Saturday, February 7, 2009

7 February 1955 "Out, out Damn Spot!" and "After the War"

This is the Time from February 7, 1955:
There is an article entitled "Pakistan Offers Peace". It is interesting how much of our present foreign affairs had their start during this year.
India and Pakistan were both carved out of the old British India in August 1947 and the hostility between the Indians and the Pakistanis really errupt. This year (1955) the usa under Eisenhower form the Bhagdad Pact (original name was Middle East Treaty Organization or METO) and was adopted by Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Turkey, and the United Kingdom. It was dissolved in 1979.
The U.S. suspension of military assistance during the 1965 Pakistan-India war generated a widespread feeling in Pakistan that the United States was not a reliable ally.
And here we are now (2009) wondering if Pakistan will fight a war for and with us against the Taliban. Our sour relations with the middle east, it seems, are not only a post 9-11 situation.
I am beginning to really understand where we are as a country by traveling back 54 years. It seems the way of life that is erroding away from us is not only the joy of family, housewifery, and economy, but the political world our country is making is leading us down a frightening path. Reall, all any of us really want, is to make nice homes for our families and to enjoy our little piece of the world. I suppose it is always the masses who are subject to the actions of its government. Sad, sad state of the world.
Now, onto the home:
Since beginning the use of daily tablecloths, something here-to-fore relegated to holidays and birthday parties, I have begun the endless siege of the stain. That unwinning battle of the housewife against that drip of greap or plop of scalloped potatos, or the oozing slip of the driplet of wine down the glass stem to the certain doom of your table linen.

I realized the full extent of this new fixation when the other morning hubby spilt some coffee.
"oh, no!" I shouted, startling him to grab his linen napkin and dab at the heinous spill, "Oh, GOD! NO!" exclaimed I, much like a herione in a dimestore novel, hand to my head and heart, "Not my darling cloth, oh GOD, ANYTHING, but my vintage linen table cloth in robins egg blue with triple hand stictching at the edges" I seemed to say.

"I am not going to live like this", was hubbys response, which startled me. He is always polite and considerate and puts up with all my hare-brained schemes.

"What was that?" I retorted.

"I don't want to feel like a guest at my own breakfast table,"

"Well," I retorted, "we do still have paper towel and sponges in the kitchen, we used those often enough BEFORE linen napkins, how hard would it be to grab one of those to clean up the mess?"

The battle was on.

We faced off, two foes. But, I had the upper hand, this was my battleground: the Home. Were we to face off over a desk strewn with papers and computers humming, then perhaps he would outrank me, but I had the upper hand.

"If," I began, sliding my sword carefully from my sheath,"you think my making things nice for us to enjoy breakfast is an inconvienance, then perhaps we can just eat cereal out of the box on the front porch, then if we spill anything we can just hose it, and ourselves, down". Ah, ha! Right through the heart, quick as a wink.

We ended up lauging at ourselves. He agreed that it was not an inconvienance to simply be more careful and I too not be so anal. Yet, here I had found myself in the midst of a discussion I had never thought I would have had. One, in fact, that I could ever have even dreamed of having. It was definitely a 1955 moment.

This was not the only time my clean table linens have obsessed me. I have also found myself in Hitchcockian moments at other mealtimes as well. I may pretend to be talking or listening, but my eyes are glued to the fork or knife of the guest, watching it carefully.
"No...wait" I shout in my head, "Place that fork back on the plate, NO...MY GOD, use the knife rest!" while the whole time I am smiling and grinning away.
Then, the inevitable slip of the fork from someones plate.
The room goes to slow motion.

The fork, larger than life, drips with its grease and laughs at me with its bits of coagulated fat and shards of food.

"NOOOOOO" screams out in my head, but it is too has hit the table.

There it lies: mocking me, in all its grease-filled glory. My tablecloth, a casuality of war, stained with the blood of my unknowing guests food. That drop of wine, spreading out into all the fibers of the cloth, stained forever!

A small tear wells up in the corner of my eye.

