In this cool old book, “Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping” the preface starts off with “Fortunately it is becoming fashionable to economize,” In my local community, in the past couple of years, there have been several events started that aim, or aimed, at helping homemakers learn how to economize while creating a pleasant home experience. “and housekeepers are really finding it a pleasant pastime to search out and stop wastes in household expenses,” Are they really? Is it a pleasant pastime or is it a necessity? I think in today’s economy, most homemakers would claim it to be a necessity. And evidently, it is a long lived necessity and one that is even profitable. If it weren’t such a popular topic I doubt that Martha Stewart could have built a financial empire on it and that FlyLady would have been hard put to follow in her footsteps. Up-and–comer, Rachel Ray, is on the scene with an ever increasing popularity in those interested in cooking. “and to exercise the thousand little economies which thoughtful and careful women understand so readily and practice with such grace.”
I find it interesting that from 1880 to 2016 the plight of the housewife has apparently not changed significantly. Increasing numbers of women have, and are where possible, joining the military/industrial complex and working outside the home to assist in the struggle to bring in more money for the family budget. With more than 30 minimum-wage-increases in the history of the U.S., why is this necessary?
I’d heard things were tough during the “old days” but didn’t realize, until I read this, that those old days were not much different from the issues we homemakers, and families, face today. Maybe it’s just me, but doesn’t it seem like with all the advancements in medicine and technology alone that we should be seeing a bigger difference in our lives? Shouldn’t our life’s endeavors be about something more enjoyable than providing a decent home life on ever diminishing resources?
Now, I have to ask…with all the goods being manufactured to make our lives easier and with all the advances made in technology which seem to result in increasing damage done to our air, water and soil….what are we really gaining? Our planet is being poisoned and we are working harder to have less? What the heck is going on???
I have stood in line at the grocery store and heard other shoppers talking about the high cost of groceries these days (I wasn’t the only one who has noticed-whew!) and talking about it to whom I presume are other strangers who just happen to be in the same store at the same time. People are unhappy and frustrated that the harder they work the less they have…it’s becoming epidemic when strangers discuss it in the checkout lane in small town USA on a sunny Sunday afternoon.
“Somebody has said that a well-to-do French family would live on what an American household in the same condition of life wastes, and this may not be a great exaggeration.” I grew up hearing something similar and yet, “somebody” has never been identified to me. It has caused me to be very careful about waste and to feel terrible guilt when I do waste something. (Yes, it happens, I’ve been know to fall asleep and forget to put supper leftovers away….<big sigh and slow, negatory headshake>
“Here, the greatest source of waste is in the blunders and experiments of the inexperienced.” I have to break in here and ask….how can that be? In the 1880’s, I thought women were home while the men were out working. At least that’s how I’ve always seen that era portrayed. Were women not teaching their daughters? The stories told to me in my childhood were of women staying home and taking care of the home and children while the men farmed the land or worked in the industrial complex. I was under the impression that children worked beside their parents for the good of the family and that this was not optional. Clearly, there is something amiss here. We are talking about the decade when Sitting Bull and Billy the Kid were alive. Geronimo surrendered toward the end of this decade. This was before women’s liberation. So…why were women inexperienced in the operations of a home?This just doesn’t make sense to me.
“Women are slow to learn by the experience of others. Every young housekeeper must begin at the beginning (unless her mother was wise enough to give her a careful training), and blunder into a knowledge of the practical duties of the household, wasting time, temper and money in mistakes, when such simple instructions as any skillful housewife might readily give would be an almost perfect guide.” And yet again, the claim that “any skillful housewife might readily give an almost perfect guide” about household operations that would stop the waste caused by inexperience. Enough waste for a French family to survive on…who were these inexperienced housewives? This just doesn’t make sense to me. How can there be simple instruction available via any skillful housewife AND YET every young housekeeper who must begin at the beginning? This phrase is contradictory. And excuse me, but “women are slow to learn by the experience of others“? How offensive is that?!! How could you live in a home, watch your parents day after day and not learn at least the rudimentary skills needed to perform the most menial tasks? These young women weren’t sitting around all day playing games or reading ‘posts’ or ‘tweets’…they weren’t watching TV or going to the mall to shop or just ‘hang-out’…so, again, I have to ask…how could there be so many with no experience? There is some sort of anomaly here.
“Lately there have been attempts to gather such instructions as are needed into a book,” (This would mean that those attempts would cover the decade or two prior to the writing of this published work…so, the 1860‘s and 1870‘s. but they have been partial failures, because the authors have been good book-makers, but poor bread-makers, or because, while practically familiar with the subjects treated, they have failed to express clearly and concisely the full process in detail. (So is this a reference to men?) In compiling this new candidate for favor, the one aim has been to pack between its covers the greatest possible amount of practical information of real value to all, and especially to the inexperienced. It is not a hap-hazard collection of recipes, gathered at random from doubtful sources, but has been made up, without sparing time, labor, or expense, from the choicest bits of the best experience of hundreds who have long traveled the daily round of household duties, not reluctantly like drudges, but lovingly, with heart and hand fully enlisted in the work. Those housewives, especially, whose purses are not over-plethoric (greatly abundant) will, it is believed, find its pages full of timely and helpful suggestions in their efforts to make the balance of the household ledger appear on the right side, without lessening the excellence of the table or robbing home of any comfort or attraction. (This makes it appear that most households were financially challenged.)
The arrangement of subjects treated, whenever practicable, has been made in the simple order of the alphabet, and for the sake of still more ready reference a very full alphabetical index has been added. The instructions which precede the recipes of each department have been carefully made up, and are entirely trustworthy and the recipes themselves are new to print and well endorsed. Several suggestive articles have also been introduced, which, though not belonging strictly to cookery, bear such close relations to it that the fitness of their appearance in the connection is evident.
There has been no attempt at display or effect, the only purpose being to express ideas as clearly and concisely as possible, and to make a thoroughly simple and practical work. In the effort to avoid the mistakes of others, greater errors may have been committed; but the book is submitted just as it is to the generous judgement of those who consult it, with the hope that it may lessen their perplexities, and stimulate that just pride without which work is drudgery and great excellence impossible. Add to this the following from above “the best experience of hundreds who have long traveled the daily round of household duties, not reluctantly like drudges, but lovingly, with heart and hand fully enlisted in the work.“ Really? there are hundreds of women who love household duties to the point of excellence yet women don’t learn by others mistakes and if they aren’t carefully and purposefully trained then they are wasteful and prone to numerous costly mistakes???
Now, when I look back over the course of the last 40+ years, I realize that this same rhetoric has come up several times…in the early 1980’s during a large economic downturn here in America and again in the early 2000’s. a lesser degree this same sort of thought progression came up in the early to mid- 1990’s.
This is an election year, and in the last year we have been told that the economy is improving yet I don’t see any evidence of that trend. When looking at the pattern here, I have to wonder several things….
- Were women always expected to be housewives who find pleasure in doing with less than enough? And if so, why are they so often the target of advertisers?
- Is this a deliberate experiment regarding the choices humankind will make?
- What financial or political agonists create this scenario with the majority of common folk being forced to make ends meet rather than flourishing?
- Is this representative of over 125 years of exploitation?
- How do we continue to live in this scenario when there is so much possible?
- How do we continue to live with the knowledge that in other world countries children actually starve to death and we struggle to have a good life with ever increasingly smaller amounts of money while the rich keep getting richer due to our hardship and hard work?
- When do we say enough-is-enough and demand true equality?