THE EASIEST WAY IN HOUSEKEEPING AND COOKING.
Adapted to Domestic Use or Study in Classes BY HELEN CAMPBELL,
AUTHOR OF "IN FOREIGN KITCHENS," "MRS. HERNDON'S INCOME," "PRISONERS OF POVERTY,", "SOME PASSAGES IN THE PRACTICE OF DR. MARTHA SCARBOROUGH," "WOMEN WAGE-EARNERS," ETC., ETC.
"If it were done, when 'tis done, then 'twere well It were done quickly."
BOSTON: LITTLE, BROWN, AND COMPANY, 1903.
Copyright, 1893, BY ROBERTS BROTHERS.
University Press: JOHN WILSON AND SON, CAMBRIDGE, U.S.A.
A Book for Agnes L.V.W.
AND THE SOUTHERN GIRLS WHO STUDIED WITH HER.
PREFACE TO REVISED EDITION.
The little book now revised and sent out with some slight additions, remains substantially the same as when first issued in 1880. In the midst of always increasing cookery-books, it has had a firm constituency of friends, especially in the South, where its necessity was first made plain. To enlarge it in any marked degree would violate the original plan, for which the critic will please read the pages headed "Introductory," where he or she will find full explanation of the growth and purpose of the book. Whoever desires more receipts and more elaborate forms of preparation must look for their sources in the bibliography at the end, since their introduction in these pages would practically nullify the title, proved true by years of testing at the hands of inexperienced housekeepers, whose warm words have long been very pleasant to the author of "The Easiest Way."
NEW YORK, June, 1893.
I. THE HOUSE: SITUATION AND ARRANGEMENT 11 II. THE HOUSE: ITS VENTILATION 19 III. DRAINAGE AND WATER-SUPPLY 27 IV. THE DAY'S WORK 35 V. FIRES, LIGHTS, AND THINGS TO WORK WITH 45 VI. WASHING-DAY AND CLEANING IN GENERAL 54 VII. THE BODY AND ITS COMPOSITION 68 VIII. FOOD AND ITS LAWS 73 IX. THE RELATIONS OF FOOD TO HEALTH 80 X. THE CHEMISTRY OF ANIMAL FOOD 90 XI. THE CHEMISTRY OF VEGETABLE FOOD 100 XII. CONDIMENTS AND BEVERAGES 110
STOCK AND SEASONING 119 SOUPS 122 FISH 131 MEATS 144 POULTRY 161 SAUCES AND SALADS 173 EGGS AND BREAKFAST DISHES 180 TEA, COFFEE, &C 193 VEGETABLES 197 BREAD AND BREAKFAST CAKES 208 CAKE 221 PASTRY AND PIES 232 PUDDINGS, BOILED AND BAKED 238 CUSTARDS, CREAMS, JELLIES, &C 245 CANNING AND PRESERVING 252 PICKLES AND CATCHUPS 257 CANDIES 259 SICK-ROOM COOKERY 261 HOUSEHOLD HINTS 270 HINTS TO TEACHERS 280 LESSONS FOR PRACTICE CLASS 282 TWENTY TOPICS FOR CLASS USE 285 LIST OF AUTHORITIES REFERRED TO 286 EXAMINATION QUESTIONS 287 BIBLIOGRAPHY 288 INDEX 289
That room or toleration for another "cook-book" can exist in the public mind, will be denied at once, with all the vigor to be expected from a people overrun with cook-books, and only anxious to relegate the majority of them to their proper place as trunk-linings and kindling-material. The minority, admirable in plan and execution, and elaborate enough to serve all republican purposes, are surely sufficient for all the needs that have been or may be. With Mrs. Cornelius and Miss Parloa, Marion Harland and Mrs. Whitney, and innumerable other trustworthy authorities, for all every-day purposes, and Mrs. Henderson for such festivity as we may at times desire to make, another word is not only superfluous but absurd; in fact, an outrage on common sense, not for one instant to be justified.
Such was my own attitude and such my language hardly a year ago; yet that short space of time has shown me, that, whether the public admit the claim, or no, one more cook-book MUST BE. And this is why:—
A year of somewhat exceptional experience—that involved in building up several cooking-schools in a new locality, demanding the most thorough and minute system to assure their success and permanence—showed the inadequacies of any existing hand-books, and the necessities to be met in making a new one. Thus the present book has a twofold character, and represents, not only the ordinary receipt or cook book, usable in any part of the country and covering all ordinary household needs, but covers the questions naturally arising in every lesson given, and ending in statements of the most necessary points in household science. There are large books designed to cover this ground, and excellent of their kind, but so cumbrous in form and execution as to daunt the average reader.
Miss Corson's "Cooking-School Text-Book" commended itself for its admirable plainness and fullness of detail, but was almost at once found impracticable as a system for my purposes; her dishes usually requiring the choicest that the best city market could afford, and taking for granted also a taste for French flavorings not yet common outside of our large cities, and to no great extent within them. To utilize to the best advantage the food-resources of whatever spot one might be in, to give information on a hundred points suggested by each lesson, yet having no place in the ordinary cook-book, in short, to teach household science as well as cooking, became my year's work; and it is that year's work which is incorporated in these pages. Beginning with Raleigh, N.C., and lessons given in a large school there, it included also a seven-months' course at the Deaf and Dumb Institute, and regular classes for ladies. Straight through, in those classes, it became my business to say, "This is no infallible system, warranted to give the whole art of cooking in twelve lessons. All I can do for you is to lay down clearly certain fixed principles; to show you how to economize thoroughly, yet get a better result than by the expenditure of perhaps much more material. Before our course ends, you will have had performed before you every essential operation in cooking, and will know, so far as I can make you know, prices, qualities, constituents, and physiological effects of every type of food. Beyond this, the work lies in your own hands."
Armed with manuals,—American, English, French,—bent upon systematizing the subject, yet finding none entirely adequate, gradually, and in spite of all effort to the contrary, I found that my teaching rested more and more on my own personal experience as a housekeeper, both at the South and at the North. The mass of material in many books was found confusing and paralyzing, choice seeming impossible when a dozen methods were given. And for the large proportion of receipts, directions were so vague that only a trained housekeeper could be certain of the order of combination, or results when combined. So from the crowd of authorities was gradually eliminated a foundation for work; and on that foundation has risen a structure designed to serve two ends.
For the young housekeeper, beginning with little or no knowledge, but eager to do and know the right thing, not alone for kitchen but for the home as a whole, the list of topics touched upon in Part I. became essential. That much of the knowledge compressed there should have been gained at home, is at once admitted: but, unfortunately, few homes give it; and the aim has been to cover the ground concisely yet clearly and attractively. As to Part II., it does not profess to be the whole art of cooking, but merely the line of receipts most needed in the average family, North or South. Each receipt has been tested personally by the writer, often many times; and each one is given so minutely that failure is well-nigh impossible, if the directions are intelligently followed. A few distinctively Southern dishes are included, but the ground covered has drawn from all sources; the series of excellent and elaborate manuals by well-known authors having contributed here and there, but the majority of rules being, as before said, the result of years of personal experiment, or drawn from old family receipt-books.
To facilitate the work of the teacher, however, a scheme of lessons is given at the end, covering all that can well be taught in the ordinary school year: each lesson is given with page references to the receipts employed, while a shorter and more compact course is outlined for the use of classes for ladies. A list of topics is also given for school use; it having been found to add greatly to the interest of the course to write each week the story of some ingredient in the lesson for the day, while a set of questions, to be used at periodical intervals, fixes details, and insures a certain knowledge of what progress has been made. The course covers the chemistry and physiology of food, as well as an outline of household science in general, and may serve as a text-book wherever such study is introduced. It is hoped that this presentation of the subject will lessen the labor necessary in this new field, though no text-book can fully take the place of personal enthusiastic work.
That training is imperatively demanded for rich and poor alike, is now unquestioned; but the mere taking a course of cooking-lessons alone does not meet the need in full. The present book aims to fill a place hitherto unoccupied; and precisely the line of work indicated there has been found the only practical method in a year's successful organization of schools at various points. Whether used at home with growing girls, in cooking-clubs, in schools, or in private classes, it is hoped that the system outlined and the authorities referred to will stimulate interest, and open up a new field of work to many who have doubted if the food question had any interest beyond the day's need, and who have failed to see that nothing ministering to the best life and thought of this wonderful human body could ever by any chance be rightfully called "common or unclean." We are but on the threshold of the new science. If these pages make the way even a little plainer, the author will have accomplished her full purpose, and will know that in spite of appearances there is "room for one more."
THE EASIEST WAY.
THE HOUSE: SITUATION AND ARRANGEMENT.