I have to excuse myself, run to the kitchen to see to something.

My heart is broken.

These are the moments of which I need to let go. I do not want to be focused on my linens more than my guests. I don't want to paint on a smile while my eyes flash back and forth betwixt my guests mouth, their cutlery, and its final resting place.

Enough is enough.

So, what does a good housewife do?

She checks her source. Her bible, the "America's Housekeeping Book".

When I opened my Housekeeping book to Chapter 25 : "Spots and Stains", the first paragraph pulls me in. This book understands:

"Cranberry sauce on the best white damask, a spreading grease spot on a brand new dress, lipstick lefy by a careless guest on a fine linene towel, ice cream dribbled on little Martha Ann's party dress-common tragedies, to be sure, but real tragedies none the less if you don't know what to do about them."

This book understands my situation, "and no," I tell the book, "I DO NOT know what to do about them, help me...teach me oh great book of the household!"

I see, already, that I have doomed some of my linens to stained purgatory for ever, as the next paragraph foretells a sad omen:

"Your chances for removing a spot or stain successfully are much greater if you act quickly. Time is against you, because a stain may actually change in compostion as it dries" (Oh, God, help me! Time...always Time and a race with it, is housekeeping!)

I feel a great explorer. An Indiana Jones, if you will. I raise my sparking torch to the wall of the discovered lost tomb of stains and before me, as I decipher the hieroglyphs on the wall, read the words that shoot terror through me:

"An unsuitable reagent may 'set' the stain or destroy the fabric, so beware!"

NO! I reel back, hand to my eyes, it isn't true!

But, alas, it is true.

So, for any of you as foolish as I have been, here are some images and instructions from the book to help you out with stains.

Here, you must be set up like a mad scientist. This list I will try to fill. I find my cabinets and pantry quickly becoming stocked, much like an army preparing for battle. Glass Rod and Carbontetrachloride (whatever the heck that is!) at the ready! I shall march forward into battle.

Here is the list of methosd for removing spots and stains. This chapter is very thorough and I have only given you a sample. There are three pages listing the offending spot and how to deal with it rather it is on washable or non-washable fabric.
What I can see and appreciate here is this, in 1955 things were costly and you cared for them and wanted to have and keep nice things. These are what you must do to accomplish that goal. Today (2009) we are concerned about the environment and the level of throw-away things we have. A linen napkin saves trees, money and waste. Now, however, we have to keep them nice. We don't just toss them out. Serving food at home in 1955 means doing so on a nice table and setting. In 2009 serving dinner at home is becoming more a necessity than eating out due to our failing economic climate, so it should follow suit that we would want to do it with some semblence of grace. So, not only time-travellors such as myself, may soon find themselves wondering "How do I get rid of these stains?" Interesting parallels, don't you think?

This image shows the 'scientist' at work against those horrid spots. Where does one buy a glass rod? I might have to order some things from a laboratory stocking site online. I suppose in 1955 I would hop down to the Rexall drugs, pick up some carbon tetrachloride some glass rods, get a malted, chat up my neighbors and head home. I wonder how long before these items do become a normal part of a 'drug store'?
Do any of you 'neighbors' have any good stain fighting and stain preventing tips? Come on, give up the knowledge.
On the food front, todays breakfast was this recipe for Cheese Strata. It was SO yummy. I, of course, altered the recipe a bit. I first, using my vintage pyrex caserole, baked some bacon (surprise, right?) in it. Then, removing the bacon I left the lovely 'drippings' in the pan as I placed in the bread and cheese alternately and laced the layers with the bacon strips. It cooked up a treat! And was so light and not greasy at all. There is some left for hubby's lunch (he is home weekends) and frees me up from making lunch so I can mess about with my books and magazines.
It is going to be 41 degrees today and tommorrow 49! So, I need to do something in the yard, even if it is just decide where I am going to put in that patio this summer. I hope whever you are it is a nice day to go outside. I hope for my Australian readers, your heat wave is subsiding.
Well, everyone have a lovely day.
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