The Care of the Cellar

This is the third article in July of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on June 18, 1909, and is an article on why keeping the cellar clean is important.

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

The Care of the Cellar

FORTY years ago, chancing to stop at a New Jersey farmhouse in the course of a dive through the country early in the spring, my senses were assailed at our entrance into the hall by a peculiar and displeasing combination of evil smells and dankness.

I use “sense” in the plural advisedly. For the villainous combination aforesaid offended taste and smell and struck to the bones in an indescribable chill. I analyzed it during the half hour that sufficed for repairing the broken harness that had obligated us to halt by the way. I detected onions, I was sure of cabbage and turnips, and I suspected bets and potatoes. Mingling with these was the subterranean odor which lingers in disused wells and is never absent from unaired excavations—“of the earth, earthy.”

Above vs. Below.

We did not prate much of germs 40 years back, or my aversion to the celary smell would have been dashed by fear. As it was, I brought away from the homestead that had been in one family over 100 years an impression of uncleanliness and slovenly housewifery. Yet the upper part of the infected dwelling was as neat as hands could make it, and I learned subsequently that the mistress thereof had the name of being the most notable manager in the region.

“Almost too fussy and particular!” affirmed my informant. “You might live in her house for a month at midsummer and never see a fly indoors.”

“Yet she lived, day and night, with that smell!” I commented inly.

It was 10 years later in my life, and I was, by virtue of the added decade, a shade less uncharitable in judgment, when I unlocked the front door of the cozy cottage we had built a year before in the hill-country, beside the prettiest little lake in the State, and met a breath from the airless interior that confounded me. There was no furnace in the old-time homestead we had visited, and the more I thought of the “combination” the more the wonder grew how it had found its way to the upper floor. There was a furnace, with tell-tale registers, in our summer cottage, and open fireplaces in the living rooms. It was easy to decide how that noisome breath crept through the house. The question was how the smell came to be there at all.

Before the house was closed for the winter the cellar had been cleaned, swept free of dust and garnished with a coat of whitewash. The vegetable bins from which supplies were shipped to us weekly were duly overhauled by the faithful gardener and the decayed esculents thrown away. Yet there was the identical odor I had analyzed disgustfully that spring day. Onions and turnips entered into it, but the rankest and most offensive element was the strong earthiness of sprouting potatoes.

A Week of Airing.

It required a week of diligent airing and purging of the premises to rid my olfactories and throat of the rank effluvia. Before the month was out we had a root-cellar dug at a safe distance from the dwelling and the polluted bins removed thither. Since then no vegetables are stored in the cellar over which we are to live by day and sleep by night.

An underground room is never fit for human beings. In the teeth of the fact that thousands of our fellow-being do live below the ground level of our cities, no student of sanitary conditions pretends to dispute that dogma. We may drive currents of pure air through the vaults all day long; the floors and walls may be of waterproof cement, “dry as a bone,” according to the architect and landlord. Shut up the place for 24 hours and the dank odors are there, and the chill and the peril to lungs and blood and bones. In a “Talk Upon Apartment Life” we held some weeks ago, I spoke of the “germ belt,” or stratum of the exhalations of the soil in the most carefully constructed cellars. The upper floors are drier for having it. Hence, no well-built house is without the excavation. If you doubt what has been said here of humidity and chill, leave a linen sheet or garment shut up in the basement for a month, or a stack of papers, and report upon their condition at the end of the time.

We may not if we would, and we would not if we could, abolish our cellar. The trend of what I have tried not to make a philippic is to inculcate the necessity of managing them to the best advantage.

Never keep green vegetables and fruits in the basement that is below the street level and underlies a residence of human creatures.

“Sweating” and decay are inevitable. As inevitable is the subtle throng, creeping into the stories above, of gases engendered by dampness and rot. Your coal bin may be there, and whatever of rubbish or disused properties that will not be injured by humidity. Crockery, glassware and even barrels of fine china are safe in the orderly recesses. Trunks and clothing, pictures and books—never! I wish you could have seen a packing-case of clothing and fine linen that was brought upstairs in a fine, modern apartment house in a big city last year after six months’ storage in the cellar warranted to be “perfectly dry.” Mildew and mud were over every article, and the metal clamps of the trunk were red with rust.

The country cellar does not claim the modern improvements which would win us to trust the city basement. It is, usually, a hole in the ground, lined with stone masonry or faced with cement. The country householder knows its uses. He gives, as a rule, little thought to its probably abuses. When it gets too full of “truck and stuff” he has a general cleaning-up and sorting. The place is scraped clear of dirt and the walls are whitewashed. This done, his conscience is easy for six months to come so far as the hole in the ground is concerned. When a snake creeps in at the window and lives a contented life in the far corners until mistress or maid chances to espy him and goes into hysterics, the beast is hunted and killed, and the rubbish left is a lair for “rats and mice and such small deer” until the next periodical clearance day.

Build we never so wisely, it is not always practicable to have a cellar that will be dry the year round. But it is possible, and it should be obligatory upon the owners, to see that it is clean. The walls should be whitewashed twice a year, the windows should be protected from unclean beasts and creeping things by wire netting and stand open all the time except in rainy weather. The free circulation of fresh, living air makes the dwelling overhead sweet and wholesome.

There is no dust in our cellar unless when the coal is put in. And a word on that point comes in partly here. Coal dust flies upward through register and window to blacken furniture and floors above stairs. See to it that the man who brings the load to your cellar window sprinkles the coal from a watering pot before he begins shoveling it into the chute. It will save chagrin and dusting in dining room and parlor. Have high bins for the fuel, from which it will not escape all over the floor; likewise a wide plank on the side opening into the cellar.

If you keep glasses of pickles and and preserves down here, have constructed an inner room for them, well ventilated, but secluded from the coal bins and the lighter part of the cellar. Arrange the pickles and preserves upon swing shelves away from the dampness of the floor and the inroads of the “small deer” aforenamed.

