Last year, my aunt passed on to me a book that once belonged to my great grandmother: “The Standard Book of Recipes and Housewife’s Guide,” edited by Alice A. Johnson, Janet McKenzie Hill and Dr. Henry Hartshorne. Beneath its faded crimson cover, I discovered a world where I would have failed miserably.
Take, for example, this passage under a section titled “Diary of a Week’s Work:”
[The lady of the house] should never consider it extravagant to supply herself with the best cooking utensils…and, if a good housekeeper, she will find both pride and pleasure in her jars of home-made pickles and preserves.
I do indeed take pride in both having the best cooking utensils and still managing to create dishes that make my husband say, “It could be worse!”
I try, I really do. I think my lady-of-the-house forbears would appreciate my efforts. My husband loves fried shrimp, so one night I made him one. (The rest were lost in a tragic grease-based conflagration.) Another time I made dinner rolls that baked up to the size of double-stuffed Oreos.
The problem is, I just get too excited at the thought of the end result. My brain glosses over the actual instructions. And let’s not discount the Motherhood Dinner Curse—in which my son picks the exact moment that I start to prepare dinner to unleash the rage and sadness he has accrued throughout the day.
We may not eat cookbook-worthy meals or desserts at the Taylor house, but we do practice the Viking meal plan: plenty of meat, cheese and bread. It may not be fit for the households of the early 20th century, but they didn’t have Lunchables or delivery pizza, so what did they know, anyway?
Carrie Taylor is a native Texan and mother of one.