The Household Bookshelf
I picked up this priceless book at an antique store this summer and have been itching to tell you about it since then. I feel like I’ve met a new friend and her name is “Housewife”. She’s earnest to care for her family the best way she can. She’s grounded in old-fashioned found-on-on-the-farm goodness but she’s busy and responsible for a lot so she has to take shortcuts when she can.
Here’s the preface:
“This cookbook is planned to meet the needs of the average homemaker if today who does not wish to spend her time and energy in preparation of food that she can buy easily and find satisfactory.”…
This excerpt on canned soups illustrates the mood of the book rather well.:
"Canned Soups: Naturally these cost more in money than the same soup made at home, but the cost in time is much less. Canned soups are of course seasoned, but to an average taste, so that further seasoning to the family taste makes them more savory, and combining two soups often produces a new one."
It is, ironically, followed for recipes for soups made from scratch. There is such a sense of the struggle to strike a balance between modern conveniences and old fashioned values. A struggle which I think we can still relate to today.
My book was well loved. There are several hand-written recipes on scraps of paper, recipes cut from newspapers and even an old shopping list tucked in throughout the book. Most of the writing is difficult to decipher, but obviously it was treasured by someone. One thing that amazes me is how clean the book is. There is absolutely no evidence of it having actually being used for cooking, though I'm sure it was. It smells old, and I love that.
My mother would enjoy the recipe for Welsh Rabbit on page 33. I remember her making this when I was little. There is a 2 page discussion of the history and fundamentals of this cheesy dish served “on the soft side of half-toast with the crusts removed”, which, if followed, apparently “nobody could fail”.
I know this dish as “Welsh Rarebit”, but, apparently, I am wrong.
“ Even the name is a matter of discussion. “Rabbit” is really what it should be called, “rarebit” being a sophistication of the original jesting name. A scoffer thinking to make fun of Dr. Wiley’s food decisions once asked him “As a Welsh Rabbit is neither Welsh nor a rabbit, why not seize them all as misbranded?” And the Doctor genially responded, “Yes, if it went into interstate commerce, being eaten in New York and the consumer going over into New Jersey to sleep, it would be misbranded unless it were eaten by a Welshman and a hair (hare) put in the dish.”
I have no idea what that means, but I love it!
On the back of one recipe cut from the newspaper was this news article of a harbour fire. I wish I knew more about it.
And I'll leave you with one last piece of advice, which I think is as relevant today as ever. At least I'm sure my children would agree:
“Also the mother who, thinking to be clever, mixed the hated spinach with the beloved mashed potato, and found her small son weeping over the mess, trying to pick out the spinach and sobbing out, “She’s spoiled my nice tater,” is an example of how not to do it.” P.105