Order, cleanliness and as much dryness as is compatible with the conditions I have enumerated as prejudicial to human health are the essentials to the right care of the cellar.

Marion Harland

Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

Fruit for All the Year ‘round

This is the second article in July of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on July 11, 1909, and is an article on the benefits of fruit which can be eaten all throughout the year. Marion Harland spends quite a bit of time talking about the apple and the pineapple.

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

Fruit for All the Year ‘round

DIETITIANS of every school, whether it be vegetarian or flesh-eating, agree in banishing rich pastries and hot puddings from the family bills of fare during the dog-days. A most elastic term that in our country! If calendar and zodiac are to be believed, the malign region of Sirius is limited to July. Then, we are told, the sun has most power and the air least vitality. In real life, as we perspiring natives of the so-called temperate zone know summer existence, sultry noons and suffocating midnights have all weeks for their own and regulate the thermometer at their will from the middle of May to the middle of September. The longest day in the year, June 21, is oftenest the hottest of the summer.

By the middle of May we begin to talk of lighter underwear and cold dishes. The bon vivant’s pat order at hotel and restaurant of “a hot bid and a cold bottle” is modified to exclude caloric in the game. Steaming roasts are tabooed with potpie and pork. Beginning with strawberries, ripened, by courtesy, in Florida, we run the gamut of fruits desserts through May, June, July, August and September, winding up as a grand flourish with the purpling wine skies of the October harvest moon.

Housemother and cook rejoice in the lightened cares and work brought when the relief is most opportune. A sapient youth once remarked to me how “lucky it is, don’t you know, that dish are in season in Lent.” The caterer and the cook regard as a special mercy the conjunction of hot weather and plenty of fruit.

The truth being that the human race would be healthier and longer-lived if we served desserts that require no cooking all the year through. No, dear reader! you would regard the flesh-pot as an essential to the diet of creatures who are stamped by nature as both carnivorous and graminivorous, I am not hammering in the dogma of raw foods! I but plead for moderation in all things, and that we admit to our daily fare things that draw nutriment and sweetness directly from the bosom of Mother Earth.

Their Especial Use.

Currants, berries, rhubarb, peaches, apples and pears, melons and grapes bring to jaded appetites and bile-laden systems each its own message. It is so plain that they were intended for our good that the pastry-loving man, though a fool, may not err in interpreting the lesson. A too-common blunder is in overlooking the benefits we might get from carrying the habit learned and practiced when the mercury is up to blood heat on into the winter solstice. For bile gathers as surely if more slowly then, and the digestive organs are sluggish to congestion.

True, we need carbon in cold weather, and meat and oils engender carbon. Hence the Eskimo’s and Laplander’s dietary of train oil and seal blubber. Does it occur to the advocate of heat-making foods that neither Eskimo nor Laplander is a model of athletic comeliness?

Beginning with the earliest spring berries, we note their beautiful adaptation to the condition of the winter-taxed body. The acids of berry and of cheery act directly upon the blood and biliary secretions. I have heard young women congratulate themselves upon the effect of strawberries, raspberries and cherries eaten in abundance, upon the complexion. Not one in a hundred stops to trace the clearing and coloring of the sensitive cuticle to the inward cause of the change. Nor are our girls singular in the failure to look below the surface of things everybody is supposed to know.

Peaches are yet more catholic in principle and benignant in action. They may be indexed as a capital all-around fruit. They correct constipation, yet have a decided tendency to brace the intestines. Prussic acid, in minute quantities, is secreted in the fragrant cells of the luscious peach, and as a heat, not a destroying principle.

“Fruits”—to quote from other published deliverances of mine upon this matter—“contain predigested food elements which do not clog the system and which are valuable in sustaining strength. Fruit acids cleanse the stomach and bowels, and at the same time are nutritive elements of diet. They are foods and medicines, or rather foods which avert the necessity of medicine.”

The specific effect of the fruit which precedes thee heavier business of the first meal of the day is the “cleansing” spoken of in the preceding paragraph. After the sleep of the night and the inaction of the digestive organs a sort of mucous film forms upon the coat of the stomach, indisposing it to do its proper work. The gentle acids remove this and awaken the organ to a sense of what is expected of it. In passing, I may say that this preliminary operation removes the stigma from the cereal succeeding the acid. One writer upon gastronomy asserts in round terms that he would “as soon cover the coat of his stomach with a viscid poultice as compel it to take care of a bowl of oatmeal or hominy early in the morning.”

Oranges have an advantage above the great majority of other fruits of being obtainable all the year. They are anti-bilions. So are lemons. The orange is agreeable to the taste and has nutritious qualities not shared by the more tart cousin.

Right Royal.

Of the king of fruits—the apple—I have written so often and at such length that I approach the subject warily. There is not a month of the 12 in which it is not at least partially in season. It is scarce in late August and early September, unless one counts as one of the royal lines the thin-blooded faintly acid and altogether unworthy specimens yclept “summer apples.” Certain varieties are acerb to a proverb, others are as insipid as cotton wool, and as indigestible.

But the apple proper, tender of flesh yet firm to the touch, rich in coloring and fragrant as Araby the blest, cannot be over-praised.

“Eat an apple daily, and live forever!” says an old proverb. And an English pundit who has made fruit values a life-long study:

“The apple is rich in phosphoric acid. This last contains the least amount of earth-salts, and for that reason is probably the nearest approach to the Elixir of Life known to the scientific world.”

The pineapple is getting its innings in the twentieth century. “One of the best of fruits,” declares one standard encyclopedia.

An eminent botanist goes a step further:

“The pineapple is universally acknowledged to be one of the most delicious fruits in existence.”

The exquisite flavor and the refreshing properties of the juice have long entitled it to a more than respectable rank as a dessert fruit. Within the last dozen years medical science has raised it to the dignity of an acknowledged curative and digestive agent. For long there was a popular impression that it is indigestible to tender stomachs and unfit for young children. The prejudice was not groundless so far as the average pineapple of commerce is concerned. It is plucked before it is ripe, packed before it has “sweated” off the rind moisture and transported to market a thousand and more miles away. What marvel if the fiber is though as hickory splints and the juices tart to acridity?

