Slighting as a Housewifely Art

This is the fourth article in January of the School for Housewives 1910 series published on January 23, 1910, and talks about the need to put aside chores for health and well-being.

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

Slighting as a Housewifely Art

“YOU are opening a wide door!” warned a friend to whom I mentioned the title of this talk.

She has hung up in a conspicuous place in her kitchen an illuminated sign that, as the French put it, “jumps at the eyes” of every one who enters the door:

“What is worth doing at all is worth doing well.”

I sat down right in front of the motto and reasoned out the case with her then and there, for I, too, have m motto. It is tacked up in my sitting room, where the day’s work is laid out every morning as soon as breakfast is over. The wise saying was borrowed from “Leslie Goldthwaite’s Summer,” a girl’s boo so much better worth reading than nine out of 10 of the volumes I see nowadays in the hands of my young friends that one would expect a new edition to be brought out monthly. But my motto! I have quoted it before in the Exchange. Today I would fasten it, like a nail in a sure place, in the mind and conscience of every anxious-eyed, overwrought housemother who sees this page:

“Something must be crowded out!”

Postponing as an Art.

“Dear! had you need in the place of the Creator, you would not have been content to make the world in six days. You would have summoned angels, principalities and powers, and exhorted them to hurry up the job so as to get it out of the way and all cleaned up by Wednesday night.”

It was not uttered flippantly, however it may sound in the telling. It sank deep into my heart, and it has stood me in good stead hundreds of times, when zeal threatened to get the better of patience. A good head and a sane judgment are required to separate essentials from duties of secondary import; to decide what should be done now and what may be crowded out and postponed to a more convenient season.

The longing to “get thing out of the way and clean up, ready for the next job,” is, with many an American housemother, an obsession. Now and then it waxes into frenzy. One of the saddest sights I ever beheld was a woman in an insane asylum who was rubbing the panes of her window all say long. She fell to work upon the task as soon as it was light enough to see the glass in the morning and kept it up until she was led away to bed at night, protesting, tearfully, that it “had to be done that day!” She wore out an apron a week in the rubbing.

Anxiety is a Disease.

I grant to you, overcareful and distracted Martha, as I conceded to my friend with the illuminated motto before me, that what is laid in our hands should be done well. The question is not how we shall perform the task, but whether or not it is wise and just to do it this hour or this day. In other words, what may be crowded out of the work of that day or hour without serious derangement of the comfort and well-being of myself and those to whom my well-being is of moment?

To illustrate: My estimable neighbor, Mrs. Notable, who will never see her portrait here, since she never gets time to read so much as a newspaper from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, takes care of her own parlors. So do thousands of other well-to-do women. This is her way of doing it: Every rug is lifted and brushed daily; every tuft in the upholstered furniture dusted with a pointed brush made for the purpose; every article of bric-a-brac is wiped carefully; the mirrors are polished and the inside of the windows rubbed bright. The picture frames and the tops of the doors and window sashes and frames are wiped off with a dampened cloth; ditto the chandeliers. In brief, not an inch of space in the handsome rooms is unvisited by the duster and cloth. The work occupies from an hour and a half to two hours of the forenoon. Her china closets are set in order weekly, and this although she is scrupulously exact in replacing every cup, plat and dish in its own corner whenever it has been used. Once a month she washes them all and scrubs the shelves. When a thin place or a hole appears in her stocking or in one belonging to husband or child she makes it a point of conscience to see that it is mended that very day. Not a book that ought to be snugly reposing upon the shelf behind glass doors is left lying upon library table. The daily newspaper is rubbish when Mr. Notable and the grown son have read it. So are letters that have been opened and perused. The waste-basket receives them, and they are seen no more within the precincts inhabited by “the family.” A spot on the tablecloth would deprive her of appetite for the meal thus disgraced. A chipped plate is a grievance demanding a vigorous exercise of Christian patience.

It should go without saying that she has the best-kept house in the neighborhood. It is impeccable from roof to foundation. I was once led by the shining cleanliness of the premises to say something of the admiration inspired by such perfect housewifery to her daughter. To my consternation the girl, a wan, shadowy young thing, burst into tears.

“Yes! We have the cleanest house in the city, but we pay for it! Life is not worth living as we live it!”

