Friday, November 20, 2009

20 November 1955 “Realizations and New Books”

woman ironing in kitchen This morning, as I was ironing my linen tablecloth and keeping an eye on my ‘mock hollandaise’ on the stove, I had to laugh. “Just think of yourself a year ago” I said to my alter ego. “You could barely boil water and now you are making homemade white sauce, ironing tablecloths and think it ‘normal’ to eat with linen napkins in girdles and petticoats”. Times, they are a changing.woman ironing in kitchen with hubby (this picture really makes me think of Hubby and I)

It is funny how we can adapt, isn’t it?  I am glad for it, I must say. It gives a gal hope. It makes one realize you can honestly change your environment and really, who you are. If you feel akin to someone or a time period or you admire a person, you can emulate their path and then, while doing so, find your own. You then realize how the day to day can really become an adventure. We become the heroines in our own story.

Sometimes I forget to mention here, when I am making things such as the Fish Chowder for my MIL’s birthday, that it is often the first time I am doing it. Many things I have and am doing this year are really quite new to me. Yet, somehow, in this new mode of thinking, the role of the homemaker, I feel a confidence in their attempts. Sometimes I imagine I am drawing on all those who have gone before me.

As I have increased my skills this year, I find that to open the page of a cookbook, or to dream up what might be nice to try, a dress a piece of needlework, is now just an adventure or a matter of fact. It matters little rather or not I have made it before, because I am HOMEMAKER and I can conquer all!

I think I really wanted to remind all of you of my own inabilities before this year in case any of you out there are new at it or have not even tried. Or, maybe you think, “Oh, that is too much work, or too hard”, when quite honestly, it isn’t. Well, that’s not true, sometimes it is hard ,but then you work through it and think, “Hmmm, next time I will try it like this” and before you know it you are a cook/chef and you are inventing your own recipes! Even in the challenge of the thing you see the joy. I mean, yes it is easy to open a box, add water, microwave and eat. But, to me it is the difference between just being born, facing forward and marching to the grave. That is being alive, but it is not living.

So much of what media shows us has us all longing or wishing for silly things or things which might be out of our grasp. Certainly there are those out there who do go on wild adventures, marry millionaires and become movie stars, but their percentage is very low to the general populace. What I have discovered this year is not only the contentment of place ( a place I can change or choose differently if I WANT to as we do live in Modern times) but also the adventure of living itself.

I will use the kitchen and food as an example again. Yes, we can easily whip things up from packaged foods, but the kitchen is like a mad scientists lab or a wonderful surgery or magical room to which we have the keys. Think of being a child and the joy you had playing house, or thinking of ‘being a grownup’. Well, we ARE grownups, so we can play all we like! I think the adventure of cooking is an amazing journey. Why just buy Miracle Whip when you can ‘whip up’ your own mayonnaise?

Speaking of cooking, I found a new book I am SO excited to delve into. I will share the results and recipes with all of you, of course. As I mentioned, this is my hubby’s vacation week, so we have been playing at tourist in the various towns that dot our little island here called Cape Cod.

parnassus The other day we were travelling up the historic road that traverses the cape (sometimes still referred to as the Old Kings’ Highway from our time as a British Colony) and came upon an antique/used book store that we had forgot about. We often frequented this bookstore years ago and having come upon it again, it was like a gift. Yes, in that picture you DO see books outside and many of those do ‘winter over’. It is a unique place. parnassus inside Here is an example of the inside. This is the ‘office’ as you walk in and turn to your right. When you are ready to purchase your books, a lovely bibliophile of a woman stroles out and takes your money. This was an old early 1800’s house and it has done little to let go of that visage. The crooked floors are the old wood planks. The walls, between the makeshift bookshelves and areas where books are missing or perhaps toppled over, show their old wainscot. Perhaps you will spy a bit of faded wallpaper that will wink at you from between the shelves like some old grand dame rocking away her life among the ancient walls. There are two more floors which you can only glimpse when you leave. You see shelves of books through the wavy old single paned glass windows, like a locked up hermit wondering what you are up to in their yard.  It is an interesting place and yet, very much a ‘normal’ aspect of New England and Cape Cod. It is moments like these that I do really appreciate where I live.