With the practical annihilation of long distances by the miracles of rapid transit that take our breath away, literally and figuratively, the real pineapple is brought to our knowledge. Stripped of the skin and rid of the core, both of which have an astringency that bites the tongue and scalds the throat, it fully justifies the definition of the cyclopedist. The juice is prescribed by our ablest physicians as a remedial agent in cases of diphtheria and other forms of sore throat. It has been known to relieve croup when medicines have failed. Strangest of all, it is recommended, and with reason, for dyspepsia. The expressed juice, administered by the wineglassful, is a tonic and a corrective of heartburn and general weakness of the alimentary organs.

An enthusiastic “fruitarian” assures us that, “in addition to nutritive properties hardly inferior to those of lean beef, the juice is a wonderful digester and the basis of an extract of marvelous efficacy in reliving stubborn cases of dyspepsia.”

Time was and within the memory of the reader of middle age, when olives, English walnuts and “Malaga” grapes, figs, boxed raisins and pineapples were delicacies imported from beyond seas for rich men’s tables. California and Hawaii have brought them all within the reach of households of moderate means. Nobody wants Seville and Sicilian oranges who has known the luxury of the Florida fruit. Ripe olives from California have a tender richness the orchards of Italy never provide for us. And the Hawaiian pineapple yield promises to drive out of the market the tough-fibered, comparatively sour fruit we have, up to now, known under that name. Let us rejoice and be exceedingly glad that the “most delicious of fruits” is decreasing in cost and increasing in goodness, while meat and cereals are on the steady (and sinful) rise.

If I linger on this section of our subject it is because I have but lately learned the excellence and comparative cheapness of this variety of what we may proudly claim as a native fruit. It has the signal advantage of suffering less from cooking and canning than a majority of fruits. Apples, peaches, pears and berries undergo a chemical, and not a pleasant, change of taste and texture when subjected to heat. The home variety of pineapple we have referred to retains delicacy of tissues and exquisite aroma when canned.

This matter of fruit desserts that we may have all the year round is fraught with such lively interest to me personally that I grow garrulous. It is not practicable in the compass of one article to do even partial justice to the immense variety of native products which justify the declaration of a distinguished editor and lecturer that “the finest fruit market in the world is to be found in New York city.” And this upon the morrow of his return from a journey around the globe and visits to most of the principal cities of the world.

Grapes deserve more room than our bounds will allow today.

“I write it down as an indubitable fact that it is a physical impossibility for a healthy man or woman to eat enough ripe grapes to hurt him or her,” is a familiar quotation from writings of a renowned authority upon health and diet.

He said it over 50 years ago. In that time I have kept a sharp lookout upon the grape market and grape consumers, and I believe he spoke the truth in soberness, if not in love for his race.

To borrow again from my own library. “The large amount of water, sugar, salts and organic acids they contain purifies the blood and acts favorably upon the secretions of the body.”

And a final and significant hint to the women of all ages, especially to the young:

“Fruit eaten before breakfast and at meals tends to reduce the redness of the nose and otherwise improves the complexion.”

N.B. and P.S.—Pastries and hot doughs have a tendency to thicken the blood and muddy the skin. This is emphatically true in hot weather.

Marion Harland

Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

Raw Foods: A Nut For Our Housemothers to Crack

This is the first article in July of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on July 4, 1909, and is an article on the benefits of raw foods like nuts.

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

Raw Foods: A Nut For Our Housemothers to Crack

I HAD written out the caption of another paper for this week’s discussion when the mail was brought in. A thick letter, bearing a California postmark, dropped from the bag when it was opened. After reading all the shorter epistles, as is my wont, I “tackled” the bulky missive and did not lay it down until the last word was read. Then I turned back to the first page and went over it a second time.

It is well written, and with honesty so evident and earnestness so unfeigned that I cannot cavil at the sentiments therein expressed. A long half hour of musing—a veritable brown study—resulted in the determination to substitute the California woman’s dissertation upon raw foods for the talk I had planned.

Before yielding the floor to her, let me remark that here is no new theory, although the application of it to this particular matter, the reduction of obesity, may be novel. Ten years and more ago the papers teemed with arguments for and against raw foods as the exclusive diet of the human species. We received samples of sun-baked bread and flour ground from desiccated vegetables, and circulars setting forth the superiority of dried fruits and nut pastes to cooked desserts. We were invited to lectures illustrated by the exhibition of robust boys, and men with sinews of steel, who had been fed from the cradle upon raw carrots, potatoes and turnips and who could not abide the thought of spoiling the kindly foods of the earth by killing the natural juices with fire, and thus changing the chemical properties designed by nature for the sustenance and upbuilding of her favorite child—man as the Creator meant him to be.

An Open Question.

As a rule of wide application, we have remained unconverted. The kitchen range, condemned by the teachers of the new school—which they tell us is the old—as an altar where-upon reek unholf sacrifices to the depraved tastes of an artificial civilization, burns steadily, and odors more fragrant than incense, to the senses of degenerate flesh-eaters, titillate our nostrils with the incoming and the outgoing of each day.

Thus stands the case I shall submit to our enlightened constituency—candid and broadminded as I have ever found it to be.

How much of practical truth is there in theory that uncooked foods are—or should be—the natural diet of the men, women and children of our age? Would the practice strenuously defended by the apostles of the school I have spoken of, banish disease and make athletes of our race? Or is the new school but one of the hundred fads that have their little day, and die, leaving gastronomic and culinary lore as they have been form the beginning of all the time we have known and read of?

I ask a free expression of opinion from our intelligent members. Can we live upon the provender that contents graminivorous animals? Are we sinning against our bodies and minds and controverting God’s designs in and for us?

A Peculiar Diet.

