Thursday, August 30, 2012

Recipes from the 19th Century

Here are a few recipes straight out of the 19th Century -- remember that tastes back then were a little different than they are today.

"The Ladies" Candied Rose Leaves (women didn't cook professionally at the beginning of the century, so many cookbooks are by anonymous "ladies")

Select the desired quantity of perfect rose leaves, spread them on an inverted sieve, and let them stand in the air until slightly dried but not crisp. Make a syrup from a half-pound granulated sugar and a half-pint of water, and boil the mixture until it spins a thread, then lift the leaves  in and out of the hot syrup using a fine wire sieve. Then let the leaves stand for several hours on a slightly oiled surface (or waxed paper). If the rose leaves then look preserved and clean, they will not require a second dipping. Then melt a cup of fondant (use a basic vanilla icing) and add 2 drops of essence of rose and 2 drops of cochineal (herbal rose food coloring) to the melted icing. Then dip the rose leaves into the mixture one at a time. Dust with fine confectioner's or powdered sugar and place on oiled (or waxed) paper to harden. Then pick daintily and enjoy as you would candy drops.

Angels on Horseback

lemon juice
cayenne pepper
anchovy paste
toast, buttered

Mix in a saucer fresh lemon juice and cayenne pepper to the cook's taste. Add some anchovy paste and blend the ingredients well. Dip the shelled oysters in the mixture and then wrap them in bacon strips. Melt the butter in a skillet and fry the appetizers until the bacon is done. Serve on buttered toast. Adjust quantities to the occasion at hand.

Graham Muffins

Heat to the boiling point two cups of milk, add a tablespoon of butter and stir until melted. Sift two cups of whole wheat flour, one-half cup of white flour, two teaspoons of baking powder. Pour on the milk and butter, beat, add the yolks of two eggs well beaten, then the stiffly beaten whites. Bake in hot greased gem pans.

Roasted Calf's Head

1 Calf’s Head
1 1/2 lbs. Veal
1 1/2 tablespoon Sage
1 1/2 tablespoon Parsley
1/2 tablespoon Salt
3 Egg Yolks
1/2 lb. Bacon
1 pint Gravy
1/4 cup Oysters
1/4 cup Mushrooms
1/8 cup Capers
1/2 cup White Wine
WASH and pick the head very nicely; having taken out the brains and tongue, prepare a good quantity of forced meat, with veal and suet well seasoned; fill the hole of the head with this forced meat, skewer and tie it together upon the spit, and roast it for an hour and a half. Beat up the brains with a little sage and parsley shred fine, a little salt, and the yelks of two or three eggs; boil the tongue, peel, and cut it into large dice, fry that with the brains, also some of the forced meat made up into balls, and slices of bacon. Let the sauce be strong gravy, with oysters, mushrooms, capers, and a little white wine thickened.

Sheep's Brain with Onions

1 Sheep’s Brains
1/2 Pound Bacon
1/2 Cup White Wine
1 Tablespoon Parsley
1 Teaspoon Cloves
6 Shallots
4 Small Onions
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Take sheep’s brains. Soak in lukewarm water and blanch. Stew with thin slices of bacon, a little white wine, parsley, shallots, cloves, small onions, salt and pepper. When done arrange the brains on a dish, with the onions around; reduce the cause and serve.

Egg Balls

5 Eggs
1 Teaspoon Flour
Pinch of Salt
1 Teaspoon Parsley
Dash of Pepper
Boil four eggs for ten minutes, and put them into cold water; when they are quite cold, put the yolks into a mortar, with the yolk of a raw egg, a tea-spoonful of flour, the same of chopped parsley, as much salt as will lie on a shilling, and a little black pepper, or cayenne; rub them well together, roll them into small balls, (as they swell in boiling;) boil them a couple of minutes.

"The Ladies" Blackberry Shrub

2 quarts cider vinegar
4 quarts blackberries
1 quart sugar

Add the vinegar to the blackberries and let stand four days. Then strain the berries through a cloth without squeezing and add the sugar to the juice. Boil for 30 minutes. Cool and serve over ice in a tall glass. Will keep without sealing.

