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HOUSEHOLD DISCOVERIES AND MRS. CURTIS’S COOK BOOK—1909 PART 1

WELL, IT’S CLEAR why I bought this particular 1909 1024-page tome: “The main object of this book is economy,” its Preface says. “If rightly used, it will save a great deal of money in every household. It will also save time and labor, which are the equivalent of money.”

From its Introduction: “Nothing had to be left out but waste words, duplicates (the same thing said in another way), gush, and braggadocio.”

Uh, I’m not sure about gush and braggadocio. And one might quibble about parenthetical duplicates. But the publisher’s name is a clincher: The Success Company.   

Household Discoveries and Mrs. Curtis’s Cook Book , by Sidney Morse and Isabel Gordon Curtis, The Success Company, 1909.

Here in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow are tidbits from 113 years ago gleaned from the book’s 26 chapters of Discoveries and 38 chapters of Mrs. Curtis’s Cook Book.

An “ironing board.”

Discoveries. These helpful hints range from House Furnishing and Decoration (lots of Craftsman and Mission styles) and Heating, Lighting and Refrigeration (remember, it’s 1909), Wash Day, Ironing Day (“What’s an iron, Grandpa?”), Sewing and Mending Day (“Ditto.”), Sweeping Day (“Ditto, ditto.”), to Preservation of Meats and Vegetables, Health Hints—What to Do in Emergency, and What the Home Nurse Ought to Do (“Don’t Stick the Nipple in the Baby’s Mouth Every Time It Cries.”). 

Come to think of it, my Stickley furniture shows a kinship today..

To Keep Fresh Meat. Things were rather more complex in the days before commercial iceboxes: “Refrigeration in a dry, well-ventilated air chamber cooled to a temperature of 40º F. or lower by means of ice is the best means of preserving fresh meat in summer or in warm climates. For this purpose ice may be stored in northern climates in homemade ice houses, and utilized by means of homemade refrigerators as elsewhere recommended.”

“If ice houses are not available, fresh meat may be kept for several days by use of sour milk, vinegar, charcoal, or borax, or by immersing it in cold running water, or by means of a mixture of salt, sugar, and saltpeter.”

“Or hang up joints of meat, if not required for immediate use in any dry, shady place where there is good ventilation. They will keep fresh from 2 to 4 days, and will become more tender and digestible by hanging.”

To Mend Torn Book Pages. “Clip two narrow strips of tracing paper long enough to cover the tear and apply them on either side of the page by means of Japanese rice cement, which is a paste made of boiled rice starch. Both the paper and the paste being transparent, the tear if skillfully mended will not be noticeable and will not interfere with the use of the volume.”

As a matter of fact, though not without some loose pages, my 1909 Household Discoveries and Mrs. Curtis’s Cook Book is remarkably free of tears. However, if you’re curious about Japanese cement, read on.

Rice Paste or Japanese Cement. “Mix powdered rice with a little cold water, rubbing it until smooth and free from lumps. Add boiling water and boil, stirring constantly, until it thickens. This is an excellent library paste, suitable for scrapbooks and all kinds of fancy paper work.”  

Tomorrow in Part 2 we’ll turn to Mrs. Curtis’s portion of this interesting book. ds 

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2022  

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