From the beginning it must be understood that what is written here applies chiefly to country homes. The general principles laid down are applicable with equal force to town or city life; but as a people we dwell mostly in the country, and, even in villages or small towns, each house is likely to have its own portion of land about it, and to look toward all points of the compass, instead of being limited to two, as in city blocks. Of the comparative advantages or disadvantages of city or country life, there is no need to speak here. Our business is simply to give such details as may apply to both, but chiefly to the owners of moderate incomes, or salaried people, whose expenditure must always be somewhat limited. With the exterior of such homes, women at present have very little to do; and the interior also is thus far much in the hands of architects, who decide for general prettiness of effect, rather than for the most convenient arrangement of space. The young bride, planning a home, is resolved upon a bay-window, as large a parlor as possible, and an effective spare-room; but, having in most cases no personal knowledge of work, does not consider whether kitchen and dining-room are conveniently planned, or not, and whether the arrangement of pantries and closets is such that both rooms must be crossed a hundred times a day, when a little foresight might have reduced the number certainly by one-half, perhaps more.
Inconvenience can, in most cases, be remedied; but unhealthfulness or unwholesomeness of location, very seldom: and therefore, in the beginning, I write that ignorance is small excuse for error, and that every one able to read at all, or use common-sense about any detail of life, is able to form a judgment of what is healthful or unhealthful. If no books are at hand, consult the best physician near, and have his verdict as to the character of the spot in which more or less of your life in this world will be spent, and which has the power to affect not only your mental and bodily health, but that of your children. Because your fathers and mothers have been neglectful of these considerations, is no reason why you should continue in ignorance; and the first duty in making a home is to consider earnestly and intelligently certain points.
Four essentials are to be thought of in the choice of any home; and their neglect, and the ignorance which is the foundation of this neglect, are the secret of not only the chronic ill-health supposed to be a necessity of the American organization, but of many of the epidemics and mysterious diseases classed under the head of "visitations of Providence."
These essentials are: a wholesome situation, good ventilation, good drainage, and a dry cellar. Rich or poor, high or low, if one of these be disregarded, the result will tell, either on your own health or on that of your family. Whether palace or hut, brown-stone front or simple wooden cottage, the law is the same. As a rule, the ordinary town or village is built upon low land, because it is easier to obtain a water-supply from wells and springs. In such a case, even where the climate itself may be tolerably healthy, the drainage from the hills at hand, or the nearness of swamps and marshes produced by the same cause, makes a dry cellar an impossibility; and this shut-in and poisonous moisture makes malaria inevitable. The dwellers on low lands are the pill and patent-medicine takers; and no civilized country swallows the amount of tonics and bitters consumed by our own.
If possible, let the house be on a hill, or at least a rise of ground, to secure the thorough draining-away of all sewage and waste water. Even in a swampy and malarious country, such a location will insure all the health possible in such a region, if the other conditions mentioned are faithfully attended to.
Let the living-rooms and bedrooms, as far as may be, have full sunshine during a part of each day; and reserve the north side of the house for store-rooms, refrigerator, and the rooms seldom occupied. Do not allow trees to stand so near as to shut out air or sunlight; but see that, while near enough for beauty and for shade, they do not constantly shed moisture, and make twilight in your rooms even at mid-day. Sunshine is the enemy of disease, which thrives in darkness and shadow. Consumption or scrofulous disease is almost inevitable in the house shut in by trees, whose blinds are tightly closed lest some ray of sunshine fade the carpets; and over and over again it has been proved that the first conditions of health are, abundant supply of pure air, and free admission of sunlight to every nook and cranny. Even with imperfect or improper food, these two allies are strong enough to carry the day for health; and, when the three work in harmony, the best life is at once assured.
If the house must be on the lowlands, seek a sandy or gravelly soil; and avoid those built over clay beds, or even where clay bottom is found under the sand or loam. In the last case, if drainage is understood, pipes may be so arranged as to secure against any standing water; but, unless this is done, the clammy moisture on walls, and the chill in every closed room, are sufficient indication that the conditions for disease are ripe or ripening. The only course in such case, after seeking proper drainage, is, first, abundant sunlight, and, second, open fires, which will act not only as drying agents, but as ventilators and purifiers. Aim to have at least one open fire in the house. It is not an extravagance, but an essential, and economy may better come in at some other place.
Having settled these points as far as possible,—the question of water-supply and ventilation being left to another chapter,—it is to be remembered that the house is not merely a place to be made pleasant for one's friends. They form only a small portion of the daily life; and the first consideration should be: Is it so planned that the necessary and inevitable work of the day can be accomplished with the least expenditure of force? North and South, the kitchen is often the least-considered room of the house; and, so long as the necessary meals are served up, the difficulties that may have hedged about such serving are never counted. At the South it is doubly so, and necessarily; old conditions having made much consideration of convenience for servants an unthought-of thing. With a throng of unemployed women and children, the question could only be, how to secure some small portion of work for each one; and in such case, the greater the inconveniences, the more chance for such employment. Water could well be half a mile distant, when a dozen little darkies had nothing to do but form a running line between house and spring; and so with wood and kindling and all household necessities.
To-day, with the old service done away with once for all, and with a set of new conditions governing every form of work, the Southern woman faces difficulties to which her Northern or Western sister is an utter stranger; faces them often with a patience and dignity beyond all praise, but still with a hopelessness of better things, the necessary fruit of ignorance. Old things are passed away, and the new order is yet too unfamiliar for rules to have formulated and settled in any routine of action. While there is, at the North, more intuitive and inherited sense of how things should be done, there is on many points an almost equal ignorance, more especially among the cultivated classes, who, more than at any period of woman's history, are at the mercy of their servants. Every science is learned but domestic science. The schools ignore it; and, indeed, in the rush toward an early graduation, there is small room for it.
"She can learn at home," say the mothers. "She will take to it when her time comes, just as a duck takes to water," add the fathers; and the matter is thus dismissed as settled.
In the mean time the "she" referred to—the average daughter of average parents in both city and country—neither "learns at home," nor "takes to it naturally," save in exceptional cases; and the reason for this is found in the love, which, like much of the love given, is really only a higher form of selfishness. The busy mother of a family, who has fought her own way to fairly successful administration, longs to spare her daughters the petty cares, the anxious planning, that have helped to eat out her own youth; and so the young girl enters married life with a vague sense of the dinners that must be, and a general belief that somehow or other they come of themselves. And so with all household labor. That to perform it successfully and skillfully, demands not only training, but the best powers one can bring to bear upon its accomplishment, seldom enters the mind; and the student, who has ended her course of chemistry or physiology enthusiastically, never dreams of applying either to every-day life.
This may seem a digression; and yet, in the very outset, it is necessary to place this work upon the right footing, and to impress with all possible earnestness the fact, that Household Science holds every other science in tribute, and that only that home which starts with this admission and builds upon the best foundation the best that thought can furnish, has any right to the name of "home." The swarms of drunkards, of idiots, of insane, of deaf and dumb, owe their existence to an ignorance of the laws of right living, which is simply criminal, and for which we must be judged; and no word can be too earnest, which opens the young girl's eyes to the fact that in her hands lie not alone her own or her husband's future, but the future of the nation. It is hard to see beyond one's own circle; but if light is sought for, and there is steady resolve and patient effort to do the best for one's individual self, and those nearest one, it will be found that the shadow passes, and that progress is an appreciable thing.
Begin in your own home. Study to make it not only beautiful, but perfectly appointed. If your own hands must do the work, learn every method of economizing time and strength. If you have servants, whether one or more, let the same laws rule. It is not easy, I admit; no good thing is: but there is infinite reward for every effort. Let no failure discourage, but let each one be only a fresh round in the ladder all must climb who would do worthy work; and be sure that the end will reward all pain, all self-sacrifice, and make you truly the mistresses of the home for which every woman naturally and rightfully hopes, but which is never truly hers till every shade of detail in its administration has been mastered.
The house, then, is the first element of home to be considered and studied; and we have settled certain points as to location and arrangement. This is no hand-book of plans for houses, that ground being thoroughly covered in various books,—the titles of two or three of which are given in a list of reference-books at the end. But, whether you build or buy, see to it that your kitchens and working-rooms are well lighted, well aired, and of good size, and that in the arrangement of the kitchen especially, the utmost convenience becomes the chief end. Let sink, pantries, stove or range, and working-space for all operations in cooking, be close at hand. The difference between a pantry at the opposite end of the room, and one opening close to the sink, for instance, may seem a small matter; but when it comes to walking across the room with every dish that is washed, the steps soon count up as miles, and in making even a loaf of bread, the time and strength expended in gathering materials together would go far toward the thorough kneading, which, when added to the previous exertion, makes the whole operation, which might have been only a pleasure, a burden and an annoyance.
