschewed and the boots be exchanged for softer low shoes that do not bind the ankles while one sits or stand indoors, the obnoxious crop of excrescences ought not to become an affliction to any one of us. Nevertheless, “it must be that offenses come” to the lower extremities, as everywhere else. If corns and their cousins are with us, they must be cured and banished.

Dozens of remedies, simple some of them, and more of them elaborate, have been offered to us from time to time. The burden of testimony for and against these moves me to suggest, as a safe and marvellously efficient application to the harder callosities on toes and soles, what is confessed by us all to be the most useful of vegetable oils—that extracted from the castor bean. I have known stubborn corns on the ball of the foot and upon the toes to yield in a few weeks to this simple regimen:

Soak and soap the “callosities” night and morning; wipe, and while they are still moist rub for two minutes with the oil. The best quality is clear, colorless and has little odor. Keep up the method for two or three weeks. After a few days you will find the hard places softer. Begin then to scrape off the tough skin very gently before applying the oil. The soreness will be gone by now, and little by little the callous excrescence will come away. There will be no plain and no danger, such as attends upon the use of acids to produce the same end.

Marion Harland

Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

Some Old Southern Dishes (continued)

This is the final article in April of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on April 25, 1909, and is a continuation of the previous article on Southern recipes. I particularly like the mention of how peacocks were raised more to be eaten than for decoration!

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

Some Old Southern Dishes (continued)

I SPOKE last week of the prominence given to pork—fresh and corned and smoked—by the Southern cooks of ye olden time. Next to this staple stood poultry of all kinds. The reason for the extensive use of these two kinds of flesh-food is obvious, when we recall that there were no country markets in the South in the middle of the last century. Nor could what we style vaguely “butcher’s meat” be brought outside of the cities. Consequently, it was esteemed a luxury.

I well recollect that on the occasion of my first dinner part in my married home, which was in a country village, I sent 80 miles to Richmond to get a nice roast of beef to set forth the feast well and honorably. Poultry was a surfeit. Turkeys were raised upon every plantation, as were ducks, geese, chicken and pigeons, not to mention the guinea fowls, now sold at delicacies by fashionable market men and at exorbitant prices. Peacocks were likewise reared for eating, more than for ornament. A young peacock was tender and luscious, and often served at table in summer when turkey and geese were out of fashion.

“Ram, Lamb, Sheep and Mutton.”

Chickens never “Went out” from Christmas to Christmas. They were fabulously cheap. The negroes raised them in and about their own quarters, and were allowed to peddle them and eggs in the neighborhood on Saturday nights. They brought them into the village at all seasons, and in all weathers, on that, their holiday night.

I bought as many as I wanted for 25 cents a piece; eggs for 10 cents a dozen, and full-grown turkeys at 75 cents for gobblers, 50 cents for hens.

Amid all this abundance we longed for the flesh-pots of the shambles—veal, lamb and beef. The contemptuous summary of boarding-school fare familiar to every boy and girl, “ram, lamb, sheep and mutton,” would have been meaningless to us. When a sheep, a lamb, a calf or beef was slaughtered upon a plantation, portions were freely distributed as neighborly gifts within an area of ten miles, as we, the donor’s descendants, would send choice fruit and flowers. Otherwise it would have been impossible to get rid of it before it spoiled in a climate where the contents of the icehouse seldom lasted later than the middle of July, and it was not unusual for the winter to be so “open” that the icehouses were filled with snow, or perhaps went empty for the year.

The Oily Possum.

I digress slightly at this point to enter a housewifely protest, upon the authority of one who was born and brought up in the old South, against the prevalent belief, now raging into an absurd fad, that “possum” was ever a favorite dish with the whites of a former generation. In my own experience it appeared but once upon any table at which the “white folks” sat down to eat. That was when I, a petted child of ten, strolled into the kitchen in quest of chance tidbits, espied a possum cooked for the servants’ dinner and begged what I called “a ham” of the unctuous animal for myself. This I bore in triumph to the dining room upon a china dish from my doll’s tea set, and placed by my plate. The shout of derision from brothers and sisters and the fine disdain of my mother’s face fixed the scene in my memory. To this day I feel the mental and physical nausea that filled my small being as my father said quietly: “If you are going to eat that, my child, you must take it out upon the back porch.”

Where the dogs were fed! I eyed the greasy, rank, steaming and streaming morsel with loathing appreciation of the fact that it was part of an unclean beast. Nothing I ever heard or saw in Southern homes tended to alter the impression. The creature was no more the white man’s food than a muskrat would have been. The negroes caught and caged them for their private delectation, fattening them upon offal, such as the entrails of poultry, which the possum devoured by night. The flesh was pulpy, oily and redolent of the odor peculiar to the nocturnal prowler when alive. That I should live to see the day when it would bear a distinguished part in civic banquets held in honor of the chief magistrate-elect would have been an impossible imagination.