I suppose we all love our locales for various reasons. I think, for me, New England is such a nice fit because it wears its history with a certain casual aplomb. In Boston, there are three hundred year old buildings who lean with their aged bricks in Dikensonian patterns mingled with the cobble and brick streets. With this antiquity comes the no-nonsense attitude of the New Englander; The Yankee. Hard winters, stone filled earth, changing tides, having battled it all with out much complaint, a New Englander will tackle a problem without a word, but save the complaining for wonderful old tales to spin around the fire on the cold dark winter night. The brave stoic, the silent lover of beauty with the common sense to come out of the rain and put up what is needed for the coming winter. Do any of you feel particularly akin to your areas or environments? Do they suit you or really, upon reflection, mirror who you are? Let’s hear about it?

Well, back to the point of my story (Did I forget to mention the Yankee yen to spinning tales?)I found two wonderful new books there. Well, they are not new, but new to me. So, for the grand total of 11 dollars U.S. I acquired two wonderful books.

cordon bleu book This is the first and the one I am very excited about. This book is by a woman I am just now learning about, Dione Lucas. She was the first woman ever to graduate from the famous Paris cooking school the Cordon Bleu. Here is a quick blurb about her:

dione_lucas Dione Lucas (1909 - 1971)

The first woman to graduate from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu culinary institute in Paris, Englishwoman Dione Lucas opened her own restaurant in London in the 1930s and began the Cordon Bleu restaurant and cooking school in New York in 1942. That quickly made her the talk of the town and won her a television show in 1948 — making her the first woman featured on a television cooking show and an even earlier pioneer of French cooking than Julia Child. Onscreen, she concocted delicious dishes for her celebrity guests; offscreen, she gave private lessons to luminaries including Salvador Dali and actress Helen Hayes. While working at a hotel in Hamburg, Germany, Lucas claimed, she had once cooked squab for Adolf Hitler, disputing the belief that he was a vegetarian. "I do not mean to spoil your appetite for stuffed squab, but you might be interested to know that it was a great favorite with Mr. Hitler, who dined at the hotel often," she wrote in one of her books. "Let us not hold that against a fine recipe though." 

Until I found this book I had not heard of her. It was interesting, as I was perusing the cookbooks, there was (as is evidenced in interior photo of the bookstore) a stack of books next to where I was looking. There, right on top, was this blue book. I could see by the artwork it was old. I opened the front pages and saw it was copyrighted in 1947 and thought, “Wow, I would have most assuredly purchased this book”.

The book so very thorough and includes a wine serving list with what temperature and what dish wines should be served with. The contents are SO exciting. Here are some of the headings: Hors D’oeuvres, Soups, Fish, Game poultry and Meats, Eggs, Vegetables, Desserts. I am so excited to delve into this book! There is even a chapter on utensils!

I already have dreams of old copper sauce pots swimming in my head. I have now, in my possession, a small set of real old French metal clad aluminum sauce pans that are very small. From one cup size to about a pint and a half. They are PERFECT when I make a white sauce. I promise myself, however, that only a new (and by new I mean a food safe vintage copper pot/pan) will only enter my kitchen by the removal of the one it replaces. I will donate the old for the new.

I really do want to cook and learn my way through this book. I was thinking, if I can successfully manage my ‘website’ by 1956 then I might have a section of it just showing and sharing my progress as I work my way through it with recipes and pictures etc. Would that be of interest to any of you? Before then, of course, I will share what I try here as well.

Now, the second book is Good Housekeeping’s “Complete book of Needlecraft”. It is very thorough and was published in 1956. So, technically, it does not come out for another month and half, but I could not resist it. It has so many wonderful tips and techniques on everything from making of clothes, embroidery, knitting, sewing for the home.

dress embroidery Look at this lovely color photo showing how to use the ‘modern technology’ of machine embroidery and my machine does these stitches as well!