Plum Butter

To a gallon of plums, add half a gallon of molasses; boil them together, and as soon as the plums begin to soften, stir constantly with a large spoon or ladle, taking out as many of the stones as possible. Keep it boiling till entirely smooth, and thick enough to keep.

Rice Pudding in Milk

1/2 pound rice
1 quart water
1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 Egg Yolk
3 pints milk
Boil half pound of rice in a quart of water, with a little cinnamon. Let it boil until the water is wasted, taking great care it does not burn. Then add three pints of milk and the yolk of an egg. Beat up and sweeten to taste.


Four tablespoonful’s of any kind of sugar, one tablespoonful of cold water. Let it cook until it candies, more or less according to color. If you wish it to color a pudding, put it in the mold first, and then pour in your pudding. Another way is to add it drop by drop to a cream or custard. Or, if you like better, pour it over your pudding or cake.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Victorian Bedroom

             Flanders, Edith, Inside the Victorian Home, W.W. Norton and Co., 2003
            Mrs. J.E. Panton, From Kitchen to Garret: Hints for Young Householders, Ward & Downey, 1887
            Mrs. M.E. Haweis, The Art of Housekeeping: a Bridal Garland, Sampson Lowe, Marston, Searle & Rivington, 1889
            The 19th Century home was expected to provide a separate room for each purpose. Thus, the kitchen, scullery, pantry, drawing room, parlor, dining room, morning room, and bathroom. The bedrooms (and separate nursery) were designed for sleeping, but also served the purpose of dividing servant from employer, adult from child, and male from female. It was common in the era for husband and wife to keep separate bedrooms, or at least for the husband to keep a separate dressing room.
            The older fashion of using the bedroom as a quasi-sitting room was (in theory) disappearing, although in practice, the family utilized the rooms as needed. The bedroom was a place for sleep, sex, and childbirth; but often a young child would have a cot in the parent's room, or the children would sleep in one room together.
            Live-in servants did not always have a bedroom at all. Cooks and housemaids might sleep in the kitchen, while the butler or footman made do with the pantry or scullery. Even when given a bedroom, a servant might be expected to share it with any other servants in the house.
            Books of the time strongly urged that the bedroom remain segregated by function. One ongoing problem seemed to be the use of pen and ink in the room: Mrs. Haweis ("an arbiter of fashionable interior decoration") extorted in one of her books that "Gentlemen should be discouraged from using toilet towels to sop up ink and spilt water; for such accidents, a duster or two may hang on the towel-horse." As the bedroom was the only room containing a towel rail at that time, obviously gentlemen were bringing their writing upstairs with them.
            In actuality, however, the majority of homeowners utilized their bedrooms much as we do today. Bedroom furniture, most books recommended, should include a good carpet, a central table, a wardrobe, a toilet table, chairs, a small bookcase, a washstand, a pier glass, and a "cheffonier" or "chiffonier" (a small, low cupboard with a sideboard top, not to be confused with the American chiffonier, which is a chest of drawers). Larger bedrooms might include a small couch or chaise longue. Much of this furniture would have been recycled from downstairs rooms as they became worn or fell out of style. Carpets, especially, were moved from the parlor to the master bedroom to the nursery to the servant's room until they wore out. It was only after the middle of the century that good carpeting and furniture were purchased specifically for the bedrooms.
            And. of course, there was the bed. This would be a four-poster, although as the century progressed, the curtains retreated to provide access to more healthy fresh air. By the end of the era, most beds had no curtains at all, and headboards and footboards were the smaller size common today. The more wealthy homeowner could afford mahogany furniture (in Victorian England, a mahogany wardrobe could cost from 8 to 80 guineas), while the less fortunate made do with more "inferior" woods.
            Clothes hangers were not in general use until the 20th Century, so wardrobes, cupboards, trunks, trays, pegs, and boxes served to hold clothing. Much of the furniture in the bedroom would have been used for clothing storage. Of the rest, the largest percentage would have been for cleaning. Toilet-ware also came in a range of qualities; in the finer sets, the various containers were decorated in the same pattern. Washstands had a towel rail to each side, and often tiles at the back to protect from splashes. There would be a basin, a ewer or jug, dishes to hold soap, sponges, tooth and nail brushes, and a water bottle with glass. The chamber pot might also be of the same pattern. Mrs. Panton recommended that identical toilet-ware be purchased for all the bedrooms, "as breakages could then be replenished from stock." A hip bath (a portable bath large enough for a person to sit in) might also be stored in the bedroom. This was filled by large cans of copper or brass, called toilet cans, which were used to carry hot water up from the kitchen before the advent of indoor plumbing.
            During the second half of the century, hygiene became the chief concern. This was not only a matter of ridding the house of dirt and dust, but also of vermin. Apart from the kitchen, the bedroom was the most vulnerable room in the house in this respect. Mattresses were made of organic matter: horsehair was the best, followed by cow's hair or wool. A straw mattress could be put underneath the hair mattress to protect it from the bedstead. Chain-spring mattresses were available, but still needed a hair matress over them for comfort. A feather bed could be added on top of the mattress if no springs were available.