Now for our California letter, for which I bespeak a respectful perusal:

“I have read the appeal of ‘A Frightened Woman,’ and, having been at one time in the same trouble, I feel that I must tell her of my experience.”

“I am five feet three inches in height, and from 130 to 135 pounds in weight is as much as I could carry gracefully. So when I began to take on flesh, and kept up the habit, I was much annoyed, and when I reached 170 pounds I also was ‘frightened,’ and finally consulted our family physician. He said, ‘It’s nothing! You are taking on flesh and you should take more exercise.’”

“Now, I dislike to ‘take exercise,’ and, as the effect lasts only as long as the exercises are continued I didn’t try his prescription.”

“I was, likewise, very much troubled with rheumatism, and longed for help just as this correspondent from Columbus, O., wishes to get relief.”

“Just about this time some acquaintances from Pasadena called. They believe thoroughly in ‘raw foods,’ and live according to their belief. I had no faith whatever in the theory. They were enthusiastic about it and were confident that it would help me. I was glad enough, by that time, to try something.”

“The consequences were far beyond my highest expectations. In six weeks I lost 30 pounds, and that without taking a daily walk or any kind of exercise. And after I had arrived at normal weight I never lost another pound in a year. Besides this great benefit I was entirely cured of rheumatism.”

“It is now two years since I started with this system. I have not had a twinge of rheumatism, and our baby, who is nine months old, is the healthiest and best child I ever saw, while the older children suffered in infancy from poor digestion and other ailments resulting from malnutrition.”

“I shall be happy to confer with any one who wishes to know the particulars of the system, and who is willing to try it. One thing is sure; one doesn’t have to starve one’s self. I have found numbers of people who are so fond of ‘good things to eat’ that they won’t try anything which restricts them in that respect.”

“I send you an account of how I used the raw foods. I can’t say enough in praise of the results, but after being accustomed to eat cooked foods for a lifetime it takes ‘lots’ of determination to continue a long time in the new way.”

“The raw food method, as I took it, was to eat nothing that had been cooked—no meat, eggs, butter or milk—and to drink nothing but water, but plenty of that.”

“One meal a day is sufficient. In two or three days one gets used to this. About 4 P.M., or later, eat some fruit—as much or as little as you like. After this, some raw vegetables, with neither pepper, salt, sugar nor other helps to taste. I ate tomatoes, peas, lettuce, onions and cucumbers—one or more kinds, and as much or as little as I cared for—and always nuts. These were English walnuts and almonds, they being my favorites. They seem to supply all the fats I needed. Finally, I ate two teaspoonfuls of wheat, whole. One may grind it if one likes it better that way. I also took two spoonfuls of dried peas, ground, and sometimes I ate a spoonful of whole flaxseed.”

“All these must be eaten dry and, of course, very slowly, the wheat especially, as it is the foundation of the diet. After this meal one may easily go 24 hours and feel better for not eating more. In all of this food one should swallow only what is thoroughly dissolved in the mouth. The rest, fiber and skins, must be rejected, and never taken into the stomach.”

“Mrs. F.M.G. (Hollywood, Cal.).”

Lest some skeptical meat-eater may suspect me of palming off a burlesque upon a credulous audience, let me remind him that the address in a full of our enthusiastic vegetarian who finds one meal per diem all she requires to keep her well and strong and contented awaits the call of any one who would like to consult her further with regard to the extraordinary system she exploits. The practical and sensible housemother should look at all sides of the question (and of all questions) before discarding it in toto. And let us confess on some hot day in early summer that there are alluring features in a system which involves neither fire nor other preparation for feeding the body than the exertion of champing a handful of wheat and peas into a digestible paste, winding up the solitary meal of the 24 hours with a spoonful or two of nuts as a dessert. No heat in kitchen or dining room—in fact, no kitchen! And, to parody the blissful anticipation of the “old lady who lived where help wasn’t hired—“

Everything there will be quite to our wishes,
For where there’s no cooking there’ll be no washing of dishes.

Seriously, will our doctors and dietitians favor us with a professional verdict in the case? Were carnivorous teeth lacking in the dental outfit of the original human being? Are they one of the many “inventions” which the depraved descendants have “sought out?” Or a blunder in the making which the latter-day reformer is bent upon setting right?

How far may vegetarianism be carried with advantage to the race?

Marion Harland

Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

The Breakfast Table

This is the forth article in June of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on June 27, 1909, and is an article on the breakfast table. Specifically, Marion Harland talks about how breakfast is not normally anyone’s favourite meal but that needs changing! To help she outlines some rules to brighten up the table.

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

The Breakfast Table

IN all my long life I have heard not more than half a dozen persons say that they really enjoyed breakfast. The consensus of popular opinion is to the effect that the meal is a duty, not a pleasure, and that it is grudgingly performed. In France it is never a family function. Each member of the household, if he or she does not “mourn apart,” sulks in the solitude of the bed chamber over the compulsory task of disposing of rolls and coffee. “Only that and nothing more!” At noon, when they have become measurably reconciled to the fact of continued existence in a world that does not pay the expenses of running it, men and women meet about a civilized table for the “dejeuner a la fourchette,” which corresponds to our luncheon.

The English breakfast, never served before 9 or 10 o’clock, except in the hunting season, is a ponderous affair. Tea and coffee, boiled eggs, muffins, toast, and on the sideboard rounds and joints of cold meat, not to mention larded sweetbreads, deviled kidneys and “broiled bones,” await the robust appetite of family and guests. For, be it known, the English are not early risers as a rule. In America we growl at the laziness of the shopkeeper who does not open his doors and raise the window blinds by 7 o’clock on summer mornings, whereas when we cross the ocean we have to submit to the inconvenient custom of a 9 o’clock “opening” in town and country. It strikes the unsophisticated tourist as what Miss Ophelia, in
Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” calls “dreadfully shiftless.” Yet the British are not a shiftless nation.

The American breakfast is distinctively a national institution. It is served at what nine-tenths of the eaters would condemn as an ungodly hour; it is a heavy meal; it is a family meal, and in a shamefully large percentage of homes, the homes of Christian citizens, the least social and the most uncomfortable repast of the day.

