Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Housewives Monthly Calendar: The Cook's Guide: February (1936)


1. Serve roast pheasant with chestnut puree.
2. Try kedjeree, made of Finnan haddock, for breakfast.
3. Mashed buttered Swedes go well with boiled mutton.
4. Start dinner with cream of artichokes.
5. Make a spiced fruit cake, or a Genoa or Dundee Cake.
6. What about fried pork sausage cakes, topped with steamed eggs, for lunch?
7. Say "Au revoir" to roast partridges at dinner.
8. Partridge paste and toast is a good savoury, better when served with celery.
9. Finish with apricot souffle pancakes at lunch or dinner.
10. Make fried whitebait and thin brown bread and butter the fish course.
11. Serve a piece of pickled pork with stewed rabbit.
12. What's wrong with braised halibut, mashed potatoes and a green salad for lunch?
13. Start dinner with oyster stew and salted cream-crackers.
14. A heart-shaped layer cake, please, for tea, with strawberry butter filling.
15. Ham a la king on buttered toasts for lunch, but with chicory salad, please.
16. Try scalloped potatoes and apple and celery salad with hot roast pork.
17. If you can obtain celeriac, boil and butter it, or make it into a salad.
18. Serve vanilla custard, enriched with sliced bananas, with steamed fig pudding.
19. Why not prawns a la Newburg, garnished buttered peas, and ringed boiled rice, for lunch?
20. Order oranges, lemons and sugar for marmalade.
21. Make a Simnel cake the piece de resistance at tea.
22. Serve Lyonnaise potatoes and scalloped toma­toes with grilled lamb cutlets for lunch or dinner.
23. Corned beef hash is seasonable for lunch but give it potato, onion and celery salad for company.
24. Celebrate the birthday of Capuchin Chabot, the inventor of omelets, by serving an omelet at one meal.
25. Let us have roast teal and orange salad for dinner.
26. Cream, custard sauce and junket all mate well with steamed rhubarb.
27. New Malta potatoes are in season. Serve, moistened butter, and sprinkled chopped chives.
28. Make your favourite galantine for supper to celebrate the birthday of Chef Prevost, who invented galantines.
29. Say "Good-bye" to February with oysters, hare pate and buttered toast, grilled medallions of steak, new potatoes, buttered spinach, orange compote, and biscuits, celery and Stilton cheese.

(The Housewives' Monthly Calendar by Elizabeth Craig, 1936 Chapman & Hall, London)

The Housewives Monthly Calendar: February's Table of Work (1936)

Take a look at your store cupboard in the beginning of February. Decide how much orange marmalade you want to make this year, then wait until Seville oranges are at their cheapest, when order oranges, lemons, and sugar as required, and make and bottle some orange syrup.

ORANGE SYRUP (For Bottling)
4 sweet oranges
4 Seville oranges
1 lemon
4 mandarins
6 lb. sugar
6 quarts water

Wash 2 Seville and 2 sweet oranges and 2 man­darins and grate their rinds. Extract juice from all the fruit. Stir grated rind into the fruit juice. Cover and stand until the next morning. Place sugar in a preserving pan. Add water. Stir over fire until sugar is dissolved, then bring to the boil. Remove pan from fire. Cool. Stir the strained fruit juices into the syrup, taking care to squeeze the grated rind thoroughly so that none of the oil from the rinds is lost. Bottle and seal. Dilute to taste, when wanted, with aerated or still water.


1. Make a thorough inspection of your whole home about the middle of the month. Start with the ceilings and walls, then examine the windows and doors before going on to the floors, carpets, and lino­leums. If you live in a house and own it, you won't take long. If you are paying rent, you must keep two lists of necessary repairs, one for the owner and one for yourself. If you own your home, or if you have taken it on a repairing lease, list repairs and require­ments as you go along under the following headings:
(a) Structural; (b) Decorations; (c) Furnishings; (d) Cleaning, in the following way.

(2) Note any loose bricks, or slates, broken gutters, damaged pipes, broken windows, or crumbling plaster, or blocked drains. See that all lavatories are in proper working order. Examine scullery sink and taps in case any new washers or taps are needed. See that all electric sockets are secure, or that none have loosened. Look to all door locks and window fasten­ings.

(3) Make a note of any decorations necessary. Plan what you want done and arrange for estimates.

(4) Write out a list of any new furniture required, noting height, width, and depth most suitable for the space you can allow. Measure for any new curtains. Send away any bedding that needs renewing, and any valuable rugs that require expert cleaning or invisible repairs. If you have valuable Oriental rugs, send them to a reliable Oriental house. Take a note of any new lampshades needed and where. Send away any china that wants riveting, and any silver needing repolishing or repairing.

