Saturday, June 15, 2013

Set in our Ways

Am three quarters through the 1950's book, and how accurately it described life in those times really brought it all back to me (myself being a 1950's housewife and mother).  The full title is "A 1950's Housewife." with under this printed 'Marriage and Homemaking in the 1950's'.  Author is Sheila Hardy, and the paperback edition is published by Baker and Taylor.  ISBN 978-0-7524-9216-2.

Although the book is very true when it comes to the domestic 'improvements', certainly after the war  (new housing estates, fridges, washing machines, Hoovers, etc...), the book made me realise that not everyone would live the same way.  When my parents moved to an older Edwardian house in Leicester in 1942, this still had gas-lamps although there was some electricity but only with two-pin sockets. 
There was even an old copper in the corner of the scullery which had a tiny grate to light a fire to heat the water for the laundry to be washed.   It was only after my marriage, when B and I bought our first home on a new housing estate that things became truly 'modern'

Even then, my parents house was 'modern' to my B, for he and his many siblings lived with his parents and grandparents in a small end of terrace house that had no bathroom.  They had to make do with an outside loo and a galvanised bathtub that used to be put in front of the fire in their living room (otherwise washing at the kitchen sink).  But that was pretty normal in many homes, so you could say we were lucky having a bathroom at all.. 

Both houses had an old iron range for cooking, but neither used as gas-cookers were now fitted in many houses, although very old fashioned in style by today's standard, and myself feel that it was a pity that the ranges were still not used, although (when discussing it with B yesterday) he thought his mother might have used one of the ovens to slow-cook a 'stew' (we call this a 'casserole' these days).  The ranges were always lit because in my parents house the fire would heat the water through the 'back boiler', so we did have hot and cold running water in the kitchen and bathroom..  In my M.I.Law's house she had only a cold water tap in  her kitchen and would use the warmth from the range to dry the washing (that she did in the same type of corner 'copper' as we had in our house).   Bathwater had to be heated on the stove.

When B and I moved to our small semi, it was exactly as the book said, with an L.shaped lounge, and a kitchen with a tiny walk-in larder.  We were lucky to be able to have a stainless steel sink (unusual in those days), which I thought really 'posh' as it was an old 'Belfast' sink in my parent's house, this having a huge wooden draining board.  Now of course, 'Belfast' sinks are craved for.
The fitted sink, with an adjoining Formica top as 'work surface' (but nothing underneath it), was all  that was about all in the kitchen, although there was a hatch through the the dining end of the living room. Not that I ever used this for serving, but it was useful to keep an eye on the children playing when I was in the kitchen.

We had to provide the electric or gas cooker ourselves, and any work surfaces.  Originally I chose electric, but as I had no washing machine, using a large galvanised tub on the cooker to boil the 'whites', this regularly boiling over and blowing the element beneath, rapidly changed to a gas cooker where I found the oven, on low heat with the door open, helped to keep the kitchen warm in the winter, especially useful as the children ate their meals in there.
As central heating was virtually unknown in the average domestic home, the only warmth (other than the gas oven) we had was from the Baxi coal fire in the living room that also heated the water via the back boiler.  Problem with a Baxi was that the fire had to be put out every second day so that the deep ash pan (set into the floor space) could be emptied.   Round the fire we put a high and old-fashioned nursery fire-guard on which we could drape the children's clothes to make sure they were dry.

Whenever we read about domestic history, and allowing for class distinction and different levels of accommodation, food eaten, even clothing, we always assume that everyone - at that time - lived in the same way, but - like the above - it could be several generations living in a family home that had rarely changed for years, so still living 'old style'.   Even in this country, with my interest in cooking and all other 'domestic' history, what we ate hardly seemed to have changed much, due I suppose to very little food being imported.  It was only after war-time rationing ceased that we became aware of what the rest of the world ate.   With the custom being to start a new home with 'hand-me-downs' it was again only in the '50s that new styles came into furnishing.  When it comes to clothes, possibly there has always been an interest to 'keep up with the fashion', and where almost everyone will try to follow this in some way.

Looking round the home where we now live, I see nothing really new or 'fashionable'.  But then this would never sit comfortably in a house that was built in the early 1920's.  True we do have a 'futon' couch (for visitors to sleep), but the style, with its curved arms, is very similar to Art Deco furniture, so fits nicely into our living room.   Most of our furniture we brought with us, and any bought since don't look out of place.  Too much 'cream' for me (walls, carpets, furnishings etc) but here in our dark-oak panelled dining room we need the cream carpet to give 'light', and our own heavy oak sideboard and 'Regency' dining table fits in well enough. 

But I mustn't keep rambling on as I have comments to reply to...
Thanks Noor for clarification re the Palm Sugar, and the reference link for the Tom Yom Soup.

