Friday, March 28, 2008

Housekeeping: Classic v. Modern

I have long promised a ramble about the toilet section of the awesome cookbook by Maud C. Cooke called Three Meals a Day: Cooking, Table, Toilet, Health (1890's). Alas, the toilet section will sit unread because today it is time for spring cleaning.

Past the standard pudding and bread and preserve recipes, nestled between recipes for invalid cooking and advice for table etiquette, we find a chapter on housekeeping. Here we learn how to scald the brooms ("by dipping for a minute or two in boiling soap-suds"), why we should keep "wings of fowls" (of course! they can be used to dust furniture and clean the hearth), how to remove tar (butter or lard) and how to wash "fancy hose" (salt and water, and lots of running them through a wringer). Pressed in between the pages is a tiny piece of newspaper, about 3/4" by 1 1/2" that recommends making fabric resistant to fire by "soaking the material in a solution of five parts of boric acid, six parts of borax and 100 parts of water." Wow! Look kids, you can make your own stunt clothes and go running through fires!

Much of the advice is useful today, especially for those of us who try to minimize the use of chemicals in our cleaning. Maud tells us how to use borax and baking soda for cleaning, something I do on a regular basis. The advice for how to clean a closet includes considering all your clothing and distributing what you don't want "to the needs of others." And, of course, sort odds and ends into sacks or boxes just like "every thrifty housewife."

Now, for the modern version of housekeeping, check out the Kitchen Cure at Apartment Therapy. Hundreds of people have signed up for the Cure so we can share horrible before pictures of our kitchens and following weekly commandments on how to clean it up. First up, we got rid of old condiments and this week we chuck processed foods (but I'm totally keeping our Girl Scout cookies). I'll periodically update my pictures and a new, gloriously clean kitchen will appear. You can check out the before pictures here.

Floor Wax
From Three Meals a Day: Cooking, Table, Toilet, Health (1890's).

1 pint turpentine
1/4 pound beeswax

Combine and melt over a slow fire, no blaze because the mixture is explosive.* Apply to the floor with a piece of flannel. Polish and shine with more flannel.

*maybe the borax fireproofing solution would be helpful here?


Catherine said...

For some reason, when I turned on the computer this morning, your blog called to me. Thanks for the refreshing read...good writing, great tips. And I'm not just saying that because I'm your long-lost friend, either :)

Rural Vegan said...

This book is a hoot, though the idea of keeping a "wing of fowl" around for anything is a little disturbing.

It reminds me though - I have an old recipe from my grandmother for making "high octane gasoline soap". Guess that would get the dirt off, eh?!

TW said...

Ah I am still waiting for the toilet section!

In the meantime
You have been given an E for Excellence Award!

Classic cook said...

TW--thanks for the notice about the award :-)