            "A brass and iron bedstead furnished with the spring mattress, nice hair mattress and bolster, an four pillows if a double, two if a single ,bedstead, is the beau-ideal of a sleeping place for health," Mrs. Panton wrote, "and should furthermore be provided with two under-blankets -- one in use, one in store in case of illness -- and two good pairs of nice Witney blankets." She also recommends an eider-down quilt for winter, furnished with an extra covering fashioned with buttons so that it could easily be removed and washed. "Three pairs of sheets are the least that can be allowed to each bed; the top sheet of each pair should be frilled ... four plain pillowcases for each pillow, and two or three frilled and embroidered ones for the top pillows."
            With all of these organic materials, it is little wonder that bedbugs were a great problem. By the 1880's, Mrs. Haweis was able to report that fleas were not expected in "decent bedrooms," although "at any minute one may bring a stray parent in from cab, omnibus, or train." Constant vigilance had to be maintained, and the bed itself examined regularly for infestation or any sort. The popularity of iron and brass bedsteads did away with a good deal of the problem -- one typical method of dealing with vermin was to have a carpenter take the bed apart; then take the pieces of the bed, along with all the bedding, into an empty room or outside, wash the bed frame with chloride of lime and water, sprinkle Keating's powder (a pyrethrum-based insecticide) everywhere, then wait and repeat daily for as long as necessary before putting everything back together again. If the infestation was totally out of control, the bed and mattress were left in an empty room that was sealed airtight, and then sulfur was burned to disinfect the bed and surrounding area, to prevent the spread of the problem to the walls and floors.
            Another problem was soot. Most fireplaces and stoves burned coal, and the ash and soot permeated the air -- not only inside the house, but outside in the streets. People returned home truly dirty in a way that we are not familiar with today. It was recommended that the bed furnishings be covered with holland, a hard wearing linen fabric much used in middle- an upper-class households to protect delicate fabrics and furniture. Not only does Mrs. Panton recommend that a large square be tied over the spring mattress (to protect the upper mattress from the springs), but she also suggests that the upper one be covered as well, along with the pillows, to protect from soot and dirt. "Unless this is done, the ticks become soiled and nasty-looking and shabby, because housemaids are but mortal, and will not remember to wash their hands and put on spotlessly clean aprons when they go to make the beds." This suggests all too well that the normal condition of hands and clothing was dark with soot.
            In fact, it was commonly recognized that it was impossible to go to bed clean. Mrs. Haweis, while suggesting that sheets should be washed every fortnight or once a month, noted that pillowcases needed changing "rather oftener, chiefly because people (especially servants) allow their hair to become so dusty, that it spoils the cases very soon." Oddly enough, she thought that blankets only needed washing every other summer. Main cleaning occurred twice a year, during spring and autumn, when it was recommended that mattresses and pillows be taken out and aired -- and every few years, to be taken apart, lumps in the ticking broken up and washed, and feathers sifted.
            "Now there is not one single thing that should be left on the bed once one is out of it," Mrs. Panton states. "Do not be content with turning all the bed-clothes over the rail; see that they are all pulled out from under the mattress, separated, and hung up, if possible. Then remove the pillows, and dot them about on chairs and sofas; hang up separately the under sheet and blanket where they will receive a current of air from the open window wet or dry; and then pull off the mattress, placing it as close to the window as it will go, which only takes about five minutes."
            A third problem in the bedrooms, as in all other rooms of the house, was lighting. Gas lighting was not recommended for the bedroom, because it burned too much oxygen and windows were generally kept closed to keep out soot and dust from the streets. A single candle, brought upstairs at bedtime, was the recommended lighting. More prosperous homes had candlesticks upon the mantel and dressing table, "with a box of safety matches in a known position, where they can be found in a moment," Many household books "worry away" at the location of matches -- in the days before electricity, it was essential to be able to find a match in the dark. Mrs. Panton suggested not only nailing the box just over the head of the bed, but also that it should be painted with enamel paint and "embellished with a tiny picture." Our Homes, edited by Shirley Foster Murphy (the London County Council's Chief Medical Officer during the 1890's), recommended a new invention: Blamaine's Luminous Paint, which could be applied to a clock face, "a bracket for matches, or a small contrivance for holding a watch."
            Poor lighting was complicated by the fact that the bed needed to be carefully positioned to meet the conflicting demands of health and privacy. It was recommended that the bed be screened from view, not exposed by the opening of the bedroom door, but at the same time, it could not be placed within a draft from the window, door, or fireplace. Even without bed hangings, the bed would have been a dark, stuffy place.
            One item of modern bedroom furniture that was conspicuously absent was the bedside table, although Mrs. Panton did mention that "great comfort is to be had from a table at one's bedside, on which can stand one's book or anything one may be likely to want in the night." She suggested a "bed pocket" be made of a Japanese fan, "covered with soft silk, and the pocket itself made out of plush," nailed to the wall within easy reach, to hold a handkerchief or watch. Most homes did have small tables within the bedroom, but more along the order of decoration than bedside convenience. 