Not a Pleasant Picture.

Gentlewomen and gentlemen of high and low degree confess, with never a touch of shame, that they “are not responsible beings until after breakfast.” Peter familias veils his somber face with the morning paper and the mother bids the children “be quiet!” for she has “a curl headache.” Even the babiest of the group is cross under the teasing of her biggest brother, and the others snap at one another as dogs snarl over their trenchers.

Do I exaggerate the evil? Let those whose experience has been more fortunate and whose observations have been made in sunnier weather arise to dispute the picture. In how many so-called happy homes is not “father’s breakfast grouch” a terror and a bywords? To how many tables does the mother bring a brow furrowed by the coming cares of the new day and a critical spirit totally unlike her tender, kindly self as her children know her for the rest of the 24 hours?

The oddest part of the exhibition is that nobody is humiliated by the recollection of his morning mood. The man who “wishes” his gentle wife “would mind her own business” when she ventures a timid query as to the morning news over which he is scowling, and tosses his carfare to his son with a savage, “You children are forever begging for money!” laughs at the recollection in his afternoon chat. “What else is to be expected of a fellow at breakfast? He is hardly an accountable creature.”

Much-Needed Grace.

We learn at our mother’s knees to pray, “Give us day by day our daily bread,” and we do well to carry the prayer in our hearts all our life long. Who of us asks in true humility and earnestness, “Give us this day our breakfast grace?”

I believe I have said that before somewhere, but let it stand! Heaven (and our families) know how sorely the petition is needed.

Yet reason and common sense would unite in declaring that the breakfast mood should be blithe and hopeful. Mind, nerves and muscle have been rested and refreshed by sleep. The freshness of the young day; the bath and toilet that have clad the body in fresh raiment; the anticipation of renewed opportunities for usefulness and of enjoyment opening to the imagination with the rising of the sun upon a rejuvenated earth, should combine to exalt the spirit and tone up the system.

I made up my mind fifty years and more ago that the influences of the early morning are distinctly depressing to the average human being. At the same time I made up my mind as strenuously that to yield to these is a sin and a disgrace to decent Christians. As a result the breakfast hour is cheerful in one household, at least in outward seeming. It is reckoned a personal duty that may not, be shirked to stimulate it when it does not come of itself. In time the effort brings the rich reward of the real grace. The “breakfast grace” comes for the asking.

Don’t grumble at the length of the sermon! If you knew how much more bubbles up to my lips and pleads for expression you would be grateful for my forbearance.

Now for the application! Make the breakfast table attractive to every sense. Let the silver be bright, the glass clear, the breakfast cloth spotless and the napkins clean. If you have flowers for but one meal per day, let them brighten the breakfast table about which the family is gathered after the night of darkness and helplessness. Make the whole array of equipage and eaters a visible expression of gratitude for the “blessings of the light.” I like the way the old hymnal puts that! One good man whose life was full of the best things the Father bestows upon His children—love, joy and peace—used always. In asking a blessing upon the first meal of the day, to thank God for “the rest of the night and the light and happiness of the new day which Thou hast made for us.” It was an inspiring thought, that of a new creation, and our very own.

A Few Set Rules.

I have talked once and again with the members of the Exchange of the hygienic value of the lighter breakfast now generally approved by our wisest dietitians above the heavy meal we copied from our English progenitors. In the weekly bills-of-family-fare that go with these very familiar chats with our housemothers I sketch the plan of the meal. In my own home the same line is pursued throughout the year. Fruit; a cereal, hot or cold, and varied from day to day, but always served with cream; eggs or fish, or a light meat, usually broiled bacon; bread and butter; invariably freshly made toast, brought in crisp and hot from the kitchen during the meal; tea, coffee and, for the younger eaters, digestible cocoa.

A dish of apples is on the table as long as apples are to be had, and most of us conclude the meal with one, or a section if the apple be large. If affords a pretext for lingering over the table when the rest of the breakfast has been cleared away. The morning paper is a regular visitor, but he who reads it during the meal must share the news with the family. May I say, furthermore, that in the other households that are the branches of this vine the same rules prevail, to the comfort of all concerned?

In contrast, I may hint at homes, otherwise worthy of the name, where not a word is spoken during the progress of breakfast, except what is connected with the business of the hour or half hour. There is no lingering over that gloomy altar of sacrifice to physical needs.

It is a cogent argument in support of the light breakfast—that excludes potatoes, steak, pork and chops, and for most of the week hot breads—that the American goes forth to his daily toil at an hour when the foreigner has not left his pillow. To set out upon the arduous round directly after swallowing a solid meal is highly prejudicial to health. Henry Ward Beecher changed the hour of the second service in his church from afternoon to evening because everybody has an early dinner on Sunday. And he “would not preach to roast beef and plum pudding.” The brain worker appreciates the force of the objection. The average American is a brain worker, let his calling be what it may.

Whatever you eat at the meal that breaks your fast after hours or rest for the hard-worked stomach, eat it slowly. I verily believe that the alarming increase in the number of deaths by apoplexy and the more marked suburban popular are largely the direct consequence of the “bolt-and-jump” habit inseparable from the commuter’s daily practice. Better eat ten mouthfuls slowly, reducing each to the digestible paste the alimentary organs demand, than choke or stoke down a hundred with nerves and muscles strained and ears alert for “the train.”

Forego that last delicious doze and eat your breakfast deliberately. It is sound policy in the long run, which will be the longer for your obedience to this law.

Marion Harland

Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

Apartment Home Life

This is the third article in June of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on June 20, 1909, and is an article on renting apartments and how to set up home in one.

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

Apartment Home Life

“WE DO everything in sections nowadays,” said a merry woman yesterday. “We buy our pianos upon the instalment plan, commit the care of our lungs, stomachs and heads to as many different specialists, and live in slices of houses. And it is getting to be unfashionable to be whole-souled!”

