'The home is by far the most important institution in the lives of ... people. It is a centre of interest, not only in the immediate family life, but equally in the wider hustling world of trade and commerce, for its influence is far-reaching and all-embracing.
Psychologically as well as physically the home is the centre of recreation and relaxation. Never before has there been such a demand for well-built, scientifically planned houses. A new consciousness of home-making has been born.Men and women are equally enthusiastic.'
The above is a quote from the introduction to a book I picked up in a junk shop more than 20 years ago. The book was published around the mid-thirties and is called The Home of Today. I bought it out of curiosity value; I love old books and this one struck me as amusing, a good book to dip into to get a snapshot of life during this period. I imagined that the household hints it would provide would be cause for a few sniggers and nothing more.
I was wrong. The book has since travelled around the world with me and become my 'bible'; proving on numerous occasions to have the answer to many of those infuriating little problems which tend to occupy much-needed brain cells. Useful entries such as:
- Bathroom; how to prevent steam in
- Pulse; how to take
- Framing Pictures
have stood the test of time and my scepticism!
And of course, the recipes!! More of these later, but just to whet your appetite:
- Almond Chow Mein
- Whirled Eggs
- Bananas on Horseback
- Hashed Hare
However, I was not wrong about the amusement factor! The book was written in Colonial days, when Britain was enormously proud of all the 'pink bits' on the map; it also reflects the fact that the middle and upper classes usually had teams of servants waiting upon them; but if you can suspend all thoughts of 'political correctness', you may well find the little gems I am about to share with you to be a source of amusement - and possibly they might come in useful one day!
Let's begin with outside, for those of you lucky enough to have a garden. The home of today offers this useful advice on what you should be up to during the first weeks of April:
The Garden and its Care
Getting Rid of Pests: Ants.
These are sometimes tiresome pests, and get from the garden to the house. Paraffin poured into their nests, or along their runs, will drive ants away, if not actually destroy them. Another method is to pour boiling water into their nests. Also, they may be poisoned by a mixture of fine sugar and white arsenic... this mixture should be placed in little heaps where the creatures congregate, but as it will kill domestic animals also, is not to be recommended where there are cats and dogs about.
In the Vegetable Garden:
The mean temperature this month ranges about 46°2. With the advent of showery weather, which often prevails, vegetation makes rapid progress and creates a desire to forward operations. This temptation, however, should be checked in exposing tender plants or putting seeds into the ground which are liable to suffer from cold and wet... It need scarcely to be said that plants in a dry state endure cold with impunity which would kill them in a wet condition.
Fruit Trees and Bushes:
This is an anxious time for the safety of Pears and Plums, which usually flower at this time. If due precaution has been taken to ward off frost on cold nights, the gardener will have done his part.
The Flower Garden:
Aspidistra. You have, no doubt, noticed the curious button-like blossoms on the Aspidistra, which appear about this time. As they never seed, and do no harm, they may as well be left and not removed.
You might decide that all this is too much like hard work and perhaps consider getting some hired help; in which case, make sure you bear the following in mind!
Mistress and Maid
The engaging of servants is a matter which requires experience and discrimination. It is not enough to apply to a registry office and take whatever is offered. A maid may have the necessary ability and yet not prove suitable for a particular household. The right 'blend' of maid can only be chosen by careful selection and personal inspection, and it is always worth while spending time in searching for just the right type of servant for one's home environment, otherwise disappointment and friction may result.
Much of the so-called 'servant difficulty' is caused by a lack of appreciation of the responsibilities of the mistress and the capabilities of the maid.
Imagination and understanding are a great asset on the part of the mistress who aims at having a well-run house. Intelligence, forethought, home interest, are the backbone of efficiency, and these attributes need to be encouraged on both sides.
By consideration and careful thought a mistress can make her home such that one or more maids can and will find it attractive and interesting to work in.