Well, there is so much more I want to talk about, but I have to save more for my next post. A hint is that I want to tackle some trousers, which I have never made. We will have to discuss that next time, now lets talk cooking and books and such…


  1. I forgot, I will give fish chowder results and recipe tomorrow and a view of at least one of my aprons. A busy gal has SO much to talk/blog about it is hard to fit is all in.

  2. "That is being alive, but it is not living"
    This sentence really struck me. More people should go for quality again, even if it costs one more effort. Although i'm only 19, I think lots of things goes so fast and are so superficial nowdays. The focus is on doing it all 'the easy way', because it seems to be the most simple resolution at the moment. But I don't believe this is the key to long term happiness. Anyway, it's nice to read about a different kind of lifestyle! (:

  3. "Old Kings’ Highway"


    "...and came upon an antique/used book store"

    Ohhhhhhhhh such lovely memories, your words bring! Every autumn, my husband and I used to slip away to Cape Cod for a weekend or a few days. We always stayed in Bed & Breakfast's and especially loved the beach at Orleans. And actually this last, was because it was loved by a fav author of mine, Gladys Taber.

    Over the years, I had great fun collecting all of Gladys's books [other than dog books]. And of course, we stopped at so many of the type of lovely old book stores, which you speak of and show. -happy sigh-

    Being such a fan of Gladys Taber, of course we got as close to her "Still Cove" house as possible. [Mostly seen across a pond, because it was privately owned then]

    But my husband and daughter and I were so lucky to actually be INSIDE Gladys's "Stillmeadow" old farm house once. !!! I had figured out the way to it, from her books. We pulled up by that so-familiar picket fence, and I just gazed in awe, at the house I'd read so much about.

    Her daughter Connie and granddaughters [young then] were there but Gladys wasn't. Connie was kind enough to bring us inside. A lovely
    CT. memory, too.

    Thank you for taking me down Memory Lane. ^_^

  4. Loes-I am glad that someone so young (well younger than I) agrees with this. It really is more about the journey than the result. Oh, and welcome to commenting!
    Aunt Ameila-I love Orleans and in fact my hubby and I used to live in Eastham, which you know is the town adjacent to Orleans and really uses Orleans as it's downtown. We were married on Coast Gaurd Beach, whcich I am sure you are familiar with. We love that end of the cape and will most likely make a trip there today or tomorrow.
    That is wonderful that you were able to go into the house and I am glad I took you along memory lane!

  5. Reading your description of the walls in the bookstore made me think on "The Yellow Wallpaper!"

  6. Oh yes, I loved that book, I think you first put me onto it!

  7. Dear 50'sgal,

    Your contemplating the level of changes that you've undergone from a year ago made me smile - a big happy smile. You are a wonder. :) I don't yet have the confidence you feel in that 'I'm a homemaker and can conquer all,' as yet, especially in the area of cooking. That you would attempt to cook your way through the 'new' cookbook is amazing. Yes, I'd love to read of your adventure with it in a section of your website; are you kidding.:) The effort, learning and complication of that style of near professional cooking scares me but inspires me at the same time. How simple it seems for me in comparison to go the 'extra mile' with my basic fare when others are cooking grandiose gastronomic delights.

    I love your analogy of the kitchen. No wonder being a housewife is such a wonderful adventure.

    The photo of 'you and your hubby' is so sweet. They look adorable and doesn't it epitomize the pleasantness of the roles.

    Your description of the bookstore was fascinating. I received two beautiful books in the post this week (fresh, crisp and new, sorry) that my son kindly ordered for me at my request. "Happiness for Two" and "You Are Your Choices" by Alexander Stoddard. I've other books of hers and just the covers are often pretty enough to warrant their display.