(5) Tell cleaners to call on a certain date for blankets, bed covers, eiderdowns, etc.

(The Housewives' Monthly Calendar by Elizabeth Craig, 1936 Chapman & Hall, London)

Monday, January 28, 2008

Disjointed thoughts on a homemaking routine.

Of course, the house isn't perfect. Wouldn't want it to be. It isn't even perfect in a 'not perfect but it's just how I would like it to be' sort of way. We still have clutter (by which I mean piles of ugly stuff - not books or meaningful doodads). But it is just so much better. However, I have the wit to realise that unless I implement some kind of system for 'household business' it will not be long before domestic chaos reigns once more and I am back to weeping and wailing into my tea. So I am resolved to find some sort of housekeeping routine or rhythm that will ensure that things get done (and that my sons get an education in something other than crisis cleaning).

In the past I tried FlyLady, but without success. More my fault than her's I am sure, as I know she has helped countless multitudes of women on their way to domestic serenity and I know she is of the firm conviction that her programme will work for everyone. I, however, just don't 'get' Flylady. It is rather like knitting - I know how to do the basic stitch, but just can't follow the pattern. I understand the shiny sink business, the am and pm routines. I get the weekly zones, the 15 minute missions and of course, the need to de clutter. What I don't understand is when you actually get to clean - unless your morning and evening routines are each roughly 6 hours long, meet in the middle and take in every room not covered by your weekly zone.

So, something else is needed. Stealing the idea of zones, I'm going to build on an idea of a Daily Focus which will cover each room of the house on a rotating basis. I've put them in alphabetical order for they are all as needy as each other in their own different ways.:

Boys Bedroom
Dining/Play Room
Living Room
Our Bedroom
Spare Bedroom
Stairs and landings (being in a maisonette we have 2 staircases)

Each room will also be the subject of a Weekly Focus, for the more in depth sort of cleaning and organisation that there just isn't time for on a daily basis but can be spread out over the course of a week (like cleaning bathroom grout with a toothbrush - only joking). Hopefully after a while it will be more a matter of maintenance than full scale crisis recovery cleaning. With less clutter this could be achievable. There might even be room for something creative. Obviously some things will need to be done every day, in the kitchen and bathroom for instance, but this plan will at least give me an area of focus. Laundry will have to be done, of course, and ironing too as I have no wish to repeat last December's 70+ item marathon. Will it work? I have no idea, but it does feel good to have something down on paper.

Um, then there is the matter of cooking, as I guess we have to eat. I'm not quite sure what to do here. Menu planning I suppose, although I am rather a failure at this. It is easy to plan, enjoyable in fact, but it is the cooking of the plan that trips me up. I am in a phase of really not liking to cook. Liking to eat, but not liking to cook. Except cake. I think I am going to have to re-evaluate the kind of cooking I actually do, would like to do and should be doing. And re-evaluate the food budget too. For example, nothing is easier than slices of meat from a joint roasted earlier with maybe jacket potatoes or a bulgar salad and vegetables. I've always reasoned that we can't afford to buy roasting joints of meat (unless marked waaay down for quick sale). Frugal stews and bakes instead - but then these don't get made (because of my own failure to plan and organise), and so we fall back on ready meals or take-aways. Frugal self-destruction. More on this for a later post.

The New Year Starts Here

Well yes I know it doesn't really, not by anybody's calendar, it's just that it feels that way to me. The last month has been spent in a whirl and feels quite disconnected in time. My lovely, wonderful and much beloved eldest sister has been visiting for a month from Australia and we have had such a delightful and totally distracting time. We have done a fair bit of visiting and travelling, both to relatives (ours) and in-laws (hers) and have even managed to fit in a few museums, galleries and teashops. We have also, in a repeat of last year, done an amazing amount of decluttering. More than I believed possible, in fact. The result is astonishing to me. I can find things in cupboards. I have room to put things in cupboards. Even our poor homeless hoover now has a home (we toyed with making our new 'hoover cupboard' a hideaway for Mummy when things get tough, but decided against it). Have I mentioned how much I love my sister?

The result is, however, now that she is gone and we all have finished crying, that I feel as though I stand on the threshold of a new life. An organised life. A life where things are put away, not left out to get lost or trip up the unwary. A life where cleaning is possible because one does not have to excavate in order to do it. No excuses. A terrifying prospect.