The American Frugal Housewife: Dedicated to Those Who are Not Ashamed of Economy

26 Nov

As we plunge into holiday season, nervously tracking Black Friday sales, touting Small Business Saturday, or feeling remorse for not following through on Buy Nothing Day (and, here, by “we” I mean “me”), I’m finding comfort in a little book a good friend gave to me as an ironic wedding gift: The American Frugal Housewife: Dedicated to Those Who are not Ashamed of Economy (1833) by a certain Mrs. Child. As one might imagine, it’s brimming with advice, some wonderfully outdated and some timeless. I probably won’t be soaking tripe in my cellar or applying cranberry poultices every fifteen minutes to any tumors. But who can argue with this first line: “The true economy of housekeeping is simply the art of gathering up all the fragments, so that nothing is lost. I mean fragments of time, as well as materials.” Mrs. Child on education: “If young men and women are brought up to consider frugality contemptible and industry degrading, it is vain to expect they will at once become prudent and useful, when the cares of life press heavily upon them.” And, on Reasons for Hard Times: “‘Everything is so cheap,’ say the ladies [in bright array while stagnation is universally felt].’ But do they reflect why things are so cheap? Do they know how much wealth has been sacrificed, how many families ruined to produce this boasted result? Do they not know enough of the machinery of society, to suppose that the stunning effect of crash after crash, may eventually be felt by those on whom they depend for support?”

Then, of course, there are recipes for calf’s foot jelly, whortleberry pudding, and Election Cake, as well as bits and bobs about the best way to clean iron kitchen ware and the best vegetal sources for cheap dyes. A few more morsels:

“The common dark-blue violet makes a slimy tea, which is excellent for the canker.”

“Pig’s head is a profitable thing to buy. It is despised because it is cheap, but when well cooked it is delicious.”

“Beer is a good family drink.”

Happy holidays!

One Response to “The American Frugal Housewife: Dedicated to Those Who are Not Ashamed of Economy”

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  1. On Reading « Anca Szilagyi - August 22, 2012

    […] 1. The American Frugal Housewife: Dedicated to Those Who Are Not Ashamed of Economy […]

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