Yes—and this I said to my friends with the motto staring me in the face—Mrs. Notable carries out to the best of her lights the principle that what is worth doing at all is worth doing well. Her mistake is that she lacks a sense of proportion; she has not a right estimate of values.

Said a wise and tender mother to me: “Frank litters up his room with things that are rubbish to me. It offends my taste and my eye to see and put up with the masks and foils and gloves and racquets and photographs and ‘specimens’ of all sorts he collects. But I took myself to task for my impatience in time to keep from driving him from home by overstrictness. I went into a deliberate calculation of comparative values and concluded that the boy is worth more than the room.”

In other words, she crowded out selfish likings which she had rated as principles for the boy’s happiness.

To return to Ms. Notable. Her house would look as well to the general eye and be more comfortable to husband and children if she contented herself with dusting the polished wood of the furniture and brushing up scraps from the rugs on three days of the week, reserving the thorough visitation of the apartment for, say, Wednesday, Saturday and Monday. Nobody is going to climb to the tops of the window, and door frames to espy the dust collect there during a couple of days. Were she to “slight” her china closets to the extent of overhauling them once a month instead of weekly, the china would suffer no wrong; and she would have time to read the Exchange, or, what is more important, grant to her overwrought, “distracted” body and mind the rest and relaxation without which no mortal can perform his or her part aright in a world where one’s own fancies and prejudices are the last thing to be considered in reckoning up daily duties.

I know a blessed woman who makes a frolic of the weekly darning of her own stocking and John’s and the boys’ socks. Another of like fancies brings her mending basket once in a while, and the two take afternoon tea from the work table. I dropped in upon them last week while they were thus engaged. One reported thirty pairs of hose as her “weekly dole,” the other thirty-five.

“My mother-in-law says it is bad management to lay so many aside for one mending,” said the visitor. “She could not sleep if she knew there was a bit of mending undone in the house.”

And the darners groaned in unison. “Poor woman!”

The hostess added that she “kept her darning often for Friday night work, when the boys have no lessons to study.

“One of them reads aloud while I work. And that is the confession hour, when I hear of all the scrapes and the jolly times they have had that week.”

All of use housemothers are prone to make a fetich of duty. Few of us rise above the propensity deprecated as a feminine foible by the clergyman I have quoted, namely, to make a clean sweep of work on hand and make way for the next assignment. There are scraps of diverse kinds in the refrigerator that ought to be put into the stockpot and be cooked. The slices and heel-ends of laves in the bread-pan should be heated and crushed into crumbs. Then you promised John to make a “famer’s rice pudding” for him soon, and the promise weighs upon you; it out to be fulfilled today. Yet here is all the ironing, hindered this eek by rainy weather on washing day, and the cook, who does the washing has a headache. You, who always supplement her on Monday and Tuesday, have your hands full. All the same, in your desire to make clean work and keep up in the march of daily duty, you cannot ignore the claims of stockpot, breadbox and John’s pudding.

Dear child—for am I not the mother of a big family? — be merciful to John’s wife and the children’s mother, and study the fine art of slighting. The scrapes will keep until tomorrow, and the heels of bread and the crusts will not mould and John will not recollect the pudding when he sees your eyes bright and movements alert, instead of meeting a fagged-out drudge whose frazzled nerves and spiritless air are a silent reproach to him for not lifting her above the necessity of domestic slavery.

Marion Harland

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

Nuts and their Values

This is the third article in January of the School for Housewives 1910 series published on January 16, 1910, and touches on the benefits of eating raw nuts but also keeping in mind that nuts are not for everyone.

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

Nuts and their Values

I READ a charming book last summer, written by two bright Scotch women—the Findlater sisters—in which an eccentric dietitian is called “a fruitarian.” Following their example, I coin a word to classify writers and lecturers who have come to the front within the last decade with learned expositions of the value of nuts as man’s daily food. Certain of our nutarian schools maintain that the vaunted vegetable product might be adopted as a substitute for meat with a great advantage to our race. It occupies a conspicuous place upon the menu of the vegetarian restaurant. Knowing this, I repaired to a fashionable resort of this character in anticipation of my talk upon nuts and their values. The restaurant upon a popular thoroughfare, is handsome and well appointed in every particular. We, two women of robust appetites, ordered and partook of a four-course luncheon.