We may demur at the final section of the speech, but we are not here to discuss it.

We are so used to the idea of the sliced house that we do not stay to recall how odd the system would have seemed to us forty years back. We borrowed apartment life from the French, and the marvel is not that it is so general now all over the Northern and Middle States, but that we were so slow in adopting it. The broad strain of English blood in us may have had something to do with our reluctance to resign our lawns, our shrubbery and—last and most dear to the home-loving soul—our very own front doors. A woman who had dwelt in foreign tents for tent years declared to me her intention of taking over her front door and knocker if she ever went abroad again.

“Just to keep up the pleasant fiction that I am a householder.”

The Outside Viewpoint.

Time was, and not so very long ago, either, when to live in a slice of a house implied inability to take a whole dwelling for occupation of one’s self and family. Residents of such were of the class that talked of “the folks downstairs.” In glancing from my desk toward the nearest window I see darkly and voluminously outlined against the sky the steel framework of an apartment house that fills an entire block. It is to be the largest building of its kind in America, we are told. In addition to the stereotyped “modern conveniences” there will be a garage in the rear of the spacious court that opens to the sky ten stories above the street level, and ten elevators in the building. Apartments of fair size will rent for $5000 per year “and upward.”

Coming down in the scale of prices (I do not say in the social scale), we find a more comfortable level in the hosts of family apartments fitted up comfortably, often with modest elegance, with all the requisites for the residence of people of moderate means and simple tastes. They line our streets in what newspapers name “the residential portions” of our towns. They used to look like dolls’ quarters to us when we got into them. A hall that has degrees of narrowness, and never of width; ranged upon the only side of this that belong to John and Mary, two, maybe three, bedrooms, a kitchen and a bathroom sometimes so near the front door that visitors have a way of blundering into it at their exit under the impression that it is “the way out.” At the end of the more-or-less narrow hall lie the state apartments of the establishment in the guise of one or more sitting-rooms. One ambitious woman clings to the old nomenclature of “drawing-room” and we try to smile in the attempt to fit the title to the ten-by-ten parlor. If there are two of them, the agent is careful to represent that one may be counted in as a bedchamber if one more be required for the growing household. A small dining-room completes the tale of rooms.

From the Inside.

If I have seemed to jest at the strait confines and makeshifts of the lodgings hired for so much per month (with no deduction if rented by the year) in which John, Mary and one, or two, or mayhap four children must live, day and night, in the great Babel where John gets a living for them, it is all in seeming. For hundred of thousands of respectable, refined families live in this manner from year’s end to year’s end, and make homes of the narrow quarters.

There are sundry bright sides to the picture, dun-colored though it may look to the dweller in his spacious farmstead and pitifully mean to the semi-millionaire who could afford to rent (or buy) one of the $5000-a-year “slices,” but prefers a brownstone-front private residence upon a “good” street.

To begin with, the drudgery of American housekeeping is reduced to a minimum in a well-arranged flat. With no stairs to keep clean, no furnace fire to keep up, no sidewalk to sweep and no steps to climb when one is fairly at home, the mother soon appreciates a sensible lessening of the burden bound upon her body and mind. The rooms are small, bur easier to keep clean on that account. There is neither a cellar nor attic. There is, therefore, less danger of rubbish heaps to be disposed of spring and fall. If she be wise in her generation, Mary is not slow in discovering the French-woman’s sound economy of purchasing provision in small quantities. I know this tenet is at variance with the United States’ preconceived idea that wholesale purchasing is a saving in the long run. Applies and potatoes are cheaper by one-third when laid in by the barrel. If the cellar be dry, and if the farmer or the commuter’s wife has time to spare for a weekly overhauling and sorting of the specked, the decayed and the sound, the principle holds good. All the same, fruits and flour, butter and beef are used more freely if there is a big supply on hand than when calculation must be made daily of the stock in refrigerator and cupboard. And there is next to no waste in smaller quantities.

The refrigerator is built into the wall or hall or of kitchen in a flat. See to it that it aired into continual sweetness. If salad, lettuce, cress or endive be put into the refrigerator, wrap it in a linen or cotton cloth to keep it fresh and prevent the flavor from affecting milk or butter. Use the like precaution with regard to meats and fruit. Never put away strongly flavored provisions of any kind in the icebox unless in closed cases.

Look to the quantity of closet room before you rent the apartment. So much of family comfort depends upon the condition that she is short-sighted who does not make a resolute stand here. Wardrobe closets in the chambers, china presses in dining-room and kitchen, with roomy not closets in the latter, go far toward making up for the cellar and garret. There is, usually, a storeroom in the basement which empty trunks and boxes may be stored. Examine it from time to time to ascertain if it be dry. I have known trunks rotted into uselessness by storage in an ill-ventilated basement. It is no sign that the said ground floor is dry and clean because the janitor and his family live in it.

The same janitor is an important factor in flat life. Some are intolerably slovenly and incompetent; others are indifferently good; now and then one happens upon a jewel of a Joe or Patrick, who contributes a liberal quota toward the home-feeling to be gained in the sliced home. Make it a point to get on the right side of him. Speak to him kindly whenever you meet on the stairs or have occasion to summon him to your apartment to look after range or plumbing. Fee him judiciously, yet not lavishly, at intervals. It is a good investment of 50 cents or $1.

You will need to put more shelves in your clothes presses and pot closets. A legal friend informs me that, if nailed to the wall these fall under the head of “fixtures” and may not be removed when you migrate to other quarters. If neatly screwed to woodwork they are “portable.” The same is true as to bookcases. Shelve the closets up to the ceiling and make absolute the law “A place for everything in its place.” If you have more china than the presses will contain, and a superfluity of bric-a-brac, dispose of the pieces you use least upon a shelf fastened upon brackets on a level with the picture molding in dining and living room.

