One of the most interesting sections of old cookery books is the household management part of the volume. Probably the most famous book which includes both kitchen and other domestic tasks is Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management, but there was a history of such books before her – and even in twentieth century books there are chapters on dealing with various chores.

In Modern Practical Cookery, published in 1936 at the back is the ‘miscellaneous’ section; all the little things which for some reason couldn’t be fitted in elsewhere… how to cook bacon? Grill or fry it (no, really? You do surprise me!!) Baking hints – including the importance of turning on the oven and heating it before trying to bake anything, use of the ‘browning shelf’ and testing an oven, and lining a cake tin.

It’s interesting that when the book was published (or written) there was no way to set the temperature of many ovens – they had to be tested by putting flour on a baking sheet and putting it in the oven for a minute (just one, it emphasises) and seeing what colour it has become:

  • dark brown – very quick
  • light brown – quick
  • dark yellow – moderate
  • light yellow – moderately slow
  • pale biscuit tint – he flour should have been in the oven for five minutes and only just reached this colour

So… to bath salts (they were a favourite gift on birthdays from friends when I was a girl, small cubes wrapped in silver paper then with a pretty paper sleeve and in a box) … if you shoal want to make bath salts, here is how:

  • weigh out several pounds of carbonate of soda crystals, spread them out on an enamel tray, and spray them over with a little very strong cold tea (NOTE:- take care not to use too much) When uniformly coloured, stir in a little perfumed oil, e.g. lavender. Allow a teaspoon of oil to every two pounds of crystals

Well, I won’t be trying that! Home-made furniture polish?

  • mix up a gill of linseed oil, a gill of turpentine and a gill of vinegar. This can be kept in a bottle and used in the usual way.

It may be a marvellous polish for furniture, but it sounds as if it would smell disgusting! So what else is in the miscellaneous selection of household and cookery tips?

  • coddled eggs
  • fried eggs
  • eggs poached
  • frosting a window
  • porridge
  • potted meat
  • pot pourri
  • preserving leaves
  • spinach custard
  • chestnut stuffing
  • sage and onion stuffing
  • forcemeat balls

A curious selection… spinach custard? I think not!

Here is a really interesting article, RECIPES for DOMESTICITY – Cookery, Household Management,
and the Notion of Expertise

https://www.lib.uchicago.edu/e/webexhibits/recipes/

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