1. Bean soup maigre. 2. Protose cutlets and fried French potatoes for one and imitation hamburger steak and stewed celery for the other. 3. Chestnut pudding with whipped cream. 4. Nuts, figs and grapes. Tea and coffee were not to be had, and neither of us liked milk as a beverage.

The waitress was a comely, well-mannered American girl, and in paying the bill my companion put a direct question:

To the Point.

“Frankly, now don’t you long occasionally for a steak or chop, a leg of chicken or a slice of rare roast beef?”

The answer was direct and respectful. The girl saw nothing humorous in the customer’s query.

“Oh, yes! but we eat all the meat we want on Sunday. The restaurant is not open then.”

“I am glad she gets meat one day in the week,” observed my friend, gravely, when we were in the street. “For myself, I confess to an unsatisfied sensation. I suppose my taste has been depraved by indulgence in the fleshpots from youth up.”

The best thing on the menu, according to our fancy, was the bean soup. Milk and butter made it tolerably savory. If we flattered ourselves that we could have made a more palatable soup maigre by the addition of crème, onion juice and minced parsley, that was a matter of opinion. We were in no doubt as to the composition of protose cutlets and imitation hamburger steaks. Both were minced or ground nuts moulded into different shapes, and we could detect no difference in the taste. “Protose” figured largely upon the printed menu, always as a substitute for meat.

I talked the other day with an enthusiastic nutarian, who won a national reputation in says past as a “demonstration lecturer” upon dietetics and cookery. She sees, with the eye of confident faith in the justice of her cause, the approach of the day when nuts will crowd beef to the wall and bring down the price of poultry to a figure that will prohibit the raising of fowls for the table.

When Eaten Raw.

I have but one common-sensible argument in opposition to their sweeping theories. It is an indubitable fact that raw nuts are, with many human creatures, unwholesome to such a degree that parents forbid children to indulge freely in them, and doctors cut them out from dietaries. Just as some of us are poisoned by fish when others eating of the selfsame dish are unharmed; and apples, which are to one the staff of life and assurance of longevity, are absolutely indigestible to other members of the family. I contend, moreover, that nuts, composed as they are largely of oils, are more likely to disagree with delicate stomachs than meat, fish or eggs, for which they are offered as a substitute.

Mothers will bear me witness that, as one wrote to us a while ago, peanuts, hickory nuts and the coarser oleaginous Brazil nut are provocative of intestinal worms (ascarides). Likewise, that some people cannot eat raw nuts for a few successive days without paying the penalty of the rich diet in the appearance of “fever blisters” upon the lips or canker sores in the mouth. A yet more common consequence of munching nuts in season and out is constipation. So well established is the fact that nuts are preferable that physicians usually forbid them to patients suffering with colds and coughs.

Do not misunderstand the drift of this discussion of the food values and detrimental qualities of the proposed substitute for flesh-foods to mean condemnation of a delicious and useful article of diet. As will be seen presently, nuts, properly treated and eaten in moderation (always by those with whose gastronomic idiosyncrasies they are not at war), should have the respectful consideration of our housemother and take rank among choice desserts and vegetables. I have spoken of the heavy oils that enter into their composition. These may be measurably corrected and their evils neutralized by eating them with salt, with sugar and with fruit. The acid of the latter and that found in sugar effect a chemical change in the oil that renders it digestible. The alkali of the salt acts upon oil in different sort, but to the same effect.

General recognition of this gastronomic rule is evident in the custom of serving nut and raisins, walnuts and wine, and candied nuts with the dessert, and offering salt with the grosser black walnuts and Brazil nuts. A majolica nut dish which was given to me almost 40 years ago has dainty salt cellars on each side of the leaf-shaped salvers.

In brief, eat your nuts as a part of regular meals, and do not make them as did the unquiet old woman of “Mrs. Goose’s Melodies” with her “vic and drink.”

The chief of your diet.

And do not insist that they are a perfect food for any of your fellow mortals. That they are not!

Spanish Chestnuts.

