Sisterly Discourse with John's Wife Concerning John,
The Family Purse,
The Parable of the Rich Woman and the Farmer's Wife,
Little Things that are Trifles,
A Mistake on John's Part,
Must-haves and May-bes,
What Good Will It Do?
Shall I Pass It On?
"Only Her Nerves,"
The Rule of Two,
The Perfect Work of Patience,
According to His Folly,
Is Marriage Reformatory?
And Other Relations-in-Law,
A Timid Word for the Step-mother,
Children as Helpers,
Children as Burden-bearers,
Our Young Person,
Getting Along in Years,
The Gospel of Conventionalities,
Familiar, or Intimate?
Cheerfulness as a Christian Duty,
The Family Invalid,
A Temperance Talk,
A Parting Word for Boy,
Homely, But Important,
HOMELY, BUT IMPORTANT.
The French woman dresses herself with a view to pleasing the cultivated eye. She consults her complexion, height, figure and carriage, in color, make and trimming. Her apparel partakes of her individuality.
The American woman wears her clothes, as clothing, and has them made up of certain materials and in various ways, because dressmakers and fashion-plates prescribe what are this season's "styles."
Dissimilarities as marked prevail in the cookery of the two nations. Daintiness and flavor take the rank of other considerations with the French cook; with the American,--fillingness! I can use no substitute for the word that will convey the right idea.
The human machine (of American manufacture) must be greased regularly and plied with fuel or it will not go. And "go" is the genius of American institutions. Cookery with us is means to an end; therefore, as much a matter of economy of time and toil as building a road. Almost every cottage has specimens of fine art on the walls in the shape of pictures "done" by Jane or Eliza, or embroidery upon lambrequin, portière, or tidy. It occurs to Jane and Eliza as seldom as to their fore-mothers, that cooking is an art in itself, that may be "fine" to exquisiteness. In their eyes, it is an ugly necessity, to be got over as expeditiously as "the men-folks" will allow, their coarser natures demanding more and richer filling than women's. It follows that dishes which require premeditation and deft manipulation are unpopular. The scorn with which our middle class woman regards soups, jellies, salads and entrées is based upon prejudice that has become national. Recipes marked--"Time from three to four hours," are a feature of English cook-books. We American writers of household manuals are too conversant with Jane's and Eliza's principles to imperil their sale by what will be considered danger-signals. This same desire to dispatch a disagreeable task increases in said manuals the number of "Quick Biscuit," "Minute Muffins" and "Hasty Pudding" recipes.
Represent to the notable housewife who is scrupulous in saving minutes, candle-ends and soap grease, that a few pounds of cracked bones, a carrot, a turnip, an onion and a bunch of sweet herbs, covered deep with cold water, and set at one side of the range on washing-day, to simmer into soup stock, wastes neither time nor fuel and will be the base of more than one or two nourishing dinners; prove, by mathematical demonstration, that a mold of delicious blanc-mange or Spanish cream or simpler junket costs less and can be made in one-tenth of the time required for the leathery-skinned, sour or faint-hearted pie, without which "father'n the boys wouldn't relish their dinner;" that an egg and lettuce salad, with mayonnaise dressing, is so much more toothsome and digestible than chipped beef as a "tea relish," as to repay her for the few additional minutes spent in preparing it--and her skeptical stare means disdain of your interference, and complacent determination to follow her own way.
She has heard that "country people in furren parts a'most live upon slops and grass and eggs and frogs, and supposes that's the reason Frenchmen are so small and dark-complected." She thanks goodness she was born in America, "where there's plenty to eat and to spare," she adds, piously, as she puts the chunk of salt pork on to boil with the white beans, or the brisket of salt beef over the fire with the cabbage, before mixing a batch of molasses-cake with buttermilk and plenty of soda.
The corner-stone of her culinary operations might have been cut from the pillar into which another conservative woman with a will of her own, was changed. It is solid salt. Salt pork, salt beef, salt fish, relieve one another in an endless chain upon her board. She averts scurvy by means of cabbage and potatoes. I know well-to-do farmers' wives who do not cook what they call "butcher's meat," three times a month, or poultry above twice a year. Dried and salt meat and fish replenish what an Irish cook once described to me as "the meat corner of the stomach."
"Half-a-dozen eggs wouldn't half fill it, mem;" she protested, in defence of the quantity of steak and roast devoured daily below-stairs.
Our native housewife does not make the effort to crowd this cavity with the product of her poultry yard. Eggs of all ages are marketable and her pride in the limited number she uses in filling up her household is comic, yet pathetic. Cream is the chrysalis of butter at thirty cents a pound; to work so much as a tablespoonful into dishes for daily consumption would be akin to the sinful enormity of lighting a fire with dollar bills. She sends her freshly-churned, golden rolls to "the store" in exchange for groceries, including cooking butter to be used in the manufacture of cake and pastry.
These she must have. Appetites depraved by fats--liquid, solid and fried--crave the assuasives of sweets and acids. "Hunky" bread-puddings and eggless, faintly-sweetened rice puddings, and pies of various kinds, represent dessert. Huge pickles, still smacking of the brine that "firmed" them, are offered in lieu of fresher acids. Yet she sneers at salads, and would not touch sorrel soup to save a Frenchman's soul. For beverages she stews into rank herbiness cheap tea by the quart, and Rio coffee, weak and turbid, with plenty of sugar in both. Occasionally the coffee is cleared (!) with a bit of salt fish skin. I was told by one who always saved the outside skin of codfish, after soaking it for fish balls, for clearing her coffee, that, "it gives a kind of bright taste to it; takes off the flatness-like, don't you know?" We raise more vegetables and in greater variety than any other people; have better and cheaper fruits than can be procured in any other market upon the globe; our waters teem with fish (unsalted) that may be had for the catching. Yet our national cuisine--take it from East to West and from North to South--is the narrowest as to range, the worst as to preparation, and the least wholesome of any country that claims an enlightened civilization.
Properly fried food once in a while is not to be condemned, as the grease does not have a chance to "soak in." But when crullers or potatoes or fritters are dropped into warm (not hot) lard, and allowed to remain there until they are oily and soggy to the core, we may with accuracy count on at least fifteen minutes of heartburn to each half-inch of the fried abominations.
Perhaps there is nothing in which we slight the demands of Nature more than in what and how we eat. Chewing stimulates the salivary glands to give out secretions to aid in disposing of what we eat. We swallow half-chewed food, thus throwing undue labor on the stomach. It is impossible for the work of disgestion to be carried on in the stomach at a temperature of less than one hundred degrees. Yet, just as that unfortunate organ begins its work we pour into it half-pints of iced water. We add acid to acid by inordinate quantities of sugar, and court dyspepsia by masses of grease. If we thus openly defy all her laws, can we wonder if the kind but just mother calls us to account for it?