Friday, December 28, 2012

Domesticating Your Husband

My future daughter-in-law was experimenting with some Nicholson family lace to make centerpieces for her wedding next July.

She doesn't have to teach my son how to cook beefsteak, he's a line chef in a fine restaurant, and as for making coffee, well, they prefer going to Timmies rather than make their own. Indeed, my son is in  charge of the menu for the wedding.  The crystal carafe was my grandmother's wedding gift.

The following 'clip' is from Everywoman's Encyclopaedia, 1910-1912.  It is written by a male. The article discusses 'domesticating a husband'. Easier said than done, in Edwardian Times the house was the woman's domain. They even created "The New Profession of Homemaking" in that era.

"Man is a much more easily domesticated animal than the majority of wives suppose. In almost every member of the masculine sex there dwells, sometimes carefully hidden away, an innate capacity for the practical domestic values, in fact a love of housewifery. Men are usually unconscious of this until circumstances bring it out.

Things in which a man especially excels when he delivers himself over  to the fascination of housewifery are salad dressings, black coffee (which, however, often requires a rather expensive cafetiere) toast, potato salad and beefsteak.

Another excellent achievement is the gravy made by these amateur cooks, guiltless of a single atom of grease, but sparkling with goodness.  Any woman who has not tried to initiate her husband into the finer arts of the cuisine is hereby advised to try him with a simple meal, and above all things, to leave him to himself in the kitchen while he works out his own plans."

I also own another magazine from that era Food and Cookery 1910, that contains many recipes and interesting articles.

.A recipe for Raspberry Rice Pudding..

One of the articles in the magazine is designed to be controversial, I imagine,  Men Make the Best Cooks. 

"Cooking is undoubtedly a fine art, and an accomplished chef is as much of an artist in his particular branch of work as a painter and a sculptor. (Actually, I just learned that painters and sculptors, up until the Renaissance, were considered mere craftsman and were pretty low on the social scale.)

There is as much difference between good cooking and bad as between  a symphony performed by a great master on a first-class instrument and a so-called melody played by some out-of-tune barrel organ.

There is absolutely no question as to who makes a better cook: a man or a woman. If man did not excel why should all the chief hotels and restaurants the world over  place a man at the head of the culinary department."

And the article goes on.... Don't tell that to Louisa Trotter of the Duchess of Duke Street or Mrs. Bridges of the Bellamy Household in Upstairs Downstairs. If you watch either of those  iconic series about the Edwardian Era on DVD you will see that the  fine elaborate meals and  the table settings are a 'star' of the shows. Trotter is based on a real character, Mrs. Bridges is fictional.

Anyway, the Tighsolas letters include a great deal about food, but no particulars. Margaret Nicholson kept her famous recipes hidden away in her head, like so many of the culinary geniuses of their time (most of whom were women) unheralded and their gifts taken for granted by their family.

Read School Marms and Suffragettes

Louisa arranges a dessert on Duchess of Duke Street. Soon Gemma Jones would only be good with pickles on toothpicks.

In 1918, plunk in the middle of WWI, Marion Nicholson's husband was left alone with his sisters in law, while his wife 'rested' at her mother's in Richmond, Quebec. He is acting more like the typical Edwardian husband, I imagine.

July 26, 1918

Hugh to Marion

My dearest sweetheart,

I cannot express in writing how pleased I was to hear your voice over the telephone a little while ago and was very sorry when I learned that due to the circumstances, you were not able to come home…Dearest, I have never written you on this strain since I have known you and before I say what I have in mind, I beg of you to please try and understand it in the light that I mean it. For Marion, dear, I love you with all my heart and it is because of my affection for you that I try to pave the way a little. I honestly, would not intentionally hurt you Marion. Now sweetest, here it is: You know, Dear, that you have left me alone at different times for indefinite periods, but may I say that I have never yet found one month to be as long as this one. Really, it has seemed to me almost like years. I would a thousand times rather be left entirely alone than to be left again with the girls, as I cannot get them to  do anything which appears to me to be reasonable. I have come home on several occasions and the front and back doors were not locked. They will not close the windows and the house is almost like an oven. They forget to order food. The refrigerator is left open; the ice is melting as fast as you can put it in. Cawlice. Water is running all over the floor and things are lying about. I am sick and tired of the whole place.  Take pity on me Darling before I go crazy and come home to me to look after and love me. *but under no circumstances take chances (with mother's health).  Take it from me, God help the poor man that gets either one of them, if they don't change. You can do more in five minutes than they can do together in a day.  You have forgotten more than they'll ever know. God bless you Marion and may it be God's will that he can spare you to me for many long happy years.

PS. Don't fail to burn this when finished reading.