The smaller native chestnut of our American woods may equal in flavor and in nutritive qualities the imported from France and Italy than from Spain. When boiled and shelled, it may be used for stuffing fowls and other purposes with satisfactory results. That is, after the said results are reached. Few cooks have time and patience to shell and skin the nuts after boiling them and then run them through the vegetable press. They are toothsome enough when all is done. If Spanish chestnuts are not to be had, and native nuts are fine and abundant, and winter days and evening are not filled with work, the housemother may introduce pleasing variety into her bills of fare by preparing her nuts according to directions given for imported varieties.

In any case the home-grown article is good when boiled in salted water, drained, and while hot, buttered lightly, preparatory to removing outer shells and the bitter brown membrane enwrapping the sweet kernels. Boiled chestnuts are far more wholesome than raw.

Stewed Spanish Chestnuts.

Boil and strip off shells and skins. They should be well done and cooked in water, slightly salted. Arrange in a hot dish and butter lightly. Cover and keep hot over boiling water, until five minutes before serving, then cover with a good brown gravy, and set over the fire for the gravy to soak into the nuts.

This is a delicious accompaniment to roast turkey. In this case use a cupful of the gravy made with the fowl to make the nuts savory.

Chestnut Stuffing for Poultry.

Boil, shell and skin the nuts and run through a sieve or a vegetable press. Season with salt and pepper. Mash into a paste and beat light while hot with a great spoonful of butter. Some persons like the addition of a handful of very fine crumbs. It makes the stuffing less heavy than when the chestnuts are used alone.

Chestnut Croquettes.

Prepare as directed in the last recipe, beat in a large spoonful of butter, a tablespoonful of very fine, dry crumbs; salt and pepper; a dozen drops of lemon juice and just a pinch of ground cinnamon. Let the past get cold, form into small egg-shaped balls, roll in egg, then in cracker crumbs. Set on the ice for two hours before frying in deep fat.

Chestnut Pudding.
(To be eaten with meat.)

Prepare as already directed by boiling, peeling and mashing or running through the press. To a cupful of the mashed chestnuts allow four eggs, two tablespoonfuls of fine crumbs, a tablespoonful of melted butter, two cupfuls of milk, a tablespoonful of sugar and salt and paprika to taste. Beat the yolks light, stir into the mashed nuts, then beat in the other ingredients; the stiffened whites of the eggs last of all. Bake, covered, in a quick oven. It should puff high and lightly. Uncover, brown and serve at once before it falls.

Chestnut Trifle.

Boil, shell and peel. Run through the vegetable press into a glass bowl or dish, forming a light heap in the middle of the dish. As you do this sprinkle the layers with powdered sugar. When you have a pyramid and all the nuts are used up, heap sweetened whipped cream around the base and serve with each portion of the trifle.

Chestnut Salad.

Boil in salted water, shell and skin, break into halves and when cold let them be heaped upon leaves of crisp lettuce in a chilled dish. Pour over all a good French dressing. This is a simple and excellent salad.

Marion Harland

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

The Dignity of Left Overs

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

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

The Dignity of Left Overs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mixtures Resented.

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

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

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

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

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

A Divine Precept.

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

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

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

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

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

Save the Bits.

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

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

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

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

Served on Lettuce.

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

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

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

Marion Harland

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

The Waiterless Dinner Party

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

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

The Waiterless Dinner Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

Without Apology.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“4. Are vegetables put into small individual dishes?

“5. Are butter knives used at all?

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

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

Two California Girls.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Nice Touches.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“To thine own self be true.”

Marion Harland

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

Today in the Dauphin Herald – Dec 8 – 1910

1915 Dec 8 – Shot for a Deer

What might have proved a fatal accident to a hunter occurred in the Riding Mountain south of Gilbert Plains on Friday last. William, the 18-year-old son of Jas. D. Sutherland was hunting in the mountain and was attired in white. He was coming through the scrub when the white of his legs was noticed by another hunter, by the name of Dimmick from Roblin, who at a distance of 2200 yards fired at him for a deer and hit him in the right leg, the ball breaking it. Sutherland immediately ell and yelled loudly which prevented Dimmick from again firing as he had the rifle to his shoulder a second time when he heard the yells. As the two men were a long distance away from any habitation, Dimmick had to carry the wounded man three miles to a farmer’s house when medical aid was procured and young Sutherland brought to the Dauphin Hospital, where he is doing as well as can be expected.