From the beginning determine that your abiding place shall be a home, and as pretty and cozy as your means will admit. Strike the keynote of comfort and harmony in the arrangement of the furniture. Don’t crowd the walls with pictures because you happen to have them. A few really good engravings hung in the proper light impart a tone to the parlor not to be gained from mediocre paintings. Hang family likenesses in the bedrooms. Don’t pack bric-a-brac (much abused name!) upon mantels and tables until the place looks like a fancy fair. Select a few of the best vases for show, and when you can, fill them with flowers.

The most woeful want known to the flat-dweller in the city is the poverty of light in the inner rooms. Write it down as a must-have that your children shall sleep in rooms where the sunlight finds entrance at some hour of the day. The conventional “shaft” is a device of the Evil One as truly as the spider’s web is spun to catch flies. Smells arise steadily from pavement, basement and sewer. A dark room is an abomination to the Lord of light and life. I say it reverently. It should be a penal offense to construct a house for the residence of human creatures in which this is a necessity in the mind of the architect. If you cannot avoid renting a “slice” where one of these is a fixture, use it for some other purpose than a sleeping room.

In selecting the flat choose one that is well up toward the sky in preference to a first or second floor. You have more stairs to climb, it is true, but you are amply repaid for the exertion by the better air and purer abundance of light you find at the top. If you are lucky enough to have an accommodating elevator, go as high as it ascends.

On Stair-Climbing.

It may not be true, as some assert, that at the height of seventy or eighty feet one is practically beyond the germ belt. But it is certainly true that one leaves many impurities of this low earth behind as one mounts heavenward.

One word to those who, by reason of flesh, scantiness of breath, weakness or the weight of years, find stairclimbing painfully difficult. Take the ascent slowly, and before lifting the foot for the next step draw a full breath, exhaling it as you set your foot on the higher stair. After a little practice you will surprise yourself by the increased ease of the climb. Give out the breath slowly with the rise of the knee and foot. Halt for a few second on the stair and begin another inhalation. You will not only mount faster, but you will not be breathless when you are at the end of the journey.

Marion Harland

Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

How to Jelly Small Fruits

This is the second article in June of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on June 13, 1909, and is an article on the development of canning jellies and jams. Mrs. Harland also comments on the use of slang reguarding the shortening of words like ‘jelly.’

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

How to Jelly Small Fruits

IMPRIMIS, don’t sey “jell!”

Although the young housewife in Miss Alcott’s inimitable “Little Women” did bewail her evil case when her currants wouldn’t “jell,” take time to say “jelly.” At this point I digress from the main line to entreat correspondents to snatch, or make, time in writing to me to use the little personal pronoun “I.” Don’t say, “Would like to ask” or “Would say” in beginning a sentence. Write, “I should like to ask” and “I would say.” I have to supply the missing pronoun in putting MSS into printable shape. Say, likewise, in writing a recipe, “Let it stand,” instead of “Let stand.”

I believe “jell” to be a New England provincialism. Hence, “Meg’s” use of it. I have heard the shaking mold of translucent conserve offered to the guest in a Massachusetts farmhouse spoken of as “jell.” The monosyllable falls lawfully into line with other curtailed words under the new regime of orthography. When we cut off and drop into the waste basket the stately terminations of “prologue” and “catagloue” and make “thru” do service for “through,” we may be thankful to have the body of our “jelly” left to us.

A few prefatory words to the directions for putting up small fruits in this form may not be superfluous.

Not Overripe.

The berries must be fully ripe, but not what is called “dead ripe.” The old saying that currant jelly will not be firm unless put up before the Fourth of July has this proviso of perfect ripeness as a warrant. The housemother who understands her profession has learned that, in most instances there must be acid in the fruit she would jelly. Blackberries, strawberries and red raspberries, even the wild blackcap, if really ripe, do not jelly easily. The mixture of currants and raspberries, of which I shall speak presently, owes form, as well as flavor, to the red juice of the tart berry. Blackberry and strawberry jelly, if there be no addition of lemon juice or other acid, must be set in uncovered glasses in the hottest June sunshine or the vertical rays of the July sun for several days, hat evaporation may “boil down” the conserve to the right consistency. I have never been successful with peach jelly, except when lemon juice was added to the over-sweet syrup. This is the reason why the small fruits and before the sugared juice would be cooked into cloying sweetness.

Red Currant Jelly.

Gather the fruit on a sunny day. It is not necessary to strip it from the stems on which the cluster grow. In fact, the succulent stems contain an acid of their own that adds to the flavor of the jelly. Wash the fruit well, draining it in a colander, and pack into a stout stone or agate-iron jar. Put on a close cover and set the jar in a pot of cold water. The water should come more than two-thirds of the way to the top of the crock. Set the pot on the side of the range and go about your other duties for an hour or more. Then look into the jar, and crush down the heating berries with a wooden paddle. Move the kettle to a warmer place and close the jar again.

I usually heat the fruit all night, setting the pot over a very slow fire that will die down before morning. Before breakfast I visit the kitchen and examine the fruit. It is invariably broken all to pieces and, if not cold, quite cool enough to handle with comfort. It is then turned into a bag of doubled cheesecloth and suspended over a wide bowl to drip. A long-legged, backless chair is set, heels upward, on a table; the four corners of the bar are lashed to the inverted legs high enough up to allow the bowl to stand beneath. While we are at breakfast the juice drips steadily, and by the time the meal is over the pulp, or “pomace,” is almost dry. The residue of the juice is expressed by squeezing. If there be a pair of manly hands which are both willing and strong they are coaxed into service for this park of the work. A few dexterous twists of the crimsoned cloth and half a dozen mighty squeezes leave the pomace juiceless. The pulp is emptied into the garbage pail and the bag thrown into cold water to soak.

Measure the strained juice and put it over the fire in a preserving kettle. Weigh out as many pounds of sugar as you have pints of juice. Divide the sugar into three or four portions and spread each upon a platter or a shallow pan. Set these in the oven, leaving it open for the first 10 minutes and stirring several times. Close the oven when the juice in the kettle begins to simmer, but watch the contents of the platters, lest the hot sugar begin to melt. Stir often. When the juice boils hard skim off the scum, and when the boil has lasted 20 minutes dump in the hot sugar as fast as you can, stirring vigorously. After it has dissolved, which will be very soon, let the syrup boil exactly one minute.