Friday, August 24, 2012

Schools in the 19th Century

Up until the middle of the century, school as we know it did not exist. Upper class children were tutored at home, usually by hired professionals, and then attended private college or boarding school. Middle class children might be taught at home, or their parents might pay for them to be taught by a neighbor who set up a "hedge school" or "dame school" in their home (one such lady charged one dollar per child per month). Another popular school was the "Sunday School," run by the local church, where children (and often adults) were taught to read the Bible. Most poor children did not attend school at all, but worked to help support the family. In larger cities, "ragged schools," usually run by churches or other charities, taught destitute children to read and offered a free meal.
Around 1830, school reforms began to appear. Private schooling was still available, especially in rural areas, but public or national schools became common. Especially in the larger cities, it was feared that uneducated, "immoral" children who spent their days working in factories might grow up to be troublesome citizens. An education was felt to create a sense of social responsibility in the working classes. Teachers were hired by local government, and at first, all children were taught in one room. Division based on age or grade was usually not possible due to the smaller population of most schools.
By the end of the century, all children aged 5 to 12 were required to attend school in most countries. After that time, they would either go on to college or into the workforce. The "high school," created for older teens, appeared in the early part of the century to prepare older children for college or the workforce. These were an alternative to expensive private academies, and focused on a practical curriculum with either college preparatory classes or vocational training.
Children in the 1800's learned "The Three R's" - Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmatic. Learning was by rote method, with the students repeating what the teacher said until they got it right. Reading was by the word method until the later part of the century, with the student memorizing each word instead of sounding out the letters as the modern phonics method does. Phonics was introduced toward the beginning of the 20th Century. History, geography and science were often included, especially toward the end of the era, to round out the education, but the main goal was literacy.
Often, a standard textbook was available, such as the Hornbook or McGuffey Reader. Paper was expensive, so children practiced on slate boards with chalk. The teaching methods, also, were what was termed "chalking and talking" -- teachers wrote what the children should learn on the board and explained concepts aloud. Until the 1850's and 60's, reading aloud was encouraged, with each child taking their turn; after that time, "silent readers" were published, which children could read to themselves at their desks. Girl students often had their own readers, which encouraged more "womanly" behavior than the boys' readers. "Exercises in Rhetorical Reading" (R.G. Parker) published a set of drawings for girls in 1853, showing proper and improper sitting and standing posture.