1915 Dec 8 – Fork River

Miss Lane, from Dauphin is spending a few days up here before proceeding to her home in Winnipeg.
Mrs. Rice, teacher of Mowat School was taken seriously ill last week and returned to Dauphin to be under the doctor’s hands. We all hope she will soon be herself again.
F. Storrar paid a visit Dauphin lately.
A Christmas tree and entertainment will be held in the Orange Hall under the auspices of the English Church, on Friday evening, December 23rd, at eight o’clock. A good time is expected for the children. Admission all children free, but a charge for admission will be made to adults.
Mr. Letwin has been appointed as assistant to Mr. D. Kennedy in the Armstrong Store here.

1915 Dec 8 – Sifton

Bert Kennedy, of Canora, Sask., who was a patient in the Dauphin Hospital with typhoid, was a visitor to his brother John Kennedy for a few days before returning to his house at Canora.
Miss Scott, Neepawa, was a visitor at the Presbyterian mission house for a couple of days. Miss Scott is always welcomed at the mission house.
Rev. Johnston, of Gilbert Plains, held services here on Wednesday evening last. The sermon was well put and much appreciated.
H.H. Scrase, Fork River, held service on Thursday evening. Quite a large crowd congregated.
The moose shooting season is on again. Rudolph Spruhs is one of the number to leave for the haunts of the antlered monarch.
The Manitoba Government Telephones have a construction gang camped in the village doing construction work east of town.
On Tuesday Messrs. Buckwold & Levin shipped out three cars of cattle to Winnipeg.
The elevator of the British America Elevator Co. had to close down on Saturday for lack of cars to ship out. This is said to be the first experience of this kind since the elevator was erected. The opportune arrival of empty cars has now, however relieved the situation.
Rev. J.A. Sabourin is having a furnace and hot water heating system installed by M. Cardiff, of Dauphin, in his new building which is being rapidly completed. A new R.C. Church is expected to be erected next summer.
Born to Mr. and Mrs. Melynik a few days ago a pair of twin girls. All three doing well.
With the late fall of snow the farmers are quickly taking advantage of the good sleighing and hustling their grain to market.

1915 Dec 8 – Winnipegosis

The Rev. James Malley will occupy the pulpit of the Methodist Church, Winnipegosis, on Sunday next. Subject: The Call to Advance.
Teamsters here have been busy freighting fish from the various fishing grounds up the lake. They are impartment men and must needs be well catered for. Recognizing this fact the Misses Geekie and Black have opened a new restaurant at which good, solid, substantial meals are served at all hours. This is just what was needed in our busy little town. The fact that hot meals can be obtained at all hours, would see to be a guarantee of success. We wish them luck.

Today in the Dauphin Herald – Dec 1 – 1910

1910 Dec 1 – Fork River

D.F. Wilson, clerk of the Municipality has been to Winnipeg this week to attend a conference of the different municipalities.
C. Parks opened up a grocery store in this village this week.
W. King returned from visiting several districts in Swan River Valley and seemed pleased with the trip and all that he saw.
The several school trustees are called to transact business in this district on December 5th at 10 o’clock sharp. All persons with children should make an effort to attend.
The nomination papers are out for the election of Reeve and Councillors for this district to be held at Winnipegosis, Dec. 6th.
W. Cooper’s hounds killed a wolf this week.
Charley Clarke paid Dauphin a visit last week.
J. Spearing, teacher of North Lake School, seemed to be getting on very well. He bought a farm just lately and erected a house on it. He speaks highly of the land in this district, but what is most needed is more settlers.
Mr. Barber from Winnipeg was up here this week on business.
D. Briggs killed three bears near here this week.

1910 Dec 1 – Winnipegosis

The Rev. James Malley held services as usual in the church at Winnipegosis and Fork River. His subject was “The Power of the Men of Vision.”
The weather here is mild, but skaters are not debarred the pleasure so much enjoyed by them. Dog trains are now arriving from time to time from up the lake, and it is expected that the ice will soon be strong enough for freighting.