    Our area does have some interesting history but very young compared to yours. I'm not one to be good at relating it although my son and husband could easily verbalize. I just have it sitting peacefully in a quiet place in my mind aware of some of what's gone before... somewhat influencing how our town became what it is today.

    Thanks for sharing your interesting discoveries. Linda

  8. I would love to read more about your cooking adventures!

    Your blog reminds me of what I've discovered about homemaking, myself: it's never boring. I read an inspiring (modern) cookbook whose introduction said that the reason homemaking has such a terrible reputation (monotonous! meaningless! waste of time!) is because run-away industrialization and the marketing of "convenience" have stripped homemaking of its creative power.

    We have to put down the Bisquick (metaphorically speaking) and pick up the pastry blender if we want to find meaning in what we homemakers do every day.


  9. Rebecca-very true. It does seem sometimes that the technology can suck the fun out of it. I like that we can choose to use what level of it we want, but the more 'hands on' seems to have more fun. I started making my own cheesecrackers and instead of a 'food processor' I just use a pastry blender by hand to mix it and then the actual finishing I do with my hands as I can feel the break of the butter and flour and cheese more. It made me think of an old episode of upstairs downstairs where the cook, Mrs. Bridges, is teaching ruby how to use her hands to break up the flour and fat to make dough.

  10. "We become the heroines in our own story."

    I love this quote. It resonates with me as I sometimes feel like I'm a character in a novel, rushing around with the kids, averting mishaps, saving the day all the while seeing the humor and making dinner.

    That bookstore looks like the perfect place to spend a rainy day.


  11. It's no wonder there are so many bored housewives when there are so many lazy ones! I was just talking to some people the other day about being a housewife because a woman online was talking about going on strike and being under appreciated. I said that I spent 3 hours a day or thereabouts on housework and then after that I have the freedom to do other stuff from cooking a really nice meal (rather than a quick stir fry or throwing together some soup in the crockpot in the morning for example) or going out somewhere fun with the offspring. One woman said she spent about 3 hours a week on housework and asked why I'd spent all afternoon cooking when I could just take something out the freezer. Oh boy! I explained my schedule and told her I bake my own bread and such, have a wait list of stuff to sew, and I even *gasp* iron clothes. She was actually very impressed and said it would be our little secret because she doesn't want her husband to know there are housewives like me out there ;-)

    Speaking of sewing, what kind of trousers are you making? If you've really never made pants before I suggest starting with something less fitted like pajama pants for your hubby or some boxer shorts if he wears those. Much more forgiving than dressier or more fitted trousers so they are good practice. I have two pairs of pajama pants on my list right now but they're for yule presents for my son and hubby so it's hard to find time to make them in secret. I think I'll be making them on Monday evening with a bit of luck; the hubby is going away for a couple of day and the boy goes to bed at 7:30 so if I stay up till midnight or so I should get them finished.

  12. I would love to see a cooking section!

    You know, I would love to transition to being a stay home housewife. I know we can do it financially because I am not working now and attending an accelerated school program. I think I put pressure on myself to continually work or "upgrade" my profession, yet I try to do all of the housework and cook three "squares" a day and bake. When it's all said and done, I am slightly batty. I admire you greatly. =)

    To be honest where we live now, I like it but I do not love it. This place is rather young for history. I only say that because I grew up in Louisiana, near New Orleans. My family has been there since 1712. And the place just holds on to the buildings and towns and treasures the history. Plus the culture is so intoxicating. So I definitely feel more akin to there than here in Colorado. I miss it dreadfully and have dreams to return there eventually, even though we've only been here 3 years. I guess that I have to give it more of a chance. We'll see though.