It is a curious characteristic of the lower classes in every country that they especially gloat upon fats and sweets. With the “colored people” of those bygone days (we were never allowed to call them “negroes”), the taste went with a barbaric love of bright colors and highly emotional religion. I do not pretend to explain the peculiarity. I state it as a fact and an idiosyncrasy in dismissing the unsavory “possum.”

Fried Chicken.

Fried chicken stook high and constantly upon the Southern housemother’s bill-of-fare.

Cut a pound of fat salt pork into small piece and fry until the grease is extracted, but not until to browns. Strain out the pork and set the frying pan with the fat in it on the fire. Have ready a young “broiler” which has been soaked for half an hour in salted water, then dried between two towels, seasoned with pepper and dredged with flour. Fry these pieces of chicken in the hot fat until brown on both sides. Turn twice. Take up the chicken, rain free of fat and set aside to keep hot in a covered dish over hot water. Pour into the gravy left in the frying pan a cup of rich milk (half cream, if you can get it ) into which you have stirred a pinch of baking soda; as it heats, stir in a tablespoonful of butter roiled in one of flour; cook to thickening, stirring all the time, add a tablespoonful of minced parsley, cook for one minute longer and pour over the dished chicken.

This is the genuine ancient and honorable recipe for “Virginia Fried Chicken with Cream Gravy,” popular upon hotel and restaurant menus as “Maryland Fried Chicken,” a palpable misnomer. The dish is delicious under either name.

The cream gravy is sometimes omitted and the chicken, prepared as above directed, is served up dry, with bunches of parsley dropped upon it and garnished with slices of fried bacon.

Chicken Batter Pudding.

Cut up a fat fowl as for fricassee, severing every joint; season well with salt and pepper and a tablespoonful of butter for each chicken, adding a teaspoonful of onion juice when the fowl is half done. Stew very slowly in just enough water to keep them from scorching before the juices of the fowl begin to make their own gravy. When tender, strain off the gravy and keep it hot.

Lay the pieces of chicken in a deep bakedish, arranging neatly in layers; thicken the gravy with browned flour and minced parsley and pour over the chicken.

Have the batter ready, but do not make it too long before the chicken is in the dish. Sift a pint of flour with a teaspoonful of cream of tartar, half as much soda and a saltspoonful of salt. Beat two eggs very light, yolks and whites together, stir into a large coffee cupful of milk, add two tablespoonfuls of melted butter; make a hole in the middle of the sifted flour and mix quickly to a rather stiff batter.

Pour this upon the hot chicken and gravy, and make in a steady, yet brisk, oven. The batter fills the interstices of the meat and absorbs the gravy in cooking.

If you have plenty of gravy, add to what is left the minced liver of the fowl, a dash of onion juice and chopped parsley, and send around with the pudding in a boat.

The left-over of fricasseed chicken may be utilized in this way, and most satisfactorily to the eaters thereof. I often do this, filling up the dish, with stewed fresh mushrooms, which I have never before known to be so plentiful and cheap as they are just now.

Smothered Chicken.

Split a pair of broilers—or tender fullgrown fowls—down the back, as for broiling. Lay them flat in the dripping pan, skin side up, and cover the pan with another of the same size, if you have not a covered roaster. (I hope you have!) Set in a hot oven, and at the end of five minutes baste with melted butter. Turn the chicken in half an hour, having basted them twice meanwhile with the butter. In ten minutes more they should be ready for the dredging. Sift heated flour over them on both sides, and wash once more with butter. Brown the flour. Test the joints with a fork, and if they are tender and no red juice flows out, take them up. Keep hot in a heated dish set over boiling water; thicken the gravy in the pan with browned flour, adding boiling water if there is not enough liquid; boil up once and pour into a gravy boat.

If the chickens be very large, gash each joint before putting down to cook. The “smothering” consists in keeping the fowls closely covered while in the oven, and imparts a pleasant flavor to the meat, besides retaining all the juices far better than in broiling.

Barbequed Chicken.

Broil the chickens in the usual way, and when they are dished pour over them this sauce:

Met two tablespoonfuls of butter in a saucepan, add the same quantity of vinegar, a teaspoonful of made mustard, a teaspoonful of sugar, a saltspoonful of salt and half as much pepper. Heat to a boil, mixing with a very little hot water should the ingredients not blend well, and pour over the chickens. Cover and leave over boiling water for five minutes before serving.

A most appetizing dish, and particularly welcome in the spring.

Barbecued “Old Hare.”

