My father-in-law was in Africa during the war, but he was nowhere near the Congo as the Democratic Republic of the Congo was then called. However, somehow my parents-in-law ended up with The Congo Cookery Book by Clare E. Willet; it is a second-hand book with an interesting handwritten dedication in the front from the British Vice Consul in the Belgian Congo… so my guess is that they must have found it in a second-hand book shop or at a jumble sale, and bought it, thinking about the time he had spent in Africa.

As well as cooking and recipes, as so often with such books from the past, there is a list of household hints – some could be straight out of any other book of household management, but some are distinctly different!

  • books or papers to repair
  • books and stacks of papers – these apparently needed to be cleaned regularly as ‘if this is not done at regular intervals books become worm eaten in the tropics more quickly than in temperate climates’
  • chickens and ducks – which apparently can be kept in the same house ‘if very thorough cleanliness is observed
  • candles
  • candlesticks
  • children and jiggers – ‘when and where jiggers are found to be troublesome, if children have their toes smeared with palm oil before their shoes are put on, they will not get jiggers in their feet.’ Jiggers as you cn probably guess are disgusting parasitic insects, native to South America and the Caribbean but which us stupid people have introduced into some African countries
  • clothes – these should never be left to dry on the ground, again because of nasty insects which can attack humans
  • clothing and insects – this is all to do with how many cockroaches and other insects there are… uggghhhhh
  • clothing – more words of caution about insects
  • cockroaches – yuk, just yuk…
  • corkscrew – how to manage without one (a screw and a piece of string)
  • cœur do bœuf trees – there are tomatoes and apples with this name, but the advice from Miss Willet is about the soursop
  • cushions and pillows – general information, but if you need to restuff them with feathers, ‘the cook should collect them for you’.
  • damp clothes – the sort of advice you might expect except one nasty little phrase, a derogatory term for the African servants
  • ferns and house plants
  • driver ants – I don’t suppose Mrs Beeton was much troubled by these! These what I think we might call soldier ants, those fearsome insects which cn devour whole beasts they come across
  • food ants – these seem more general insects, more like the sort we get here in our ‘temperate climate’

2 thoughts on “Things useful to know about the house

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