19th Century textbook writers, on the whole, were quite a serious lot, although some books did contain a little humor. In Alonzo Reed's 1889 "English Language Grammar," he advises in the introduction, "The teacher should guide the thought of his class, but, if he attempts to do all the talking, he will find, when he concludes, that he has been left to do all the thinking." Reading books of the time also lacked the amusing plots children today expect. Nelson M. Holbrook's Progressive Pictorial Primer" in 1857 offers this entertaining story: "We go. Do we go? We do go. We do so. See us go. We go so. Go as we go." 

Unlike modern schools, the teacher had to be able to teach all subjects from what is now called kindergarten through high school. This required a much more comprehensive education on their part, for an average salary of around $30 a month. Lessons usually lasted from 9:00am to 5:00pm, with a two hour break for lunch and recess.
It should be noted that in most areas, only white children were thought to be in need of education. Children of other races were usually destined for a life of hard work, and thus literacy was not considered important. Textbooks of the day, also, usually showed or told stories about only white children.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Working in the 19th Century

Employment in the 19th Century was only for the middle or lower class: upper classes had enough money to do whatever they wanted without having to work themselves. The classes, in fact, are defined based on the jobs and incomes of the families. Middle class consisted of such careers as industrial and factory managers, highly-skilled experts in new industrial techniques, and college-educated professional people such as engineers, doctors, and lawyers. Many middle class families lived nearly as comfortably as the upper classes. A "lower-middle class" did exist, composed of white-collar workers, clerks, teachers, and governesses -- these people were paid poorly but were motivated by typical middle-class values which (at least in their own minds) drew a distinction between them and the working class.

Lower classes worked at the jobs which, though always necessary and appreciated (or at least, bemoaned if lacking), paid poorly and were usually dangerous. Factory work, physical labor, and "dirty" jobs such as chimney sweep or knacker were considered lower class.

Another institution in the larger cities was the workhouse, which was the 19th Century version of welfare. Destitute people could be forced into the workhouse if they could not pay their bills. The workhouse gave inmates demeaning occupations, like picking oakum, old ropes, apart to make ship caulking or breaking stones to pave roads. The workhouse alternative was for the individual to take jobs as street sweepers who brushed away debris and manure for passersby, or quasi-legal jobs such as sewer tosher, hunting for lost valuables in the city drains.

Here is a great website taken from the 1891 London census, listing every occupation given: - you can browse the alphabetical list to see what occupations would have been available!

In the early part of the century, there were more rural farms, and people worked for themselves. As countries became more urbanized, however, factory jobs became more common. Factories in the 19th Century were dangerous places to work; there were none of the safety considerations in place today, and the long hours (usually 10-12 hour days, even for children) invited mistakes.

Women did not usually work until the latter part of the century, and even then, upper and middle class women did not have careers. Universities actually banned women from pursuing such careers as medical doctor, architect, or banker. A woman who had fallen on hard times might take a job as a nanny, governess, or paid companion. Some lower class jobs available to women would have included agricultural hands, miners, seamstresses, street vendors or shop clerks, piece workers (making manufactured goods at home).
Lower class women most typically went into domestic service as maids, cooks, or housekeepers. Unfortunately, the world's oldest profession was always an option to a woman, and many of the lower classes supplemented their incomes after hours by prostitution.

Compulsory education was not part of the 19th Century culture. Children as young as six years old labored in textile factories, in occupations such as flower girls, or as rag pickers. Hazardous professions like chimney sweeping and mining employed children to fit into the tight spaces of chimneys and caves.

It should be noted that women (and children) made only a fraction of the pay that men did.