[APG Public List] [TGF] Origin of a homemaker's habit

eshown at comcast.net eshown at comcast.net
Thu Sep 9 15:15:11 MDT 2010

Jacqueline wrote:
> that was what spring cleaning was for!  Taking all the glasses and
everything else out of the cabinets and wash the shelves before putting
everything back. 

Ages ago, I found a delightful book: Marion Cabell Tyree, _Housekeeping in
Old Virginia_ (Loisville, Ky.: John P. Morton and Co., 1879).

Most of the book offers recipes---for food, medicine, and household cleaning
products; but pp. 496-98 describe that "spring cleaning."  Believe me, I
know few people today who live up to Ms. Tyree's standards of spring
cleaning!  (Hint: The discussion starts out: "It is best to commence with
the attic.")

Another discussion that curiously appears in the "bread" section, describes
kitchen cleaning. It says nothing about any preferred direction for storing
glassware, but it hints at one reason for the down position that hasn't yet
been mentioned.

"Once a week, have the kitchen and every article in it thoroughly cleaned.
First clean the pipe of the stove, as the dust, soot and ashes fly over the
kitchen and soil everything. Then take the stove to pieces, a far as
practicable, cleaning each part, especially the bottom, as neglect of this
will prevent the bread from baking well at the bottom. After the stove is
thoroughly swept out, oven and all, apply stove polish. ... Next remove
everything from the kitchen safe and shelves, which must be scoured before
replacing the utensils belonging to them, and these too must first be
scoured, scalded and wiped dry. Then wash the windows, and lastly the floor,
scouring the latter unless it is oiled, in which case, have it merely wiped
over." (p. 24)

Notice the fourth word in this quote: HAVE the kitchen ... thoroughly
cleaned. This old Virginia housewife of the 1870s made frequent references
to "your cook" and "your servants."  (There are also recipes that starts
out: "Two hours before breakfast!)

The book includes a 7-page list of grande dames, from Brooklyn to N.O., who
contributed to the cookbook. Most of the individual recipes are attributed
only to, say, "Mrs. Dr. S. " or "Mrs. Judge S.," but the contributors are
easy enough to identify from the master list. 

If anyone is interested in it, it's digitized on Google.


Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG

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