A welcome to Mindy who was kind enough to let me know she is a regular reader even though she hasn't commented before.  We love hearing from new 'friends' so hope you will keep in touch.
A welcome also to Taaleedee who remembers my TV appearances (didn't realise there was anyone left who did, so am a happy bunny).

Interesting what you said about using Quorn as a meat substitute jane, and your husband (a meat lover) not noticing.  Certainly almost any meat 'substitute' is easily disguised when in a spicy dish (chilli or curry), and at one time always used the much cheaper TVP granules instead of meat, adding beef flavour by way of an Oxo or Bovril cube (my preference is always Bovril cubes as they do taste meatier - the Oxo rep at that time agreed with me on this).  My Beloved always noticed, mainly because it wasn't at 'chewy' as meat, so I found that by adding some cheaper 'real' minced meat, the 'gristly' bits (when chewed along with the TVP) gave the impression it was all meat.

Do hope your butternut squash seeds (now growing) bear fruit Granny G.  Let us know how you get on.  I've never had any success myself growing pumpkins or other squashes, but then haven't had much success growing anything here in Morecambe.  Think the soil (and weather) may have had a lot to do with this.  It could also be that most of the time I can't be bothered to fiddle with weeks, hunt the slugs, and water when necessary.

Did read somewhere Pam that Texas was big enough to hold 10 Englands, so can imagine the distances between top and bottom of your state must be vast and probably take more than one day to get from one to t'other.  Here in the UK we can drive from Land's End to John O'Groats (bottom end of England to top of Scotland) in 24 hours.
Not sure if I envy you your summer heat, but would like a bit of its warmth as it is still very chilly here, and - of course - still windy.  Unseasonably windy, and certainly unseasonably cold.

Thanks Eileen for giving us the history of 'Po-boy', as I thought originally a snack for 'poor boys'. Like everything else, the filling of said snack AND the price has risen, so now it is the food for the wealthy.

Yesterday watched the final of a US chefs competition, mainly because an 'English' chef was a finalist.  I say 'English', but he was Japanese by birth, but well known in this country as 'one of ours'. His name is Jun Tanaka (hope I've got the spelling right).  I hoped he do well, but expected a US chef to win, but no! Jun won the $50,000 and not surprised as his dishes (especially the presentation) was way above the others.   I was so pleased for him.  He wants to use the money to set up his own restaurant.   At the moment I think Jun is mostly involved in the smaller scale 'Street Food', so do hope he managed to move onwards and upwards, he is such a pleasant man.

Today watched 'Cup Cake Wars', this time past winners competing against each other.  All had their own businesses, but one girl definitely was originally English as she had no American accent at all.  She was in the final against another and although her cakes were said (by the judges) to be excellent (better than the other girls), she lost because her display wasn't quite as good.  Apparently her cup-cakes would have been harder 'to grab' when people went to get them.  Well, perhaps grabbing cakes is what the US people tend to do.  Here in the UK we tend to stand and take a look at the food, then decide which we want before delicately removing them from the stand.

Am very slowly sorting out the different accents in the US.  Am pretty sure that the mother in 'Not My Mums Meals' (possibly got that name wrong) comes from Texas as she keeps saying 'Y'all', and almost sure that the presenter of 'Cup-cake Wars' comes from the New England Area (maybe Boston?).  An American reader of this blog I hope can put me right.  Still not sure where Guy Fieri or Adam Richman come from.  Or for that matter Ina Garten (although she could possibly be from New York?

We have so many accents in the UK, and as these can differ slightly from town to town (within one country), and even village to village, am sure in just one state in the US there will be a difference in accents.  Expect the same happens in all countries.   Here in the UK we find the American and Canadian accent almost identical, but it is the way the vowels are pronounced that makes all the difference.   In America I've noticed the vowels are said as they sound when spoken on their own.  'A' (as in hay) not 'ah'.   'Preeezentation',  Baysil,  Tomayto.   Nothing wrong in that, it actually makes sense, and certainly it has been said that the English language (as spoken in the UK) is one of the hardest to get right.  We have many words spelt the same but sounded differently according to the meaning, and other words spelt differently but sound the same.  I'm always grateful I was born English and not had to learn it as a second language.  

B has come in and asked to use the computer, so had better get it ready for him (he can't seem to do it himself since he messed his side of it up), and as our daughter has just text me to ask if I'd go to the kitchen shop in Morecambe with her (she will be arriving here soon), I said I would, so need to get ready.  Once I return home am hoping to practise making some sushi for my supper.  Will let you know how I get on.

Meanwhile, hope you all have a good day, and - as ever - look forward to hearing from you.  Gill won't be phoning tomorrow as she is off for another short break, so should start my blog at the normal time (which is now about 9.00am because I often like to watch Food Network earlier).  Hope to see you then.