Historically Speaking: Old time cooking and cleaning
I hope that most housewives today are thankful for the modern “tools” in our homes that are so time-saving and handy. Many of us recall the devices used by our mothers and grandmothers, and have reason to be thankful for modern conveniences.
I will place myself back in the kitchen I grew up in, where my mother was the ruling “domestic engineer.” One of the most amazing tools that she used every time she made soups was the noodle cutter. It cut around four noodles at one time across the rolled-out dough; the cutters were sharp and did a clean cut. I loved to see her slide the perfectly shaped noodles into the boiling broth on the kitchen range. We often had good, hearty soup, especially during cold weather.
For our Sunday dinner we were treated to “riced” potatoes, nice and light and fluffy. I have a ricer today and use it often for family dinners. (I talked with some friends lately who had never heard of a potato ricer. They are, however, available in some stores today.)
In the fall of the year, preparing for sauerkraut time, the cutter for the heads of cabbage would come off the shelf, ready for use. We used barrels to pack the cut cabbage in, put a weight on top of a plate over the future kraut, then waited for the aroma to tell us it was ready to eat and can. In later years with a family of my own (and buying fresh or canned sauerkraut) I was the only one who enjoyed a meal of sauerkraut. The rest of the family ate it, of course, but certainly did not relish it as I did. In later years, when I had my mother in my home, we both thoroughly enjoyed it. As we ate, we invariably talked about the old times with the sauerkraut barrel in the corner of the kitchen, the use of the cutter, and the great aroma as it cured.
We also had a butter churn (glass jar with beater attached to the lid). We kids usually had the job of turning until butter magically appeared, and then there was some rich buttermilk for a treat. (We didn’t worry about counting calories then.) Another thing I see as I go back into the old kitchen is the tea kettle, always steaming on the kitchen range. It was always ready for preparing a cup of tea for mother.
How well I remember the cast-iron old black frying pan with the self-basting cover. It was great for frying chicken. I believe my mother had a large fryer and several other sizes of cast-iron pans.
We popped popcorn in the chicken fryer because it had a tight-fitting lid and held several helpings of fresh popcorn. It was later that we got a more modern popper.
Do you remember the dish pans for washing and rinsing dishes? Always when we first sat down to a meal, the dishpans were filled with water and set on the range so the water would be ready when we were done eating.
When the cucumbers were ready for making pickles, the big crocks were put into use (for those that did not get canned in jars). These crocks were usually filled and supplied us with pickles well into the winter. Dill pickles and bread and butter slices were canned in Mason jars and supplied us until the next summer. For canning there was a large kettle, complete with a wire rack. I believe it held four or six quarts at a time. This was in use all during the fall. Canning was a long process, as the vegetables, fruits and berries were “ready” at various times. Throughout the hard times during the Depression, we picked choke cherries and made a type of syrup to use on our pancakes-with sugar added, as they sure were sour. A friend gave us a bottler, so we could use bottles to store this juice safely. I don’t remember just how it worked, but my brother and I were allowed to help fill the bottles and then cap them. The juice was not actually “syrup,” but it sure was good on our pancakes on a cold winter morning.
To help with housekeeping, we had an old carpet sweeper. We had a rug in our living room, but linoleum in the rest of the rooms. The sweeper worked with a series of brushes that picked up lint and some sand. To me it was fun, and so was dusting, as I did help with inside chores-but would have rather been outside. We mopped the floors and in between mopping used a dust mop.
We used a vinegar solution for window-washing, and newspapers for drying to a great shine. All the water we used had to be pumped from our well-the pump was in a corner of the kitchen, which was handy.
Cleaning around the wood box was a daily task, and we were warned not to be messy as we filled both wood boxes, one in the kitchen and another in the living room in back of the heater.
On our kitchen table we had oil cloth, which was easy to keep clean; every several months we purchased new oil cloth. I remember making the choice of pattern as we stood in the far corner at Woolworth’s as the clerk measured the amount we had chose. The same with linoleum; when the pattern wore off and it was hard to clean, we would get a new piece as needed.
I have gone down memory lane in the old house and have relived our lives there, and then I look around me today. How different life is with all our modern conveniences and helps! How very thankful we are to enjoy life today. It is an easier life, in a way, but those bygone days hold precious memories. Enjoy your own private memories, and enjoy life!