Let, then, stove, fuel, water, work-table, and pantries be at the same end of the kitchen, and within a few steps of one another, and it will be found that while the general labor of each day must always be the same, the time required for its accomplishment will be far less, under these favorable conditions. The successful workman,—the type-setter, the cabinet-maker, or carpenter,—whose art lies in the rapid combination of materials, arranges his materials and tools so as to be used with the fewest possible movements; and the difference between a skilled and unskilled workman is not so much the rate of speed in movement, as in the ability to make each motion tell. The kitchen is the housekeeper's workshop; and, in the chapter on House-work, some further details as to methods and arrangements will be given.
THE HOUSE: VENTILATION.
Having settled the four requisites in any home, and suggested the points to be made in regard to the first one,—that of wholesome situation,—Ventilation is next in order. Theoretically, each one of us who has studied either natural philosophy or physiology will state at once, with more or less glibness, the facts as to the atmosphere, its qualities, and the amount of air needed by each individual; practically nullifying such statement by going to bed in a room with closed windows and doors, or sitting calmly in church or public hall, breathing over and over again the air ejected from the lungs all about,—practice as cleanly and wholesome as partaking of food chewed over and over by an indiscriminate crowd.
Now, as to find the Reason Why of all statements and operations is our first consideration, the familiar ground must be traversed again, and the properties and constituents of air find place here. It is an old story, and, like other old stories accepted by the multitude, has become almost of no effect; passive acceptance mentally, absolute rejection physically, seeming to be the portion of much of the gospel of health. "Cleanliness is next to godliness," is almost an axiom. I am disposed to amend it, and assert that cleanliness is godliness, or a form of godliness. At any rate, the man or woman who demands cleanliness without and within, this cleanliness meaning pure air, pure water, pure food, must of necessity have a stronger body and therefore a clearer mind (both being nearer what God meant for body and mind) than the one who has cared little for law, and so lived oblivious to the consequences of breaking it.
Ventilation, seemingly the simplest and easiest of things to be accomplished, has thus far apparently defied architects and engineers. Congress has spent a million in trying to give fresh air to the Senate and Representative Chambers, and will probably spend another before that is accomplished. In capitols, churches, and public halls of every sort, the same story holds. Women faint, men in courts of justice fall in apoplectic fits, or become victims of new and mysterious diseases, simply from the want of pure air. A constant slow murder goes on in nurseries and schoolrooms; and white-faced, nerveless children grow into white-faced and nerveless men and women, as the price of this violated law.
What is this air, seemingly so hard to secure, so hard to hold as part of our daily life, without which we can not live, and which we yet contentedly poison nine times out of ten?
Oxygen, nitrogen, carbonic acid, and watery vapor; the last two being a small portion of the bulk, oxygen and nitrogen making up four-fifths. Small as the proportion of oxygen seems, an increase of but one-fifth more would be destruction. It is the life-giver, but undiluted would be the life-destroyer; and the three-fifths of nitrogen act as its diluent. No other element possesses the same power. Fires and light-giving combustion could not exist an instant without oxygen. Its office seems that of universal destruction. By its action decay begins in meat or vegetables and fruits; and it is for this reason, that, to preserve them, all oxygen must be driven out by bringing them to the boiling point, and sealing them up in jars to which no air can find entrance. With only undiluted oxygen to breathe, the tissues would dry and shrivel, fuel burn with a fury none could withstand, and every operation of nature be conducted with such energy as soon to exhaust and destroy all power. But "a mixture of the fiery oxygen and inert nitrogen gives us the golden mean. The oxygen now quietly burns the fuel in our stoves, and keeps us warm; combines with the oil in our lamps, and gives us light; corrodes our bodies, and gives us strength; cleanses the air, and keeps it fresh and invigorating; sweetens foul water, and makes it wholesome; works all around us and within us a constant miracle, yet with such delicacy and quietness, we never perceive or think of it, until we see it with the eye of science."
Food and air are the two means by which bodies live. In the full-grown man, whose weight will average about one hundred and fifty-four pounds, one hundred and eleven pounds is oxygen drawn from the air we breathe. Only when food has been dissolved in the stomach, absorbed at last into the blood, and by means of circulation brought into contact with the oxygen of the air taken into our lungs, can it begin to really feed and nourish the body; so that the lungs may, after all, be regarded as the true stomach, the other being not much more than the food-receptacle.
Take these lungs, made up within of branching tubes, these in turn formed by myriads of air-cells, and each air-cell owning its network of minute cells called capillaries. To every air-cell is given a blood-vessel bringing blood from the heart, which finds its way through every capillary till it reaches another blood-vessel that carries it back to the heart. It leaves the heart charged with carbonic acid and watery vapor. It returns, if pure air has met it in the lung, with all corruption destroyed, a dancing particle of life. But to be life, and not slow death, thirty-three hogsheads of air must pass daily into the lungs, and twenty-eight pounds of blood journey from heart to lungs and back again three times in each hour. It rests wholly with ourselves, whether this wonderful tide, ebbing and flowing with every breath, shall exchange its poisonous and clogging carbonic acid and watery vapor for life-giving oxygen, or retain it to weigh down and debilitate every nerve in the body.
With every thought and feeling some actual particles of brain and nerve are dissolved, and sent floating on this crimson current. With every motion of a muscle, whether great or small, with every process that can take place in the body, this ceaseless change of particles is going on. Wherever oxygen finds admission, its union with carbon to form carbonic acid, or with hydrogen to form water, produces heat. The waste of the body is literally burned up by the oxygen; and it is this burning which means the warmth of a living body, its absence giving the stony cold of the dead. "Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" may well be the literal question for each day of our lives; and "pure air" alone can secure genuine life. Breathing bad air reduces all the processes of the body, lessens vitality; and thus, one in poor health will suffer more from bad air than those who have become thoroughly accustomed to it. If weakened vitality were the only result, it would not be so serious a matter; but scrofula is soon fixed upon such constitutions, beginning with its milder form as in consumption, but ending in the absolute rottenness of bone and tissue. The invalid may live in the healthiest climate, pass hours each day in the open air, and yet undo or neutralize much of the good of this by sleeping in an unventilated room at night. Diseased joints, horrible affections of the eye or ear or skin, are inevitable. The greatest living authorities on lung-diseases pronounce deficient ventilation the chief cause of consumption, and more fatal than all other causes put together; and, even where food and clothing are both unwholesome, free air has been found able to counteract their effect.
In the country the balance ordained in nature has its compensating power. The poisonous carbonic acid thrown off by lungs and body is absorbed by vegetation whose food it is, and which in every waving leaf or blade of grass returns to us the oxygen we demand. Shut in a close room all day, or even in a tolerably ventilated one, there may be no sense of closeness; but go to the open air for a moment, and, if the nose has not been hopelessly ruined by want of education, it will tell unerringly the degree of oxygen wanting and required.
It is ordinarily supposed that carbonic-acid gas, being heavier, sinks to the bottom of the room, and that thus trundle-beds, for instance, are especially unwholesome. This would be so, were the gas pure. As a matter of fact, however, being warmed in the body, and thus made lighter, it rises into the common air, so that usually more will be found at the top than at the bottom of a room. This gas is, however, not the sole cause of disease. From both lungs and skin, matter is constantly thrown off, and floats in the form of germs in all impure air. To a person who by long confinement to close rooms has become so sensitive that any sudden current of air gives a cold, ventilation seems an impossibility and a cruelty; and the problem becomes: How to admit pure air throughout the house, and yet avoid currents and draughts. "Night-air" is even more dreaded than the confined air of rooms; yet, as the only air to be had at night must come under this head, it is safer to breathe that than to settle upon carbonic acid as lung-food for a third, at least, of the twenty-four hours. As fires feed on oxygen, it follows that every lamp, every gas-jet, every furnace, are so many appetites satisfying themselves upon our store of food, and that, if they are burning about us, a double amount of oxygen must be furnished.
The only mode of ventilation that will work always and without fail is that of a warm-air flue, the upward heated air-current of which draws off the foul gases from the room: this, supplemented by an opening on the opposite side of the room for the admission of pure air, will accomplish the desired end. An open fire-place will secure this, provided the flue is kept warm by heat from the kitchen fire, or some other during seasons when the fire-place is not used. But perhaps the simplest way is to have ample openings (from eight to twelve inches square) at the top and bottom of each room, opening into the chimney-flue: then, even if a stove is used, the flue can be kept heated by the extension of the stove-pipe some distance up within the chimney, and the ascending current of hot air will draw the foul air from the room into the flue. This, as before stated, must be completed by a fresh-air opening into the room on another side: if no other can be had, the top of the window may be lowered a little. The stove-pipe extension within the chimney would better be of cast-iron, as more durable than the sheet-iron. When no fire is used in the sleeping-rooms, the chimney-flue must be heated by pipes from the kitchen or other fires; and, with the provision for fresh air never forgotten, this simple device will invariably secure pure and well-oxygenated air for breathing. "Fussy and expensive," may be the comment; but the expense is less than the average yearly doctor's bill, and the fussiness nothing that your own hands must engage in. Only let heads take it in, and see to it that no neglect is allowed. In a southern climate doors and windows are of necessity open more constantly; but at night they are closed from the fear referred to, that night-air holds some subtle poison. It is merely colder, and perhaps moister, than day-air; and an extra bed-covering neutralizes this danger. Once accustomed to sleeping with open windows, you will find that taking cold is impossible.