  13. Sarah-isnt' it true?! And, it is a lovely rainy day spot, or even a wonderful shopping day break, cool outside, the sky shot grey and the promise of hot chocolate with the 'spoils of the day'.
    Rhonda-that is wonderful! I wonder, though, if that homemaker, at home one day with a package of prepared food in her hand won't stop and think, "Hmmm...I wonder" and you may have, as we should, quietly and respectfully spread the Apron Revolution! Good for you!
    Well, in usual 50s gal fashion, I found a vintage repro pattern that has both troussers and a skirt and will share it with you. that is going to be my 'first try'. I know, I know, it will be frustrating and I may end up with three legged pants with the zipper where the back pocket goes, but I cannot help but delve into the big stuff. Perhaps too much confidence is my downfall, but I won't let little bits of tissue paper and wool break me down! I WILL make my own woolen trousers if it kills me! Silly, huh?!
    LPM-Are you considering having your 'profession' become homemaking? It certainly does not hurt to have advanced education, particularly if you have children later, as you can share the experience with them, if they choose that path. Thank you for the admiration, though my university of home is very easy to get into and the professors (the books) are very forgiving.
    I can see how a place like New Orleans would be hard to give up for colorado. I am sure colorado is lovely, do you ski? I adore skiing, but I know it would be like me moving from here to a younger area of the country. I am sure I could love it, but history is so important to me. In fact, my plan, someday, is to move to the south of france and perhaps them my little house will be 600 years old! I seem to be more drawn to history than 'new or moderne'.

  14. Dear 50'sgal,

    Are you pleased so far with your decision to stay locally to holiday? Has it been as wise financially as you initially thought? Do you consider this saving/choice to be one realistic example of how a woman can afford to stay at home and not have to go out to work? Has this one choice helped you much financially in the broad scheme of things or is it an example of 'every little bit counts'? How did you estimate the difference in cost between going away and staying home for your husband's break? Linda

  15. Linda-Hubby and I were just discussing this very thing! We are both 100% happy we chose to stay home, for various reasons.
    We had initially planned on trip around my birthday to Europe. I planned a little to see about economical ways to do it etc. But part of the decision to not follow through was a sudden large bill that occured for our other house. The house we lived in when I started this blog, which is now a rental property. We rent that out now and consider it part of our retirement plan, that is to sell in 20 years or so. But, until then, things come up and we had to install town water as the well went and the pump went all at once. The cost was very high and really I couldn't see spending money on a holiday when that needed to be done. We also found we need a new roof on this house, which is an antique the the very old cedar shingled roof is on it's last legs. So, economically, it would be silly to use money that could aide us in the future for both maintining this house and unexpected things that occur in the rental house.
    We are not rich by any means and live quiet modestly, so choosing such a decision is not new for us. We have forgone holidays over the years in order to save and to have a second house etc. While our friends went off here and there on trips we diligently stayed home and then one day were surprised that we owned two homes and had a boat to enjoy in the summer. It is a matter of choices and thinking of the future as much as possible.
    I also, personally, have NEVER liked a week long 'getaway' that involves rushing to the destination, unpacking, rushing out to dinner, hurry go sight seeing, now out to breakfast, go shopping, etc etc. To me I need a VACATION from such a vacation. The way we looked at it is many people would pay to rent an antique house on Cape Cod to go sightseeing, walking on the beach, and antiquing, we already live here so why not be tourists for the week. So much more relaxing plus I have my dogs, my china and our own sheets!
    This very same mindset will most likely lead to our forgoing future trips in lieu of same day getting a little place in NH where we like to ski and having a little cottage there. It is so much nicer to travel to a place that is yours where your things are and you can relax and really 'homemake' away from home as well. The cost savings of staying home to travel was immense. We did eat out a few times, but I mostly still cooked as I enjoyed it. My total cost of 'pleasure purchases' this week, was 11 dollars U.S. for my two antique books. I hope this answers your question.

  16. Oh my yes you answered my questions beautifully. Thank you very much! Such wise words and I so agree with you. Like nearly everything you 'say' it really does inspire me to do more planning, studying, thinking, praying, organising and discussing of our choices in life. They can make such a difference in the present and also the future. Your writings spur me to try even harder. Thanks again. Linda

  17. Linda-Thank you for your kind words and I glad Linda-Thank you for your kind words and I glad I can spur you on. We really are a community as I feel 'spurred on' every day by all of you. Even those of you out there that might read and not comment (my hubby says there probably are a few) just knowing I have an 'audience' for my words and deeds does make me want to try harder, though my failings usually turn out to be a good lesson in the end or just an excuse to try again!

