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Kitchen Progress

Fireplace cooking is cumbersome. And heats the kitchen (sometimes the whole house) as much in summer as in winter. What felt good in January can drive a person from the room in July.

The cast iron cook stove solved some of these problems. And the companion piece — the parlor or heating stove — solved others. A stove uses less fuel. The flat cooking service accommodated any cast iron  or metal pan with a flat bottom. Gone was the hook to hang the kettle. Thanks to a small, but well placed, oven, baking became easier. And what farmer or worker doesn’t appreciate some fresh bread after a day’s labor?

A great step forward for 1850’s cooks.


Kitchen Past

On the American frontier houses were small and families were large.

And the frontier continued to move West. At one time it was Western Pennsylvania or Western Virginia. Then it became Ohio and Tennessee. The future states on either side of the Mississippi took a turn. And then the Great Plains — after a short interruption for settlers taking the Oregon Trail or heading for California gold fields.

But no matter which future state the pioneers settled, a few things were constant. The cabin, or house, or soddy needed a kitchen. And until well into the 1840’s that meant the heating-lighting-cooking all-purpose fireplace.

It what is now the American Midwest in the 1830’s you could get an idea of where the newcomers hailed from by where they put their fireplace. Those from the south put them on one end of the cabin. Families from New York and Pennsylvania put them in the center, opened both sides, and heated the bedroom.

Remember I said the houses were small. It follows that storage was limited. Forget knick-knacks or “prettys”. The mantle was for practical things — platters, candles, the clock, and hooks or pegs for tongs and ladles.

Can you smell the stew in the pot?  Bread is in the Dutch oven.


Childhood Keepsake

Once upon a time… not all children’s toys were electronic – or even plastic.

Yes, my child. There was a time when plastic was new. And expensive.

My child size tea set was make of the same material as an adult one – breakable china. We learned to handle things with care. Oh, yes. Accidents happened.

And then we learned to sweep up the pieces.

Many pleasant hours passed while I served my dolls, friends, and myself from this set. It’s incomplete — the cups suffered in the previous mentioned accidents.

Kitchen Gift

A couple is getting married. You want to give them a gift. One that will last. Perhaps it will need to survive a move (or two or more) and children.

In the decade when many of my friends (and myself) were taking the step of marriage several wedding gifts were popular. Toasters and blenders electric frying pans found their way into every new household. Linens were always popular and appreciated. But let’s go back to the kitchen.

Remember these?

A person would run out of numbers trying to tally the number of times these have gone from over – regular and microwave – to the table. And they travel well to pot-lucks. And store left overs in the fridge.

Do I still use them after all these years? Well, I needed to wash one before I staged this photo.

Cook’s Bouquet

Kitchen arrangement should be left up to the cook. Moving into a new apartment or home. Let the primary cook set up the cupboards and drawers. And decide witch items will be left in full view on the counter.

I’ve moved and set up several kitchens during my life. A few things are constant: the toaster is on the counter, dishes to the left of the sink, and cookie sheets in the oven drawer. Many more things are flexible and dependent on the type of storage available.

For years the slow cooker shared the counter with the toaster. Now that spot is taken by a coffee maker. When toddlers lived in the house the plastic storage containers were under the sink – beside the liquor. (I had my reasoning.)

And until I moved into my present home, a good many years ago, a drawer held the large mixing spoons, ladles, and spatulas. But due to the size of the available drawers, I needed to make a change. So I took a hint from kitchens visited and grace the room with a year around bouquet.

Within reach. Minimum tangle.

Thankful — Needful #3

Food — got it.

Clothing — on my body.

Shelter. The third of the necessities taught in elementary school.

Shelter, let’s think for a minute of what we are being sheltered from. Rain and cold are two things which pop into my mind. Heat. Glaring sunshine. Mud and muck and swampy water are easy to add to the list.

Most often shelter is a home. It may be modest or extravagant. Permanent or temporary. My personal experience is limited. Yes, I’ve had a couple of nights in a tent. I’ve slept overnight in a car. But the vast majority of my nights, and a good many days, have been spent in permanent buildings – a house, a workplace, a hotel.

My choice for shelter keeps me dry, protected from wind and extremes of temperature.

This looks like a suitable shelter in the American Midwest.

Mystery Structure

When walking around a historical village, I can put a name and/or purpose to most things. But this one had me stuck.

Is this for grain or produce storage? What about that trough at the bottom?        It must be there for a reason.

It all made good sense after I asked one of the employees — in 1830’s costume.

Several households together pooled their fireplace ashes in these. Once they were full they added water. (The metaphorical light bulb started to glow.) What do you get when you add water to wood ashes? Lye.

The trough at the bottom facilitated collecting the lye which would have been used to make soap.

Please give our ancestors points for being smart, clever, and thrifty. But since I remember lye soap well (my mother made and used it for laundry) I’m fine with purchasing modern detergent at the store.

Candle Power

In physics class we learned the definition of candle power as the light from one standard candle one foot away. During out last power outage I discovered that these eyes need two candle power to read comfortably at the table.

Recently I had occasion to visit a historical village. The decade for the reproductions and artifacts was the 1830’s. It was a delightful place to visit and learn. Cooking and heat from the fireplace. Light from home made candles – either dipped or molded.

And when you needed to go outside on a dark night — take your lantern.

So grateful to be living in current times — when a flip of the switch gives us many more than one candle power.

The March Project

Yes. You read the title correctly. I’m aware that this is April. But for today I want to share the large project which occurred in my life during March.

Regular readers know I like to travel and often populate this blog with photos from my travels or outdoor features in St. Louis.

We’re going inside today. Because sometimes a house needs a little (or a lot) of work in the interior. March was one of those times.

Walls accumulate layers of paint, wallpaper, and more paint. Fixtures age. Become fussy. Or broken. Replacements clash. Dirt refuses to budge. Such was the state of my bathroom in a 50 year-old building.

Save the nickels and dimes. Dollars too. Call in the experts. Take the plunge.



Sleek, clean lines – may the major portions serve owners over the next 50 years.

Hang it High

Decades ago, when I was a newlywed, it was popular to have hanging houseplants.

The concept has charms. In our circle of friends, the apartments were small and often older buildings. Furniture was minimal to match our paychecks. But if you had a nice window it was common to find a spider plant, wandering Jew, or other tropical foliage draping over the sides of a plastic or clay pot. During a macrame craze the holders became works of folk art with beads incorporated  into elaborate string designs. (Not at my house. I need to concentrate when tying my shoes.)

One plant more than all the others seemed designed to be admired when hung. Imagine this thriving specimen hung in a foyer with a cathedral ceiling.