Or maybe just the thought of all this has made you hungry? Could it be time for:
Amongst town people this meal is usually a light one, the heaviest meal of the day being taken in the evening when work is over for the day. In the country, however, this is usually the dinner of the household, especially if children are present.It should be borne in mind that children resent monotony in their meals even more bitterly than their elders, so that the changes should be rung on mutton, beef, poultry and game, and the lighter kinds of fish; The type of luncheon will vary according to whether it is the chief meal of the day, in which case soup, a joint, and sweet, varied with fish, entreé, and a savoury is usually sufficient for a small household; When, however, dinner is taken at night, the luncheon then consists of simpler courses, and vegetarian dishes are frequently introduced.
So perhaps for those who eat fish, you might like to consider the following; I'd be interested to know where you find roe of bloaters, soft or otherwise!
Croûtes de Champignons
- 2 tomatoes
- Half a lemon
- 8 mushrooms
- One and a half ounces of butter
- Soft roe of 2 bloaters
- Salt and Cayenne pepper
- Croûtons of fried bread
Wash the mushrooms, dry and place on a greased tin, sprinkle over some lemon juice and seasoning, cut the tomatoes into 8 even slices and put on the tin, cut the roes into 8 pieces, season with the lemon juice, salt and cayenne, place on the tin and bake all together in a moderate oven. When cooked place a mushroom on each croûton, lay a slice of tomato and a piece of roe on the mushroom, garnish with fried parsley, and serve very hot.
I think I'll stick with the vegetarian option:
Macaroni and Cheese Croquettes
- 2oz cooked macaroni
- 1oz butter
- 1oz flour
- 2oz cheese
- 1 egg
- 1 teacupful milk
- Seasoning, including a pinch of cayenne pepper
- Breadcrumbs for coating
Melt the butter, stir in the flour, add the milk and stir until the sauce thickens and boils; it must be thick enough to leave the sides of the saucepan. Chop the macaroni lightly and stir into the sauce with the cheese, yolk of egg and seasoning; mix well and turn onto a plate to cool. When ready, divide the mixture into even-sized pieces and work up on a floured board into small rolls. Whisk the egg white, dip the rolls in it and then in breadcrumbs, fry in deep hot fat until golden brown, drain on paper and serve hot.
Mmm, pudding time! Let's have something political!
Cabinet Pudding (Steamed)
- 2 cupfuls breadcrumbs
- 2oz raisins
- 2oz currants
- 1oz cherries
- 1 egg
- Quarter pint milk
- 1oz sugar
- Pinch of salt
Butter a mould. Beat the egg, heat the milk and make a custard of them. Put a layer of crumbs in the mould, then a layer of the fruit, and alternate until the mould is full, having crumbs for the last layer. Pour the custard gently into the mixture, cover with a buttered paper and steam for three quarters of an hour. Serve with a custard sauce.
I do hope you haven't had to worry about cooking all this little lot and then rushing off to work. If that's the case and, if by chance you happen to be female, you might like to consider this:
Worry Versus Waste
That women have come into their own has become a trite saying, and it is true that the majority of women these days are workers. The fitness, also, of women for various trades and professions hitherto exclusive to men is a subject which has become past history, for they have proved themselves in almost every avenue of work, so far as capability is concerned. The most important factor of all, however, is still left undiscussed. This is the woman worker's mental attitude towards her work, and it is important, because of its great influence on her personal efficiency.
This attitude in the average woman is not the same as it is in the average man. Hence the doubt that women will be unable to stand the wear and tear of business, political or professional life...
There follows a whole chapter devoted to enabling women to 'develop a sense of equanimity, repose and inner poise which she may exert even in the most trying circumstances.'
Useful advice, indeed! But just in case you really do feel the need to be worried about something; here are just some of the items I'm considering for the next Hootoo Home of Today:
- The Dangers of Unclean Money
- Electrifying the Grandfather
- and, for those of you so inclined, a regular feature entitled:
Rubber in the Home