If custom, or great delicacy of organization, makes unusual sensitiveness to cold, have a board the precise width of the window, and five or six inches high. Then raise the lower sash, putting this under it; and an upward current of air will be created, which will in great part purify the room.
Beyond every thing, watch that no causes producing foul air are allowed to exist for a moment. A vase of neglected flowers will poison the air of a whole room. In the area or cellar, a decaying head of cabbage, a basket of refuse vegetables, a forgotten barrel of pork or beef brine, a neglected garbage pail or box, are all premiums upon disease. Let air and sunlight search every corner of the house. Insist upon as nearly spotless cleanliness as may be, and the second prime necessity of the home is secure.
When, as it is written, man was formed from the dust of the earth, the Lord God "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul."
Shut off that breath of life, or poison it as it is daily poisoned, and not only body, but soul, dies. The child, fresh from its long day out of doors, goes to bed quiet, content, and happy. It wakes up a little demon, bristling with crossness, and determined not to "be good." The breath of life carefully shut out, death has begun its work, and you are responsible. And the same criminal blunder causes not only the child's suffering, but also the weakness which makes many a delicate woman complain that it "takes till noon to get her strength up."
Open the windows. Take the portion to which you were born, and life will grow easier.
DRAINAGE AND WATER-SUPPLY.
Air and sunshine having been assured for all parts of the house in daily use, the next question must be an unfailing and full supply of pure water. "Dig a well, or build near a spring," say the builders; and the well is dug, or the spring tapped, under the general supposition that water is clean and pure, simply because it is water, while the surroundings of either spring or well are unnoticed. Drainage is so comparatively new a question, that only the most enlightened portions of the country consider its bearings; and the large majority of people all over the land not only do not know the interests involved in it, but would resent as a personal slight any hint that their own water-supply might be affected by deficient drainage.
Pure water is simply oxygen and hydrogen, eight-ninths being oxygen and but one-ninth hydrogen; the latter gas, if pure, having, like oxygen, neither taste nor smell. Rain-water is the purest type; and, if collected in open vessels as it falls, is necessarily free from any possible taint (except at the very first of a rain, when it washes down considerable floating impurity from the atmosphere, especially in cities). This mode being for obvious reasons impracticable, cisterns are made, and rain conducted to them through pipes leading from the roof. The water has thus taken up all the dust, soot, and other impurities found upon the roof, and, unless filtered, can not be considered desirable drink. The best cistern will include a filter of some sort, and this is accomplished in two ways. Either the cistern is divided into two parts, the water being received on one side, and allowed to slowly filter through a wall of porous brick, regarded by many as an amply sufficient means of purification; or a more elaborate form is used, the division in such case being into upper and under compartments, the upper one containing the usual filter of iron, charcoal, sponge, and gravel or sand. If this water has a free current of air passing over it, it will acquire more sparkle and character; but as a rule it is flat and unpleasant in flavor, being entirely destitute of the earthy salts and the carbonic-acid gas to be found in the best river or spring water.
Distilled water comes next in purity, and is, in fact, identical in character with rain-water; the latter being merely steam, condensed into rain in the great alembic of the sky. But both have the curious property of taking up and dissolving lead wherever they find it; and it is for this reason that lead pipes as leaders from or to cisterns should never be allowed, unless lined with some other metal.
The most refreshing as well as most wholesome water is river or spring water, perfectly filtered so that no possible impurity can remain. It is then soft and clear; has sufficient air and carbonic acid to make it refreshing, and enough earthy salts to prevent its taking up lead, and so becoming poisonous. River-water for daily use of course requires a system of pipes, and in small places is practically unavailable; so that wells are likely, in such case, to be the chief source of supply. Such water will of course be spring-water, with the characteristics of the soil through which it rises. If the well be shallow, and fed by surface springs, all impurities of the soil will be found in it; and thus to dig deep becomes essential, for many reasons. Dr. Parker of England, in some papers on practical hygiene, gives a clear and easily understood statement of some causes affecting the purity of well-water.
"A well drains an extent of ground around it, in the shape of an inverted cone, which is in proportion to its own depth and the looseness of the soil. In very loose soils a well of sixty or eighty feet will drain a large area, perhaps as much as two hundred feet in diameter, or even more; but the exact amount is not, as far as I know, precisely determined.
"Certain trades pour their refuse water into rivers, gas-works; slaughter-houses; tripe-houses; size, horn, and isinglass manufactories; wash-houses, starch-works, and calico-printers, and many others. In houses it is astonishing how many instances occur of the water of butts, cisterns, and tanks, getting contaminated by leaking of pipes and other causes, such as the passage of sewer-gas through overflow-pipes, &c.
"As there is now no doubt that typhoid-fever, cholera, and dysentery may be caused by water rendered impure by the evacuations passed in those diseases, and as simple diarrhoea seems also to be largely caused by animal organic [matter in] suspension or solution, it is evident how necessary it is to be quick-sighted in regard to the possible impurity of water from incidental causes of this kind. Therefore all tanks and cisterns should be inspected regularly, and any accidental source of impurity must be looked out for. Wells should be covered; a good coping put round to prevent substances being washed down; the distances from cess-pools and dung-heaps should be carefully noted; no sewer should be allowed to pass near a well. The same precautions should be taken with springs. In the case of rivers, we must consider if contamination can result from the discharge of fecal matters, trade refuse, &c."
Now, suppose all such precautions have been disregarded. Suppose, as is most usual, that the well is dug near the kitchen-door,—probably between kitchen and barn; the drain, if there is a drain from the kitchen, pouring out the dirty water of wash-day and all other days, which sinks through the ground, and acts as feeder to the waiting well. Suppose the manure-pile in the barnyard also sends down its supply, and the privies contribute theirs. The water may be unchanged in color or odor: yet none the less you are drinking a foul and horrible poison; slow in action, it is true, but making you ready for diphtheria and typhoid-fever, and consumption, and other nameless ills. It is so easy to doubt or set aside all this, that I give one case as illustration and warning of all the evils enumerated above.
The State Board of Health for Massachusetts has long busied itself with researches on all these points, and the case mentioned is in one of their reports. The house described is one in Hadley, built by a clergyman. "It was provided with an open well and sink-drain, with its deposit-box in close proximity thereto, affording facility to discharge its gases in the well as the most convenient place. The cellar was used, as country cellars commonly are, for the storage of provisions of every kind, and the windows were never opened. The only escape for the soil-moisture and ground-air, except that which was absorbed by the drinking-water, was through the crevices of the floors into the rooms above. After a few months' residence in the house, the clergyman's wife died of fever. He soon married again; and the second wife also died of fever, within a year from the time of marriage. His children were sick. He occupied the house about two years. The wife of his successor was soon taken ill, and barely escaped with her life. A physician then took the house. He married, and his wife soon after died of fever. Another physician took the house, and within a few months came near dying of erysipelas. He deserved it. The house, meanwhile, received no treatment; the doctors, according to their usual wont, even in their own families, were satisfied to deal with the consequences, and leave the causes to do their worst.
"Next after the doctors, a school-teacher took the house, and made a few changes, for convenience apparently, for substantially it remained the same; for he, too, escaped as by the skin of his teeth. Finally, after the foreclosure of many lives, the sickness and fatality of the property became so marked, that it became unsalable. When at last sold, every sort of prediction was made as to the risk of occupancy; but, by a thorough attention to sanitary conditions, no such risks have been encountered."
These deaths were suicides,—ignorant ones, it is true, not one stopping to think what causes lay at the bottom of such "mysterious dispensations." But, just as surely as corn gives a crop from the seed sown, so surely typhoid fever and diphtheria follow bad drainage or the drinking of impure water.
Boiling such water destroys the germs of disease; but neither boiled water nor boiled germs are pleasant drinking.