Pour the jelly into small tumblers which you have rolled over and over in hot water to prevent cracking as the jelly fills them. The glasses must be taken directly from the hot water and filled while wet. At this stage of the process an assistant is needed to fish out the glasses and pass them to the main worker. If these rules be followed, and the fruit be ripe and not overripe, the jelly will form by the time it is in the glasses. Let it get perfectly cold; pour melted paraffine on the top of each glass and fit on metal tops or, if you have none, paste paper covers on them.

In over 45 years of jelly-making I have never lost a glass put up according to this recipe. The flavor of the fruit is preserved far better than when juice and sugar are cooked together in the old way and boiled down thick. The jelly is clear and sparking.

Keep in a cool, dry place.

Black Currant Jelly.

Make as above. It is highly recommended for coughs and as a tonic. It is more palatable if the black are mixed with a third as many red, ripe currants.

Gooseberry Jelly and Jam.

Top and tall the berries and beat them as for other jelly. They are very juicy, and if all the liquor that will flow from them after adding sugar were put with the jam it would be too thin. Therefore, turn the berries when soft and broken into a colander; let them drain without pressing or shaking. When most of the juice has run into the bowl below, empty the colander into a preserving kettle after measuring the berries. Bring to a boil; add a pound and a quarter of sugar to each pint of berries; stir to dissolving and cook steadily half an hour. Put up in jam pots, covering with paraffine, then fitting on tops.

For the jelly, strain the juice through a cheesecloth bag to get rid of the seeds that have escaped through the colander; measure it and heat as for other jelly. When it has boiled for 20 minutes stir in the heated sugar, a generous pound to each pint of juice, gooseberries being very acid.

Currant and Raspberry Jelly.

Allow one part of red currants to two of the red raspberries; heat both kinds of fruit together and proceed as I have directed.

The flavour is exquisite. It is particularly nice for jelly roll or for layer cake.

Green Gooseberries.

These may be put up in like manner, making delicious jelly for meat. The jam made of the reserved and unpressed pulp, or “pomace,” needs nearly a pound and a quarter of sugar for each pint of berries.

Red Raspberry and Pineapple Jelly.

Wash a ripe pineapple and cut it small without paring, the skin holding a peculiarly fine flavor. Set it over the fire in a farina (double) boiler and cook very tender. At the same time heat red raspberries enough to give out twice as much juice as you get from the pineapple. When all are cooked to pieces, strain and press out the juice from berries and from pineapple; mix in the proportions I have indicated and boil 20 minutes before adding heated sugar, pint for pound.

The blended flavors and acids produce a delicious jelly.

Blackberry Jelly.

This is made in the same way and subject to the same infirmity as that which attends the strawberry. It is worth putting up in liberal quantities for family use. The flavor is fine and it is extremely wholesome, also curative in cases of summer complaints. As the contents of the glasses shrink in evaporating fill one from the other. Out of a dozen glasses you may get nine when they have been sunned into consistency.

Don’t try to boil it down. You will injure the taste, darken the color and, ten chances to one, succeed in producing syrup, not jelly.

Strawberry Jelly.

Make according to the rules given for currant jelly. It is but fair to warn you that you may have to set the glasses in the sun for two or three days before the jelly will form.

Marion Harland

Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

Meals for a Week

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


Berries, cereal and cream, lamb chops, johnny cake, toast, tea and coffee.

Caviare on toast, cold tongue, tomato and shrimp salad, thin graham bread and butter, crackers and cheese, cake and lemonade.

Asparagus soup, brown fricassee of chicken, green peas, mashed potatoes, berry shortcake, black coffee.


Berries, cereal and cream, bacon and eggs, graham bread toast, white toast, rolls, tea and coffee.

Asparagus rolls (tips left over from yesterday), plain omelet, baked potatoes, crackers (heated) with cheese, bread pudding, tea.

Chicken soup (based upon fricassee), liver and bacon, pea soufflé (a left-over), baked rice, cheery pie, black coffee.


Red bananas, cereal and cream, soufflé of rice (a left-over), rolls, toast, tea and coffee.

Mince of liver on toast (a left-over), Welsh rarebit, cress and salad and crackers, cream pie, tea.

Chicken and okra soup (a left-over), beefsteak and mushrooms, asparagus, spinach, berries and cream cake, black coffee.


Berries and cream with dried rusk, broiled bacon and green peppers, muffins, toast, tea and coffee.

Spanish omelet, lettuce salad, cheese, biscuits, stewed rhubarb and cookies, tea.

Cream-of-lettuce soup, beefsteak and kidney pie (partly a left-over), stewed potatoes, young onions, mashed new turnips, berry roll with brandy sauce, black coffee.


Berries, cereal and cream, bacon, fried mush, toast, tea and coffee.

Calf-s brains (fried), stuffed potatoes, turnip soufflé (a left-over), baked cream toast, canned peaches, gingerbread, tea.

Scotch broth, blanquette of veal, green peas, spinach, strawberry float, sponge cake, black coffee.


Grapefruit, cereal and cream, pan-fish, hot biscuits, toast, tea and coffee.

Curried eggs, boiled rice, lettuce and green pea salad (a left-over), macaroons and iced bananas, tea.

Potato soup without meat, boiled cod with lemon sauce, whipped potatoes, spinach a la crème, chocolate ice cream and cake, black coffee.


Berries, cereal and cream, mince of veal (a left-over), waffles, toast, tea and coffee.

Scalloped cod in shells, potatoes a la Lyonnaise, grapefruit salad, Cassava biscuits, Camembert cheese, thin bread and butter, junket, jelly roll, tea.

Salmon bisque, mutton chops en casserole, green peas, string beans, tutti-frutti in grapefruit shells, jumbles, black coffee.