We call them “Rabbits” in the Northern and Middle States, in Virginia they were “old hares,” from their birth to their appearance upon the breakfast table as “barbecued.” They were usually steamed tender, then broiled and treated just as I have described the process of barbequing chicken. Barbequed ham was also in frequent request as a breakfast dish.

Transparent Pudding.

We called it a “pudding.” In reality it was a pie, being invariably baked in an open crust of fine pastry. It was often baked in small pastry shells. Then it was “transparent puddings.” It—or they—were ever delicious and were reckoned by unhappy dyspeptics as indigestible. Popular they were, and they will always be.

Cream half a pound of butter light, beat into the creamy mixture the yolks of six eggs, the juice of a lemon (strained), the grated rind of a lemon, a grated nutmeg and half a glass of good French brandy. Beat for three minutes—hard! and whip in the whites of six eggs.

Sometimes we reserved the whites of three eggs in the general mixing, and when the pies (or puddings) were “Set” in the baking, spread the meringue of the whipped whites, beaten up with three tablespoonfuls of powdered sugar and a little lemon juice, over the hot pies while in the oven. Then they were shut up again in the oven to brown the meringue slightly.

The pastry shells in which the transparent mixture was baked were the best the old-fashioned housemother could make. The puddings were eaten cold, by which time the puff-paste was almost translucent.

Yet the martyrs to a love of “good eating” were fewer then than now! Dyspeptics were few and far between, and the form of the unpleasant visitation diagnosed by twentieth century doctors as “nervous dyspepsia” was utterly unknown.

Marion Harland

Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

Some Old Southern Dishes

This is the third article in April of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on April 18, 1909, and is an article on Southern cooking, specifically cooking the hog.

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

Some Old Southern Dishes

I HAVE heard that you are a Virginian by birth. So was my grandmother, who used to entertain us by the hour with tales of the ‘way people lived then,’ and especially what royal ‘tables they set.’ That was her phrased. ‘He sets a good table,’ was her idea of hospitality, and ‘She does not set a good table,’ her way of condemning a poor housekeeper. I learned from her to hold a high opinion of the old school of housewives. Their families must have fared sumptuously every day, if half of what she said was true. If we have poultry once a week I consider that John and the boys have no right to complain of their table fare. Grandmother talked of mountains of fried chicken every other day, and the turkey that graced the foot of the table as regularly as Sunday came around, as long as the bird of plenty was in season, as matters of course.

“Her tales made our mouths water. Now, won’t you give up one of the days devoted to your cozy chats in the Exchange page to descriptions of some of the dishes we have heard so much of that we are disposed to look down upon our daily menus as less than mediocre? Did the tables groan literally, as well as figuratively, under the loads of good things, or does distance magnify, while it lends enchantment to the dear old lady’s views.”

“Miriam S.D. (Utica, N.Y.)”

As to the groan of the stout mahogany under which our forefather stretched their legs with great content, we must bear in mind that the said tables were spread before the introduction of what one of the markers of the big fortunes that swell the tax bills of our land called in my hearing the other day, “a dinnay ah lah Roose.” We set fewer dishes upon the board with each course as we advance in the minor refinements of civilization. Our grandmothers held that a table was ill-furnished that did not have a roast or boiled joint, or round, or fowl at each end, and a double line of side dishes making close connections with these. Down the center of the cloth were ranged pickles, jellies and relishes, meeting about the tall silver caster in the middle of the table. There was no room for flowers and mere decorations.

Abundant Sweets.

I recall, as an illustration if this prodigality, and what we would ban as unseemly and deappetizing crowding of dishes, that I had the curiosity, as a girl of 14, who had been trained to keep silence while her elders talked, to count the dishes brought in for dessert after the load of meats and vegetables was removed to make way for the next course. There were 20 kinds of sweets, including two varieties of ice cream, three pies, two puddings and two kinds of jelly. Preserves, cakes, great and small, and fruits made up the count. This was at a quiet dinner party at which two families from adjoining plantations, and nobody else, were present.

In your grandmother’s list of Southern dishes I assume that ham and other parts of the inevitable pig had a conspicuous place. Large herds of these were raised on every plantation, numbering hundreds to each owner. Yet they were insufficient to supply the demand in town and country. Immense droves were brought into the States of Maryland and Virginia from Kentucky and Ohio and slaughtered yearly to fill smokehouses and meat cellars. Therefore, in my enumeration of what went to make up the “good living” eulogized by your venerable and truthful relative, bacon and its congeners must take the lead. No dinner was round and perfect whole that did not have a boiled or baked ham or shoulder at the top or bottom of the board.

Steamed Ham.

Soak in cold water for 12 hours after it has been well washed with warm water and a stuff brush. Then steam over boiling water for at least 25 minutes to the pound, keeping the water at a fierce boil all the time.

