In the delightful collection of articles and transcribed broadcasts of Ruth Drew, eponymously The Happy Housewife, there’s a fund of useful and handy hints covering everything a housewife in the 1940’s and 50’s might need to know. I’m looking at the section on ‘household equipment’; many of us have such a careless attitude to things, partly because it is no longer possible to repair tools and equipment as it used to be. If something breaks, buy a new one! Sixty, seventy years ago not everyone had refrigeration, and very, very few people had freezers.
Here is just a selection of Ruth’s suggestions for preservation in the kitchen generally:
- preserve perishable food by keeping in a cool place, protected from flies. Meat is best hung up, or placed on a grid loosely covered with grease-proof paper and topped by a ventilated meat cover
- to preserve lettuce, wash in cold slated water. Dry by shaking in a clean cloth. Place in a saucepan, or similar container with a lid. Stand this in a cool place
- to preserve butter and margarine, store in the dark if possible. Light affects vitamin content and may hasten rancidity
- to keep bread fresh, store in a scrupulously clean well-ventilated bin. Or wrap the loaf in a clean dry cloth and stand on a shelf in a well-ventilated cupboard
- to preserve the freshness of cheese, wrap in grease-proof paper and hang in a piece of muslin in a cool airy place. Thoroughly dried cheese may be grated and stored in an airtight jar for cooking purposes
- preserve the food value of vegetables (especially green ones) by storing for as short time as possible before cooking. If storage is unavoidable, choose a cool, airy place. Avoid long preliminary soaking in water
- preserve meals from monotony by making them colourful, sparing a moment to garnish before serving, experimenting with new flavours and shunning a set sequence of menus
These suggestions seem to depend on a traditional pantry or nice big well-ventilated cupboard… Hanging food items has gone completely now!