If means are too narrow to admit of the expense attendant upon making a drain long enough and tight enough to carry off all refuse water to a safe distance from the house, then adopt another plan. Remember that to throw dirty water on the ground near a well, is as deliberate poisoning as if you threw arsenic in the well itself. Have a large tub or barrel standing on a wheelbarrow or small hand-cart; and into this pour every drop of dirty water, wheeling it away to orchard or garden, where it will enrich the soil, which will transform it, and return it to you, not in disease, but in fruit and vegetables. Also see that the well has a roof, and, if possible, a lattice-work about it, that all leaves and flying dirt may be prevented from falling into it. You do not want your water to be a solution or tincture of dead leaves, dead frogs and insects, or stray mice or kittens; and this it must be, now and again, if not covered sufficiently to exclude such chances, though not the air, which must be given free access to it.
As to hard and soft water, the latter is always most desirable, as soft water extracts the flavor of tea and coffee far better than hard, and is also better for all cooking and washing purposes. Hard water results from a superabundance of lime; and this lime "cakes" on the bottom of tea-kettles, curdles soap, and clings to every thing boiled in it, from clothes to meat and vegetables (which last are always more tender if cooked in soft water; though, if it be too soft, they are apt to boil to a porridge).
Washing-soda or borax will soften hard water, and make it better for all household purposes; but rain-water, even if not desired for drinking, will be found better than any softened by artificial means.
If, as in many towns, the supply of drinking-water for many families comes from the town pump or pumps, the same principles must be attended to. A well in Golden Square, London, was noted for its especially bright and sparkling water, so much so that people sent from long distances to secure it. The cholera broke out; and all who drank from the well became its victims, though the square seemed a healthy location. Analysis showed it to be not only alive with a species of fungus growing in it, but also weighted with dead organic matter from a neighboring churchyard. Every tissue in the living bodies which had absorbed this water was inflamed, and ready to yield to the first epidemic; and cholera was the natural outcome of such conditions. Knowledge should guard against any such chances. See to it that no open cesspool poisons either air or water about your home. Sunk at a proper distance from the house, and connected with it by a drain so tightly put together that none of the contents can escape, the cesspool, which may be an elaborate, brick-lined cistern, or merely an old hogshead thoroughly tarred within and without, and sunk in the ground, becomes one of the most important adjuncts of a good garden. If, in addition to this, a pile of all the decaying vegetable matter—leaves, weeds, &c.—is made, all dead cats, hens, or puppies finding burial there; and the whole closely covered with earth to absorb, as fresh earth has the power to do, all foul gases and vapors; and if at intervals the pile is wet through with liquid from the cesspool, the richest form of fertilizer is secured, and one of the great agricultural duties of man fulfilled,—that of "returning to the soil, as fertilizers, all the salts produced by the combustion of food in the human body."
Where the water-supply is brought into the house from a common reservoir, much the same rules hold good. We can not of course control the character of the general supply, but we can see to it that our own water and waste pipes are in the most perfect condition; that traps and all the best methods of preventing the escape of sewer-gas into our houses are provided; that stationary or "set" basins have the plug always in them; and that every water-closet is provided with a ventilating pipe sufficiently high and long to insure the full escape of all gases from the house. Simple disinfectants used from time to time—chloride of lime and carbolic acid—will be found useful, and the most absolute cleanliness is at all times the first essential.
With air and water at their best, the home has a reasonable chance of escaping many of the sorrows brought by disease or uncertain health; and, the power to work to the best advantage being secured, we may now pass to the forms that work must take.
THE DAY'S WORK.
It is safe to say that no class of women in the civilized world is subjected to such incessant trials of temper, and such temptation to be fretful, as the American housekeeper. The reasons for this state of things are legion; and, if in the beginning we take ground from which the whole field may be clearly surveyed, we may be able to secure a better understanding of what housekeeping means, and to guard against some of the dangers accompanying it.
The first difficulty lies in taking for granted that successful housekeeping is as much an instinct as that which leads the young bird to nest-building, and that no specific training is required. The man who undertakes a business, passes always through some form of apprenticeship, and must know every detail involved in the management; but to the large proportion of women, housekeeping is a combination of accidental forces from whose working it is hoped breakfasts and dinners and suppers will be evolved at regular periods, other necessities finding place where they can. The new home, prettily furnished, seems a lovely toy, and is surrounded by a halo, which, as facts assert themselves, quickly fades away. Moth and rust and dust invade the most secret recesses. Breakage and general disaster attend the progress of Bridget or Chloe. The kitchen seems the headquarters of extraordinary smells, and the stove an abyss in its consumption of coal or wood. Food is wasted by bad cooking, or ignorance as to needed amounts, or methods of using left-over portions; and, as bills pile up, a hopeless discouragement often settles upon both wife and husband, and reproaches and bitterness and alienation are guests in the home, to which they need never have come had a little knowledge barred them out.
In the beginning, then, be sure of one thing,—that all the wisdom you have or can acquire, all the patience and tact and self-denial you can make yours by the most diligent effort, will be needed every day and every hour of the day. Details are in themselves wearying, and to most men their relation to housekeeping is unaccountable. The day's work of a systematic housekeeper would confound the best-trained man of business. In the woman's hand is the key to home-happiness, but it is folly to assert that all lies with her. Let it be felt from the beginning that her station is a difficult one, that her duties are important, and that judgment and skill must guide their performance; let boys be taught the honor that lies in such duties,—and there will be fewer heedless and unappreciative husbands. On the other hand, let the woman remember that the good general does not waste words on hindrances, or leave his weak spots open to observation, but, learning from every failure or defeat, goes on steadily to victory. To fret will never mend a matter; and "Study to be quiet" in thought, word, and action, is the first law of successful housekeeping. Never under-estimate the difficulties to be met, for this is as much an evil as over-apprehension. The best-arranged plans may be overturned at a moment's notice. In a mixed family, habits and pursuits differ so widely that the housekeeper must hold herself in readiness to find her most cherished schemes set aside. Absolute adherence to a system is only profitable so far as the greatest comfort and well-being of the family are affected; and, dear as a fixed routine may be to the housekeeper's mind, it may often well be sacrificed to the general pleasure or comfort. A quiet, controlled mind, a soft voice, no matter what the provocation to raise it may be, is "an excellent thing in woman." And the certainty that, hard as such control may be, it holds the promise of the best and fullest life here and hereafter, is a motive strong enough, one would think, to insure its adoption. Progress may be slow, but the reward for every step forward is certain.
We have already found that each day has its fixed routine, and are ready now to take up the order of work, which will be the same in degree whether one servant is kept, or many, or none. The latter state of things will often happen in the present uncertain character of household service. Old family servants are becoming more and more rare; and, unless the new generation is wisely trained, we run the risk of being even more at their mercy in the future than in the past.
First, then, on rising in the morning, see that a full current of air can pass through every sleeping-room; remove all clothes from the beds, and allow them to air at least an hour. Only in this way can we be sure that the impurities, thrown off from even the cleanest body by the pores during the night, are carried off. A neat housekeeper is often tempted to make beds, or have them made, almost at once; but no practice can be more unwholesome.
While beds and bedrooms are airing, breakfast is to be made ready, the table set, and kitchen and dining-room put in order. The kitchen-fire must first be built. If a gas or oil stove can be used, the operations are all simpler. If not, it is always best to have dumped the grate the night before if coal is used, and to have laid the fire ready for lighting. In the morning brush off all ashes, and wipe or blacken the stove. Strong, thick gloves, and a neat box for brushes, blacking, &c., will make this a much less disagreeable operation than it sounds. Rinse out the tea-kettle, fill it with fresh water, and put over to boil. Then remove the ashes, and, if coal is used, sift them, as cinders can be burned a large part of the time where only a moderate fire is desired.
The table can be set, and the dining or sitting room swept, or merely brushed up and dusted, in the intervals of getting breakfast. To have every thing clean, hot, and not only well prepared but ready on time, is the first law, not only for breakfast, but for every other meal.
After breakfast comes the dish-washing, dreaded by all beginners, but needlessly so. With a full supply of all conveniences,—plenty of soap and sapolio, which is far better and cleaner to use than either sand or ashes; with clean, soft towels for glass and silver; a mop, the use of which not only saves the hands but enables you to have hotter water; and a full supply of coarser towels for the heavier dishes,—the work can go on swiftly. Let the dish-pan be half full of hot soap and water. Wash glass first, paying no attention to the old saying that "hot water rots glass." Be careful never to put glass into hot water, bottom first, as the sudden expansion may crack it. Slip it in edgeways, and the finest and most delicate cut-glass will be safe. Wash silver next. Hot suds, and instant wiping on dry soft cloths, will retain the brightness of silver, which treated in this way requires much less polishing, and therefore lasts longer. If any pieces require rubbing, use a little whiting made into a paste, and put on wet. Let it dry, and then polish with a chamois-skin. Once a month will be sufficient for rubbing silver, if it is properly washed. China comes next—all plates having been carefully scraped, and all cups rinsed out. To fill the pan with unscraped and unrinsed dishes, and pour half-warm water over the whole, is a method too often adopted; and the results are found in sticky dishes and lustreless silver. Put all china, silver, and glass in their places as soon as washed. Then take any tin or iron pans, wash, wipe with a dry towel, and put near the fire to dry thoroughly. A knitting-needle or skewer may be kept to dig out corners unreachable by dishcloth or towel, and if perfectly dried they will remain free from rust.
The cooking-dishes, saucepans, &c., come next in order; and here the wire dish-cloth will be found useful, as it does not scratch, yet answers every purpose of a knife. Every pot, kettle, and saucepan must be put into the pan of hot water. If very greasy, it is well to allow them to stand partly full of water in which a few drops of ammonia have been put. The outside must be washed as carefully as the inside. Till this is done, there will always be complaint of the unpleasantness of handling cooking-utensils. Properly done, they are as clean as the china or glass.
Plated knives save much work. If steel ones are used, they must be polished after every meal. In washing them, see that the handles are never allowed to touch the water. Ivory discolors and cracks if wet. Bristol-brick finely powdered is the best polisher, and, mixed with a little water, can be applied with a large cork. A regular knife-board, or a small board on which you can nail three strips of wood in box form, will give you the best mode of keeping brick and cork in place. After rubbing, wash clean, and wipe dry.
The dish-towels are the next consideration. A set should be used but a week, and must be washed and rinsed each day if you would not have the flavor of dried-in dish-water left on your dishes. Dry them, if possible, in the open air: if not, have a rack, and stand them near the fire. On washing-days, let those that have been used a week have a thorough boiling. The close, sour smell that all housekeepers have noticed about dish-towels comes from want of boiling and drying in fresh air, and is unpardonable and unnecessary.
Keep hot water constantly in your kettles or water-pots, by always remembering to fill with cold when you take out hot. Put away every article carefully in its place.
If tables are stained, and require any scrubbing, remember that to wash or scrub wood you must follow the grain, as rubbing across it rubs the dirt in instead of taking it off.
The same rule applies to floors. A clean, coarse cloth, hot suds, and a good scrubbing-brush, will simplify the operation. Wash off the table; then dip the brush in the suds, and scour with the grain of the wood. Finally wash off all soapy water, and wipe dry. To save strength, the table on which dishes are washed may be covered with kitchen oilcloth, which will merely require washing and wiping; with an occasional scrubbing for the table below.
The table must be cleaned as soon as the dishes are washed, because if dishes stand upon tables the fragments of food have time to harden, and the washing is made doubly hard.
Leaving the kitchen in order, the bedrooms will come next. Turn the mattresses daily, and make the bed smoothly and carefully. Put the under sheet with the wrong side next the bed, and the upper one with the marked end always at the top, to avoid the part where the feet lie, from being reversed and so reaching the face. The sheets should be large enough to tuck in thoroughly, three yards long by two and a half wide being none too large for a double bed. Pillows should be beaten and then smoothed with the hand, and the aim be to have an even, unwrinkled surface. As to the use of shams, whether sheet or pillow, it is a matter of taste; but in all cases, covered or uncovered, let the bed-linen be daintily clean.
Empty all slops, and with hot water wash out all the bowls, pitchers, &c., using separate cloths for these purposes, and never toilet towels. Dust the room, arrange every thing in place, and, if in summer, close the blinds, and darken till evening, that it may be as cool as possible.
Sweeping days for bedrooms need come but once a week, but all rooms used by many people require daily sweeping; halls, passages, and dining and sitting rooms coming under this head. Careful dusting daily will often do away with the need of frequent sweeping, which wears out carpets unnecessarily. A carpet-sweeper is a real economy, both in time and strength; but, if not obtainable, a light broom carefully handled, not with a long stroke which sends clouds of dust over every thing, but with a short quick one, which only experience can give, is next best. For a thorough sweeping, remove as many articles from the room as possible, dusting each one thoroughly, and cover the larger ones which must remain with old sheets or large squares of common unbleached cotton cloth, kept for this purpose. If the furniture is rep or woolen of any description, dust about each button, that no moth may find lodgment, and then cover closely. A feather duster, long or short, as usually applied, is the enemy of cleanliness. Its only legitimate use is for the tops of pictures or books and ornaments; and such dusting should be done before the room is swept, as well as afterward, the first one removing the heaviest coating, which would otherwise be distributed over the room. For piano, and furniture of delicate woods generally, old silk handkerchiefs make the best dusters. For all ordinary purposes, squares of old cambric, hemmed, and washed when necessary, will be found best. Insist upon their being kept for this purpose, and forbid the use of toilet towels, always a temptation to the average servant. Remember that in dusting, the process should be a wiping; not a flirting of the cloth, which simply sends the dust up into the air to settle down again about where it was before.
If moldings and wash-boards or wainscotings are wiped off with a damp cloth, one fruitful source of dust will be avoided. For all intricate work like the legs of pianos, carved backs of furniture, &c., a pair of small bellows will be found most efficient. Brooms, dust-pan, and brushes long and short, whisk-broom, feather and other dusters, should have one fixed place, and be returned to it after every using. If oil-cloth is on halls or passages, it should be washed weekly with warm milk and water, a quart of skim-milk to a pail of water being sufficient. Never use soap or scrubbing-brush, as they destroy both color and texture.
All brass or silver-plated work about fire-place, doorknobs, or bath-room faucets, should be cleaned once a week and before sweeping. For silver, rub first with powdered whiting moistened with a little alcohol or hot water. Let it dry on, and then polish with a dry chamois-skin. If there is any intricate work, use a small toothbrush. Whiting, silver-soap, cloths, chamois, and brushes should all be kept in a box together. In another may be the rotten-stone necessary for cleaning brass, a small bottle of oil, and some woolen cloths. Old merino or flannel under-wear makes excellent rubbing-cloths. Mix the rotten-stone with enough oil to make a paste; rub on with one cloth, and polish with another. Thick gloves can be worn, and all staining of the hands avoided.
The bedrooms and the necessary daily sweeping finished, a look into cellar and store-rooms is next in order,—in the former, to see that no decaying vegetable matter is allowed to accumulate; in the latter, that bread-jar or boxes are dry and sweet, and all stores in good condition.
Where there are servants, it should be understood that the mistress makes this daily progress. Fifteen minutes or half an hour will often cover the time consumed; but it should be a fixed duty never omitted. A look into the refrigerator or meat-safe to note what is left and suggest the best use for it; a glance at towels and dish-cloths to see that all are clean and sweet, and another under all sinks and into each pantry,—will prevent the accumulation of bones and stray bits of food and dirty rags, the paradise of the cockroach, and delight of mice and rats. A servant, if honest, will soon welcome such investigation, and respect her mistress the more for insisting upon it, and, if not, may better find other quarters. One strong temptation to dishonesty is removed where such inspection is certain, and the weekly bills will be less than in the house where matters are left to take care of themselves.
The preparation of dinner if at or near the middle of the day, and the dish-washing which follows, end the heaviest portion of the day's work; and the same order must be followed. Only an outline can be given; each family demanding variations in detail, and each head of a family in time building up her own system. Remember, however, that, if but one servant is kept, she can not do every thing, and that your own brain must constantly supplement her deficiencies, until training and long practice have made your methods familiar. Even then she is likely at any moment to leave, and the battle to begin over again; and the only safeguard in time of such disaster is personal knowledge as to simplest methods of doing the work, and inexhaustible patience in training the next applicant, finding comfort in the thought, that, if your own home has lost, that of some one else is by so much the gainer.
FIRES, LIGHTS, AND THINGS TO WORK WITH.
The popular idea of a fire to cook by seems to be, a red-hot top, the cover of every pot and saucepan dancing over the bubbling, heaving contents, and coal packed in even with the covers. Try to convince a servant that the lid need not hop to assure boiling, nor the fire rise above the fire-box, and there is a profound skepticism, which, even if not expressed, finds vent in the same amount of fuel and the same general course of action as before the remonstrance.
The modern stove has brought simplicity of working, and yet the highest point of convenience, nearly to perfection. With full faith that the fuel of the future will be gas, its use is as yet, for many reasons, very limited; the cost of gas in our smaller cities and towns preventing its adoption by any but the wealthy, who are really in least need of it. With the best gas-stoves, a large part of the disagreeable in cooking is done away. No flying ashes, no cinders, no uneven heat, affected by every change of wind, but a steady flame, regulated to any desired point, and, when used, requiring only a turn of the hand to end the operation.
Ranges set in a solid brick-work are considered the best form of cooking-apparatus; but there are some serious objections to their use, the first being the large amount of fuel required, and then the intense heat thrown out. Even with water in the house, they are not a necessity. A water-back, fully as effectual as the range water-back, can be set in any good stove, and connected with a boiler, large or small, according to the size of the stove; and for such stove, if properly managed, only about half the amount of coal will be needed.
Fix thoroughly in your minds the directions for making and keeping a fire; for, by doing so, one of the heaviest expenses in housekeeping can be lessened fully half.
First, then, remove the covers, and gather all ashes and cinders from the inside top of the stove, into the grate. Now put on the covers; shut the doors; close all the draughts, and dump the contents of the grate into the pan below. In some stoves there is an under-grate, to which a handle is attached; and, this grate being shaken, the ashes pass through to the ash-pan, and the cinders remain in the grate. In that case, they can simply be shoveled out into the extra coal-hod, all pieces of clinker picked out, and a little water sprinkled on them. If all must be dumped together, a regular ash-sifter will be required, placed over a barrel which receives the ashes, while the cinders remain, and are to be treated as described.
Into the grate put shavings or paper, or the fat pine known as lightwood. If the latter be used, paper is unnecessary. Lay on some small sticks of wood, crossing them so that there may be a draught through them; add then one or two sticks of hard wood, and set the shavings or paper on fire, seeing that every draught is open. As soon as the wood is well on fire, cover with about six inches of coal, the smaller, or nut-coal, being always best for stove use. When the coal is burning brightly, shut up all the dampers save the slide in front of the grate, and you will have a fire which will last, without poking or touching in any way, four hours. Even if a little more heat is needed for ovens, and you open the draughts, this rule still holds good.
Never, for any reason, allow the coal to come above the edge of the fire-box or lining. If you do, ashes and cinders will fall into the oven-flues, and they will soon be choked up, and require cleaning. Another reason also lies in the fact that the stove-covers resting on red-hot coals soon burn out, and must be renewed; whereas, by carefully avoiding such chance, a stove may be used many years without crack or failure of any sort.
If fresh heat is required for baking or any purpose after the first four hours, let the fire burn low, then take off the covers, and with the poker from the bottom rake out all the ashes thoroughly. Then put in two or three sticks of wood, fill as before with fresh coal, and the fire is good for another four hours or more. If only a light fire be required after dinner for getting tea, rake only slightly; then, fill with cinders, and close all the dampers. Half an hour before using the stove, open them, and the fire will rekindle enough for any ordinary purpose. As there is great difference in the "drawing" of chimneys, the exact time required for making a fire can not be given.
In using wood, the same principles apply; but of course the fire must be fed much oftener. Grate-fires, as well as those in the ordinary stove, are to be made in much the same way. In a grate, a blower is fastened on until the coal is burning well; but, if the fire is undisturbed after its renewal, it should burn from six to eight hours without further attention. Then rake out the ashes, add coal, put on the blower a few minutes, and then proceed as before. If an exceedingly slow fire is desired, cover the top with cinders, or with ashes moistened with water. In making a grate or stove fire, keep a coarse cloth to lay before it, that ashes may not spoil the carpet; and wipe about the fire-place with a damp, coarse cloth. In putting on coal in a sick-room, where noise would disturb the patient, it is a good plan to put it in small paper bags or in pieces of newspaper, in which it can be laid on silently. A short table of degrees of heat in various forms of fuel is given below; the degree required for baking, &c, finding place when we come to general operations in cooking.
DEGREES OF HEAT FROM FUEL.
Willow charcoal 600 deg. Fah. Ordinary charcoal 700 deg. Fah. Hard wood 800 deg. to 900 deg. Fah. Coal 1000 deg. Fah.
Lights are next in order. Gas hardly requires mention, as the care of it is limited to seeing that it is not turned too high, the flame in such case not only vitiating the air of the room with double speed, but leaving a film of smoke upon every thing in it. Kerosene is the oil most largely used for lamps; and the light from either a student-lamp, or the lamp to which a "student-burner" has been applied, is the purest and steadiest now in use. A few simple rules for the care of lamps will prevent, not only danger of explosion, but much breakage of chimneys, smoking, &c.
1. Let the wick always touch the bottom of the lamp, and see that the top is trimmed square and even across, with a pair of scissors kept for the purpose.
2. Remember that a lamp, if burned with only a little oil in it, generates a gas which is liable at any moment to explode. Fill lamps to within half an inch of the top. If filled brimming full, the outside of the lamp will be constantly covered with the oil, even when unlighted; while as soon as lighted, heat expanding it, it will run over, and grease every thing near it.
3. In lighting a lamp, turn the wick up gradually, that the chimney may heat slowly: otherwise the glass expands too rapidly, and will crack.
4. Keep the wick turned high enough to burn freely. Many persons turn down the wick to save oil, but the room is quickly poisoned by the evil smell from the gas thus formed. If necessary, as in a sick-room, to have little light, put the lamp in the hall or another room, rather than to turn it down.
5. Remember, that, as with the fire, plenty of fresh air is necessary for a free blaze, and that your lamp must be kept as free from dirt as the stove from ashes. In washing the chimneys, use hot suds; and wipe with bits of newspaper, which not only dry the glass better than a cloth, but polish it also.
6. In using either student-lamps, whether German or American, or the beautiful and costly forms known as moderator-lamps, remember, that, to secure a clear flame, the oil which accumulates in the cup below the wick, as well as any surplus which has overflowed from the reservoir, must be poured out daily. The neglect of this precaution is the secret of much of the trouble attending the easy getting out of order of expensive lamps, which will cease to be sources of difficulty if this rule be followed carefully.
7. Keep every thing used in such cleaning in a small box; the ordinary starch-box with sliding lid being excellent for this purpose. Extra wicks, lamp-scissors, rags for wiping off oil, can all find place here. See that lamp-rags are burned now and then, and fresh ones taken; as the smell of kerosene is very penetrating, and a room is often made unpleasant by the presence of dirty lamp-rags. If properly cared for, lamps need be no more offensive than gas.
Things to work with.
We have settled that our kitchen shall be neat, cheerful, and sunny, with closets as much as possible near enough together to prevent extra steps being taken. If the servant is sufficiently well-trained to respect the fittings of a well-appointed kitchen, and to take pleasure in keeping them in order, the whole apparatus can be arranged in the kitchen-closets. If, however, there is any doubt on this point, it will be far better to have your own special table, and shelf or so above it, where the utensils required for your own personal use in delicate cooking can be arranged.
In any kitchen not less than two tables are required: one for all rough work,—preparing meat, vegetables, &c, and dishing up meals; the other for general convenience. The first must stand as near the sink and fire as possible; and close to it, on a dresser, which it is well to have just above the table and within reach of the hand, should be all the essentials for convenient work, namely:—
A meat-block or board;
A small meat-saw;
A small cleaver and meat-knife;
Spoons, skewers, vegetable-cutters, and any other small conveniences used at this table, such as potato-slicer, larding and trussing needles, &c.;
A chopping-knife and wooden tray or bowl;
Rolling-pin, and bread and pastry board;
Narrow-bladed, very sharp knife for paring, the French cook-knife being the best ever invented for this purpose.
A deep drawer in the table for holding coarse towels and aprons, balls of twine of two sizes, squares of cloth used in boiling delicate fish or meats, &c., will be found almost essential. Basting-spoons and many small articles can hang on small hooks or nails, and are more easily picked up than if one must feel over a shelf for them. These will be egg-beaters, graters, ladle, &c. The same dresser, or a space over the sink, must hold washing-pans for meat and vegetables, dish-pans, tin measures from a gill up to one quart, saucepans, milk-boiler, &c. Below the sink, the closet for iron-ware can be placed, or, if preferred, be between sink and stove. A list in detail of every article required for a comfortably-fitted-up kitchen is given at the end of the book. House-furnishing stores furnish elaborate and confusing ones. The present list is simply what is needed for the most efficient work. Of course, as you experiment and advance, it may be enlarged; but the simple outfit can be made to produce all the results likely to be needed, and many complicated patent arrangements are hindrances, rather than helps.
The Iron-ware closet must hold at least two iron pots, frying-pans large and small, and a Scotch kettle with frying-basket for oysters, fish-balls, &c.,—this kettle being a broad shallow one four or five inches deep. Roasting-pans, commonly called dripping-pans, are best of Russia iron.
Tin-ware must include colander, gravy and jelly strainers, and vegetable-sifter or puree-sieve; six tin pie-plates, and from four to six jelly-cake tins with straight edges; and at least one porcelain-lined kettle, holding not less than four quarts, while a three-gallon one for preserving and canning is also desirable;
Muffin rings or pans; "gem-pans;"
Four bread-tins, of best tin (or, better still, Russia iron), the best size for which is ten inches long by four wide and four deep; the loaf baked in such pan requiring less time, and giving a slice of just the right shape and size;
Cake-tins of various shapes as desired, a set of small tins being desirable for little cakes.