Skin when cold and dab with dots of black pepper.

Baked and Glazed Ham.

Scrub hard to get off all the rusty and smoke-dried crust. Then soak for 12 hours. Change the water for lukewarm and soak all day in this changing four times for warmer water. The last water should be hot enough to soften the skin, allowing you to pull it off carefully, not to tear it. Trim off the rusty, ragged portions on the underside of the skinned ham; lay it, thus prepared, in a dish and wash with a cloth dipped in a mixture of a half a cup of vinegar, a glass of sherry or Madeira, a teaspoonful of made mustard, a tablespoonful of brown sugar, stirred together. Repeat the washing hourly all day; cover the ham to keep in the flavor of the sauce and leave it thus all night. Next day wash hourly four times. Finally, lay the ham in a dripping pan, pour a cupful of hot water about it to prevent burning, and cover while it bakes slowly. Add to a fresh supply of the mixture I have indicated a cupful of boiling water, and get this where it will keep hot, basting freely with it (every 10 minutes) until the liquor flows from the ham into the dripping pan. Then haste with that.

Bake 25 minutes to the pound after the ham begins to exude juices. When a flesh fork pierces readily to the bone it is done. Remove to a large dish and cover with a paste half an inch thick made of cracker crumbs, milk and melted butter, with a beaten egg worked in at the last to bind the paste. Set in the oven to brown.

To make a sauce for this “royal” dish, strain and skim the gravy, add a glass of wine, a tablespoonful of catsup, the juice of a lemon and a dash of sugar. Boil up and send to the table in a boat.

The baked ham was eaten hot by our ancestors, carved in thin slices always. A “hunk” of bacon was a solecism. It was especially delicious when cold. Then the slices were of wafer-like thinness, curling like pink and white shavings over the carver.

Other by-products of the invaluable porker known to our forebears and lost to the denizens of northern climes, were chine and sparerib. They were as unlike the bony sections vended under those names in New Pork, Chicago and Philadelphia as a tender fillet of beef to a firstly shinbone.

A New York butcher to whom I made this plaint let me into part of the secret of the unlikeness:

“You see, ma’am, we in this part of the world aim to get all the meat off the sparerib and backbone, and don’t care what becomes of the rest. In Virginia they leave all the meat that can be left, without skimping some other piece—bacon sides, and the like.”

Another reason for the difference in the quality of the tidbits, and indeed, in the flavor of the “whole hog,” is that the Southern breed is fed upon corn in winter, and mast-fed all summer and autumn long. Moreover, to slaughter and put upon the market an animal that has passed the bloom of early maturity would be a barbarity to the eating public. A stringy, tough ham would be scorned by a beggar.

After this manner, then, did your granddame and mine prepare this choice viand for the delectation of those for whom they catered.

Roast Chine.

Score the skin on the ridge heavily. Put the chine down in the dripping pan with a half cup of hot water to keep it from sticking to the bottom. Cover with thick greased paper for the first half hour to retain the juices. Remove the paper at the end of that time and dredge the chine with flour. As soon as the grease shows through the flour, baste well with butter, and every ten minutes afterward plentifully with its own gravy. Season with salt and pepper and cook 20 minutes to the pound. Just before taking it up strew thickly with fine breadcrumbs, seasoned with powdered sage, pepper, salt and a small onion minced very fine. Cook five minutes after this crust goes on, basting it with butter. Dish the chine and keep hot while you skim the gravy of all the fat that will come off, putting it back over the fire, adding a half cupful of hot water, the juice of a lemon and enough browned flour to thicken the gravy. Boil up once, strain and pour over the mat. Serve tomato catsup with it.

This dish is nice when hot, and yet better when it is cold. My mother’s recipe from which the foregoing recipe is abridged, asserts that “the meat next the ribs is delicious when scraped off and made into sandwiches or laid upon buttered toast.”

To which I enjoin a fervid assent in memory of school day luncheons and picnics.

Roast Sparerib.

It is cooked just as chine is prepared for eating, only there is no dorsal strip of skin to be scored. It is as good hot as when cold, and there was seldom enough left for a left-over.

Time and space would fail me were I to attempt to speak of sausage, the savoriness of which one never knows in this degenerate day—real young pork sausage, with not an ambiguous ingredient in it; or of roast pig! Charles Lamb has been there before me. Or of pork steaks, chops and tenderloins; of pork potpie, as dear to every Englishman’s hear as the reminiscence is to the hoary-haired Virginian. They treat pork in Great Britain as our ancestors handled it, and value it accordingly.

Next week we shall talk of Southern poultry and sweets as our grandmothers cooked and our grandfathers ate them.

Marion Harland

Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange