I’ve been reading Things a Lady Would Like to Know, a 19th century book on household management and expenditure by Henry Southgate.  I love that it includes information on how to cook all manner of meats and vegetables, a menu of dinners (with dessert!) for each day of the month that takes into account using up the previous night’s leftovers, what food is in season for which month and what part of the season its cheapest, recipes for the use of all parts of the animal (many parts we no longer bother to use), menus for dinner parties for each day of the month, ideas for breakfasts, lunches, light dinners, as well as information on tea, sauces, salads, pickling, summer drinks, liqueurs, cakes, and preserves.  It also includes directions for seasoning cookware, mending china, cleaning just about everything, gardening, traveling, personal care (soaps, moisturizers, etc), wardrobe maintenance, wifely comportment, prayer, and home remedies for a wide variety of illnesses.

I love the discussion of recipes and household management.  It really isn’t something we teach anymore and it really should be.  At some point in their lives, everyone (men and women) need to know how to cook and clean for themselves, balance their finances, and run their own home.  We used to teach many of these things in Home Ec, which sadly has usually been seen as a “girls’ class” or not as important as math and science.  It’s a real shame because it really could have done many of us a lot of good.  I know I could have used a semester of it. 🙂  Sure, it’s never been glamorous to know how to get gum out of your pants but when you need to do it you are always thankful that you know how.

I find the entire book completely fascinating, especially the section on behavior and comportment.  Parts of it are hilarious, like the passage that recommends marking a section of your reading that you think your husband will like so that later, when you are spending time with your husband after a long day, you can ask him to explain it to you.  He will feel useful and you can foster the growth of your marital bond.  Seriously!  I don’t really do feminist or political commentary in my blog so I will leave that to others but I found the passage totally hilarious and thankfully antiquated.  But there are also very useful passages on things like frugality and time management.  It’s really very fascinating and a little surreal to find these great bits of timeless, practical wisdom next such exceedingly old fashioned ideas.

I always find a lot of really good information and advice in these books (along with some wild recipes-Mock Turtle Soup anyone? (hint-there isn’t any turtle)).  Sure there are some antiquated ideas that we’ve thankfully moved past but that doesn’t mean the good stuff isn’t still good.  If you are interested in checking it out for yourselves, it’s available for free through google books.  I have several 16th Century cook and commonplace books in my collection at home.  I’ll be sharing one of those with you all next.  Stay tuned!

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