  18. Sometimes I think of the line in the 1958 movie, "Auntie Mame." "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death." For me, it isn't novelty, flash, or pop culture, but little things in life that count most. In addition to God first in my life, it is creativity and the joy of making that gives me a sense of accomplishment and happiness. Although the journy to a skill may have its ups and downs, it is the pleasure and joy of skill development that gives me a sense of satisfaction. Those who only consume a product without any accomplishment do not have the sense of a job well done. They are one more member to the growing segment of our culture, the unskilled.

    With a little persistence, we can achieve more than a skill. Learning a skill is healthy for the brain and adds to a better, healthier, longer life. There are no shortcuts in life. While it might be easier to buy a dress, grab a take-out, or put in a music CD, making it yourself gives back more than the sweat put into the learning curve.

    You are correct. We need not buy mayonnaise when it can make it ourselves. We have made our own for quite sometime. While not a difficult skill--it can be made in 10 minutes, the joy of making and the better results cannot be purchased.

    No Idle Hands

  19. "We become the heroines in our own story."

    I agree with Sarah --- this is a great quote. And I just love this post altogether! Haven't missed TV a stitch since I quit watching. Real life is much more interesting. Housekeeping allows us to be creative, to nurture, to entertain, to benefit us in financial ways, to steer our households on environmentally friendly paths...

  20. no idle hands-I love auntie mame. It is very interesting, as well, that the more you learn to make homemade the more you realize it takes up less time than you think and you begin to realize this element of time, this incremented moments of your day, most of it, even those who work many hours, their at home time is often spent wasted in front of the tv. If you looked at your life in tv time and took only a 1/4 of that time and put it towards making homemade or making art or needlecraft or anything you would like to try or imporve on, you would be amazed how much there is in life.
    Jitterbug-I am glad you enjoyed it and brava for killing the tv! ALso, I hope you are feeling better, I stopped by your blog and saw you were going through some rough things, do feel better!

  21. no idle hands- Auntie Mame was my mother's favorite movie. :)


  22. I would love a website made by you, and I would love everything being divided into recipes, advice, cleaning, sewing, etc. Sometimes I've searched for a recipe on your blog, but cannot find it.

    I hope you will continue you inspiring posts next year.

  23. I know, there must be a way, even here on this blog, that I could make it so you could search the recipes I have listed, does anyone know how to do that?

  24. mock hollandaise? what's that when it's at home?

  25. Oh, elies-mock hollandaise is a faux version of hollandaise sauce. You know what hollandaise is, right? It is the sauce you put on eggs benedict, not sure if that is just an American dish? Well, actully the mock version is more involved than the real version, they both contain fresh lemon juice. The mock version is a medium thickness white sauce to which, while it is still hot, you had three egg yolks, 5 tbls butter (one tbls at a time) and one tbsp fresh lemon juice. This is served over poached eggs on canadian bacon (ham) or bacon or crab/seafood sometimes on english muffin (or toast). It is a wonderful dish. Have you anything like that in AUSTRALIA?

  26. Yes 50'sgal Australian's definitely eat hollandaise sauce. (We personally don't though because of it's high fat content and it just wasn't in our extended family's repetoire but I'm sure it's quite popular.) Linda

  27. yes, we have both eggs benedict and english muffins in australia... I just haven't heard of mock hollandaise... I usually make the real stuff... sounds interesting :)

  28. Oh, I can post the detailed recipe on my next post. I actually really like the mock hollandaise, as I said, it is actually more involved, I think, than the hollandaise and I put a little aged cheese in as well and usually make a big batch for the week and it is great on aspargus or even baked fish with capers!
    It is interesting that they have english muffins in Australia, because I don't think they have them in England, do they?

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