A small sifter in basket shape will be found good for cake-making, and a larger one for bread; and spices can be most conveniently kept in a spice-caster, which is a stand holding six or eight small labeled canisters. Near it can also be small tin boxes or glass cans for dried sweet herbs, the salt-box, &c.
The Crockery required will be: at least two large mixing-bowls, holding not less than eight or ten quarts, and intended for bread, cake, and many other purposes; a bowl with lip to pour from, and also a smaller-sized one holding about two quarts; half a dozen quart and pint bowls;
Half a dozen one-and two-quart round or oval pudding-dishes or nappies;
Several deep plates for use in putting away cold food;
Blancmange-molds, three sizes;
One large pitcher, also three-pint and quart sizes;
Yeast-jar, or, what is better, two or three Mason's glass cans, kept for yeast.
This list does not include any crockery for setting a servant's table; that being governed by the number kept, and other considerations. Such dishes should be of heavier ware than your own, as they are likely to receive rougher handling; but there should be a full supply as one means of teaching neatness.
Wooden-ware is essential in the shape of a nest of boxes for rice, tapioca, &c.; and wooden pails for sugar, Graham-flour, &c.; while you will gradually accumulate many conveniences in the way of jars, stone pots for pickling, demijohns, &c., which give the store-room, at last, the expression dear to all thrifty housekeepers.
Scrubbing and water pails, scrubbing and blacking brushes, soap-dishes, sand-box, knife-board, and necessities in cleaning, must all find place, and, having found it, keep it to the end; absolute order and system being the first condition of comfortable housekeeping.
WASHING-DAY, AND CLEANING IN GENERAL.
Why Monday should be fixed upon as washing-day, is often questioned; but, like many other apparently arbitrary arrangements, its foundation is in common-sense. Tuesday has its advantages also, soon to be mentioned; but to any later period than Tuesday there are serious objections. All clothing is naturally changed on Sunday; and, if washed before dirt has had time to harden in the fiber of the cloth, the operation is much easier. The German custom, happily passing away, of washing only annually or semi-annually, is both disgusting, and destructive to health and clothes; the air of whatever room such accumulations are stored in being poisoned, while the clothes themselves are rubbed to pieces in the endeavor to get out the long-seated dirt.
A weekly wash being the necessity if perfect cleanliness exists, the simplest and best method of thoroughly accomplishing it comes up for question. While few women are obliged to use their own hands in such directions, plenty of needy and unskilled workwomen who can earn a living in no other way being ready to relieve us, it is yet quite as necessary to know every detail, in order that the best work may be required, and that where there is ignorance of methods in such work they may be taught.
The advantages of washing on Tuesday are, that it allows Monday for setting in order after the necessary rest of Sunday, gives opportunity to collect and put in soak all the soiled clothing, and so does away with the objection felt by many good people to performing this operation Sunday night.
To avoid such sin, bed-clothing is often changed on Saturday; but it seems only part of the freshness and sweetness which ought always to make Sunday the white-day of the week, that such change should be made on that morning, while the few minutes required for sorting the clothes, and putting them in water, are quite as legitimate as any needed operation.
If Monday be the day, then, Saturday night may be chosen for filling the tubs, supposing the kitchen to be unfurnished with stationary tubs. Sunday night enough hot water can be added to make the whole just warm—not hot. Now put in one tub all fine things,—collars and cuffs, shirts and fine underwear. Bed-linen may be added, or soaked in a separate tub; but table-linen must of course be kept apart. Last, let the coarsest and most soiled articles have another. Do not add soap, as if there is any stain it is likely to set it. If the water is hard, a little borax may be added. And see that the clothes are pressed down, and well covered with water.
Monday morning, and the earlier the better (the morning sun drying and sweetening clothes better than the later), have the boiler full of clean warm suds. Soft soap may be used, or a bar of hard dissolved in hot water, and used like soft soap. All the water in which the clothes have soaked should be drained off, and the hot suds poured on. Begin with the cleanest articles, which when washed carefully are wrung out, and put in a tub of warm water. Rinse out from this; rub soap on all the parts which are most soiled, these parts being bands and sleeves, and put them in the boiler with cold water enough to cover them. To boil up once will be sufficient for fine clothes. Then take them out into a tub of clean cold water; rinse them in this, and then in a tub of water made very slightly blue with the indigo-bag or liquid indigo. From this water they must be wrung out very dry, and hung out, always out of doors if possible. A wringer is much better than wringing by hand, as the latter is more unequal, and also often twists off buttons. The lines must be perfectly clean. A galvanized-iron wire is best of all; as it never rusts, and needs only to be wiped off each week. If rope is used, never leave it exposed to weather, but bring it in after each washing. A dirty, weather-stained line will often ruin a nice garment. Leave clothes on the line till perfectly dry. If any fruit-stains are on napkins or table-cloths, lay the stained part over a bowl, and pour on boiling water till they disappear. Ink can be taken out if the spot is washed while fresh, in cold water, or milk and water; and a little salt will help in taking out wine-stains. Machine-oil must have a little lard or butter rubbed on the spot, which is then to be washed in warm suds. Never rub soap directly on any stain, as it sets it. For iron-rust, spread the garment in the sun, and cover the spot with salt; then squeeze on lemon-juice enough to wet it. This is much safer and quite as sure as the acids sold for this purpose. In bright sunshine the spot will disappear in a few hours.
Remember that long boiling does not improve clothes. If washed clean, simply scalding is all that is required.
If delicate curtains, either lace or muslin, are to be washed, allow a tablespoonful of powdered borax to two gallons of warm water, and soap enough to make a strong suds. Soak the curtains in this all night. In the morning add more warm water, and press every part between the hands, without rubbing. Put them in fresh suds, and, if the water still looks dark after another washing, take still another. Boil and rinse as in directions given for other clothes. Starch with very thick hot starch, and dry, not by hanging out, and then ironing, but by putting a light common mattress in the sun, and pinning the curtain upon it, stretching carefully as you pin. One mattress holds two, which will dry in an hour or two. If there is no sun, lay a sheet on the floor of an unused room, and pin the curtains down upon it.
In washing flannels, remember that it must be done in a sunny day, that they may dry as rapidly as possible. Put them into hot suds. Do not rub them on a washing-board, as this is one means of fulling and ruining them. Press and rub them in the hands, changing them soon to fresh hot suds. Rinse in a pail of clear hot water; wring very dry; shake, and hang at once in the sun. Flannels thus treated, no matter how delicate, retain their softness and smoothness, and do not shrink.
Starch is the next consideration, and is made in two ways,—either raw or boiled. Boiled starch is made by adding cold water to raw starch in the proportion of one cup of water to three-quarters of a cup of starch, and then pouring on boiling water till it has thickened to a smooth mass, constantly stirring as you pour. A bit of butter is added by many excellent laundresses, the bit not to be larger than a filbert. Any thing starched with boiled starch must be dried and sprinkled before ironing, while with raw starch this is not necessary.
To make raw starch, allow four even tablespoonfuls to a half-pint of cold water. Dip collars, cuffs, and shirt-bosoms, or any thing which must be very stiff, into this starch, being careful to have them dry. When wet, clap them well between the hands, as this distributes the starch evenly among the fibers of the cloth. The same rule must be followed in using boiled starch. Roll the articles in a damp cloth, as this makes them iron more smoothly; and in an hour they will be ready for the iron. In using boiled starch, after the articles have been dried, and then dampened by sprinkling water lightly upon them, either by the hand, or by shaking over them a small whisk-broom which is dipped as needed in water, it is better to let them lie ten or twelve hours.
All clothes require this folding and dampening. Sheets and table-cloths should be held by two persons, shaken and "snapped," and then folded carefully, stretching the edges if necessary.
Colored clothing must be rinsed before starching, and the starch should be thin and cool.
For ironing neatly and well, there will be required, half a dozen flat-irons, steel bottoms preferred; a skirt-board and bosom-board, both covered, first with old blanket or carpet, then with thick strong cotton-cloth, and over this a cover of lighter cloth, sewed on so that it may be removed as often as may be necessary to wash it. If a bag the size of each is made, and they are hung up in this as soon as used, such washing need very seldom be. Having these, many dispense with ironing-sheet and blanket; but it is better to use a table for all large articles, and on this the ironing-sheet can be pinned, or tied by tapes, or strips of cloth, sewed to each corner. A stand on which to set the irons, a paper and coarse cloth to rub them off on, and a bit of yellow wax tied in a cloth, and used to remove any roughness from the iron, are the requirements of the ironing-table.
Once a month, while the irons are still slightly warm, wash them in warm water in which a little lard has been melted. Never let them stand day after day on the stove, and never throw cold water on them, as it makes them very rough.