Seek to Know Ways of Cooking

For the best results in catering, women should know more about serving meat than meringue, and the wise farm housekeeper will seek to know ways of cooking beans, cabbage, turnips, asparagus, the precious Irish potato and other vegetables and the fruits that grow on the farm in abundance. -1905

Learn to cook with the simplest, most basic ingredients, which are often the cheapest as well. These include staple ingredients, like potatoes, beans, and vegetables, as well as those foods that are the foundation of other meals, like breads and biscuits.

If you have a garden, it’s important to learn all the ways you can cook with the abundance you’re able to grow in your garden plot. For example, I grow several kinds of fruit on my property, like raspberries, grapes, apples, and peaches. As my fruit trees and bushes matured and started producing, we began eating more and more fruit. I eventually realized that I had to modify the way I cooked. It didn’t make sense for me to continue making desserts that used primarily store-bought ingredients like chocolate chips, cool whip, and instant pudding. I had fruit that needed to be used! Now I make primarily fruit-based desserts, like raspberry crisp, baked apples, and grape pie. (It’s such a sacrifice. But if Burpee ever develops a chocolate chip tree, let me know.) The fruit is free to me, so the dishes I make are fairly inexpensive, since fruit is the main ingredient. And of course, a dessert loaded with fruit is unquestionable a healthy one–just take away the butter, lard, and sugar and what do you have?  A salad.

It’s also important to train yourself to take advantage of terrific sales and the unexpected ways you find yourself with extra food.  Maybe you’ve discovered some abandoned berry bushes in a vacant lot, someone offers you some meat after a hunting trip, or you score some unlabeled cans at the salvage grocery store for a song. Don’t be quick to pass it up because you’re not sure what to do with it.  Use a variety of cookbooks, find some good resources online, and seek the advice of more experienced home cooks.

I recently bought a big box of dented cans for $3.95.  Included in the box was a large can of yams in syrup. This is not something I would ever, ever buy. I figured that one dud out of 30+ cans was still a bargain and I didn’t need to feel guilty for tossing it.  But, of course, I did feel a little guilty. I searched online and found a recipe for sweet potato bread. A little flour, sugar, and eggs turned my undesirable yams into two loaves of delicious quick bread. One I took to a potluck, and the other was our breakfast.

Thursday’s post will continue this thought, with an example of how I found a use for bargain peanuts.  I’m sure the suspense will be intolerable.

Oh Sing, Sisters!

There’s not enough singing in this world–of that I’m convinced. I don’t mean singing on the radio, in school or churches. I mean in the family.

Before our family grew up and married we were always singing. On Saturdays one sister and I might be upstairs making beds and dusting, another sister might be in the living room washing floors and Mother might be in the kitchen baking, but we were all singing, and, if working close enough together, we sang “parts” to make harmony.

Sunday was the only day Dad had much time to spend with us. We never left the Sunday table–dinner or supper–without him getting someone to play the piano and the rest of us to sing. Now that I’m married and away from home, I miss those good times. Some of the happiest memories of my dad and mother are of the times when they both joined us and our friends around the piano.

If there were more singing in family life, there would be fewer arguments and more joy. When your feelings are hurt, sing, and you will soon be happier. It is simple but it works.

From Minnesota, 1936

My DIY Kitchen Cabinet Curtain

I visited an elderly German lady last summer and was impressed by the simplicity of her little home. It reminded me of European kitchens that I’ve visited, very practical and not at all modern. I especially liked the beautiful linens that she clipped up across the kitchen windows and draped over some open kitchen cupboards.

I recently remembered this as I looked at the microwave cart in my kitchen. While I don’t use it for a microwave, it holds many of my small appliances.  At its worst it’s a jumbled, tacky mess and even at its best, it tends to look cluttered. I thought I would try to cover the shelf to give the kitchen a cleaner look. I could easily have found a piece of fabric and clipped it up somehow, but knowing me, it would have looked a little rakish. And since rakish is sort of a default look of mine, I decided that I would have to dress it up somehow in a more formal way.

 

Although I have a chest of drawers filled with fabric, my immediate reaction was to plan an excursion to the fabric store.  But in the spirit of frugality, I decided to challenge myself to use fabric I already had. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find anything that I thought would work.

Then I remembered a stack of pillowcases a lady gave me several months ago.  She had cleaned out her linen closet of all the single pillowcases and offered them to me, knowing I appreciate vintage linens.  They were all white, some with crocheted lace edging and some with hand sewn embroidery.  I chose one and trimmed off the seams, stitched a hem on either side, and made a casing across the top.

 

Ta-da!  A new curtain for the price of some thread, a cheap tension rod, and very little time.

I was so pleased with it that I used another pillowcase to make a little valance to dress up my back door.

Not only did I get a few curtains that brightened up my house, but they were basically free, and I made use of a couple of items that weren’t being used otherwise.  It makes me feel like an efficient housewife! 

Since then, I’ve decided to retire the pillowcase motif before the house begins to look suspiciously like a tribute to bedroom linens.

Let Not the Sun

The little neighbor boy who used to catch polywogs with me has suddenly grown up and married, and I’ve written him a letter.

It’s mostly congratulations, of course, with one tiny bit of advice–a formula for happiness, as thoroughly tried and tested as my most dog-eared recipe. It is a part of a Bible verse–”Let not the sun go down upon your wrath.”

The bride’s days will be full with the fascinating job of making Jim’s home shining and lovely. She will be too busy and happy to admit there will come a morning when Jim will go out to the barn leaving the door vibrating from the force of his slam!

When Jim comes in for dinner that day, Helen is apt to be cool and distant. At supper time the tension is a little more noticeable. Jim fidgets and tries to be natural. Helen is fighting tears. She washes and dries the dishes and, after a futile attempt to read, climbs the stairs to bed. Jim follows,–not too soon because he, too, is hurt and he is proud.

And then in the still darkness, the two unhappy children find words to talk it all over. It’s so much easier to be honest and human in the dark! And in the morning, it is as if the quarrel had not been.

In our family we have paraphrased the Bible verse a little because, in a busy farm home, the business of getting down to fundamentals seems to require the quiet and peace of day’s end, darkness outside and love inside. I think this clause in our family’s “Constitution” that demands that no day’s “unfinished business” should remain to greet the next day’s sun, has done more than anything else to keep our home the happy place it is.–1936