A Woman's Work

A Woman's Work

This week - cookers, mending and more recipes. See below. 












Previous compendia on this important subject (one might even opine, this most important subject) have their place as documents for historical study but, worthy as they may be, they are not up to date.


My famous predecessors, such as Mrs B....., Mrs G..... and Miss A...., bless them, either did not have the great advantages that modern civilisation and human inventiveness have brought to today's housewife, or did not set out to provide a complete and comprehensive Work covering every aspect of the housewife's world, as I am doing.


Matters affecting the home and the family have progressed remarkably within relatively recent times, resulting in a growing interest among those classes of our society most influenced thereby; those, I may hazard, who have had the foresight and good judgement to allow themselves time to peruse this valuable material.


Of course, I have had to call on the expertise of others in the writing thereof. In no one person could reside such a mountain of information and guidance as this Work will provide, but every fact is scrutinised by me and, in all cases except where acknowledgement is made, every word is written by me to conform to my own view of what may be expected by my readers.


The six divisions into which the Work is divided do, I trust, reflect perfectly the requirements of those readers, whose gratification and education are my sole desires. Wishing to confine myself to matters of fact, I have not ventured into the vexed and greatly individualized territories of child-rearing, where so much controversy obtains, except occasionally to make minor recommendations as regards nourishment and entertainment.


I hope to add each week until a true cyclopaedia of the home results. Wishing all my readers a happy and successful home-making,

Yours truly,

Mrs Thorburn


Chapter One - Cookery




A modest family range with oven, hotplates and ready supply of hot water all fuelled by the central coal fire.


Cooking Machines

The standard kitchen or Yorkshire range may be considered old-fashioned by some modern housewives, but we should not forget that it performs several useful functions. As well as the coal, coke or wood normally used as fuel, the range will also burn household rubbish. It heats the kitchen and, if properly set up with hot-water radiators, may even heat the whole house. It provides hot water for the scullery and the bathroom. Flat irons can be heated on it, and bread, muffins and teacakes toasted at its fire - and, of course, all the family's meals can be cooked on it.

To clean, many housewives believe that blacklead alone is sufficient, whereas a mixture of equal parts of blacklead, black boot polish and turpentine will enable a fine shine that will last much longer and so save labour.



For the larger family, cook and her scullery maid will find this type of range most convenient.


Cookers fired by gas or electricity can only perform the latter three functions, assuming they are fitted with a grilling attachment. Those fired by oil lamp cannot grill.

The advantage the cookers have is that of cleanliness. With no coal or wood to bring into the house and no ashes to take out, many housewives will prefer to have such a cooker and so have those other functions, such as hot water and room heating, performed by different means.

For those families with just an open fire, or an old range without a satisfactory oven, a Dutch oven offers the housewife the possibility of serving a roast with, indeed, most of the virtues of the true, open-fire roasting method but with some convenience. The Dutch oven fits on to the grate and has meat hooks above and a dripping pan below. If roasting a joint or a fowl, basting and turning should be carried out as if a spit was being used, but the cook is shielded from the heat of the fire as if by a screen.



This modern oil-fired cooker has three wick-burners to operate oven, plate and water heater.




Chapter Two - Make and Mend

There can be few more important duties within the realms of housewifery than that of mending. Many housewives regulate their week to include, as well as Monday for washing, Friday for baking et cetera, a day or at least an evening for those activities comprised in 'make do and mend'. Largely, her efforts will be concentrated upon clothes - her husband's, her children's and her own - but other light work may be undertaken, such as mending a worn or torn rug, ditto cushion or curtain.

Whether some of the heavier kinds of making and mending, perhaps involving the actual fabric of the house, devolve upon the husband, will depend to an extent on his capabilities in those fields. He may maintain that his skills lie in banking or the law, bringing home the family bacon as it were, and so he should not be expected to act also as carpenter or plumber, when experts in those trades, who come for advice to his bank or solicitor's practice, can be employed at modest cost.

The housewife, of course, does not have such choices for she must possess all the skills necessary for her role.



Chapter Three - The Housewife Yourself


Many women, and not only the younger ones, fail to see the connection between health and beauty, and so resort to artificial measures aimed at improving beauty while ignoring the simple rules of health.


The chief determinants of good health are diet and exercise. At least some of the latter should be taken in daylight outdoors; a brisk fifteen-minute walk might be considered the minimum for each day. Those women able to play outdoor games will benefit from muscular development, also the encouragement of perspiration, which is Nature's way of releasing noxious substances from the body. To make the most of this aid to beauty, it is well on returning home to rub or have rubbed the whole person with a massage glove and then to take a warm bath.


For those who do not take part in the fierce exercise of organised games, a habit should be cultivated of a ten-minute routine of bending and stretching, affecting all parts of the body, preferably immediately on rising in the morning. Another useful exercise is to walk around the room, and up and down the stairs, with a good sized book balanced on the head. The benefits of this in grace of carriage can be seen when visiting those countries where it is customary for the women to carry weighty burdens on their heads.


As to diet, variety and moderation are the key notions. It is as big a mistake to restrict diet to a few foods as it is to eat too much of any. Common sense will tell that a meal of meat-and-potato pie followed by chocolate cake is liable to give the digestive system a difficult task, while a cheese salad followed by fresh fruit will better enable the system to keep the blood healthy and so the complexion lovely to behold. This is not to say that pies and cakes must never appear on the table, rather that they should not form the great substance of the diet, but neither should one attempt to live on cabbage and apples alone.



Chapter Four - Laundry
Chapter Five - The Home
Chapter Six - Behind the Scenes


One Hundred Recipes

Cow Heel

Always check with your butcher that a cow heel has already been boiled to extract the neat's foot oil. To serve fried, first boil the heel an hour or two and, while still warm, separate the meat from the rest. Cut into neat pieces, to be dipped in beaten egg and breadcrumbs before frying quickly in smoking hot fat. A sharp tomato sauce goes well with this dish.

A good soup can also be made, by adding small handfuls of chopped onion and other vegetables to the heel stock, with salt, and whatever shreds of meat can be spared. Add a squeeze of lemon juice before serving.


Dunned Cod

Gut, clean and dehead your fish, and open it flat. Rub all over with salt and hang it in the pantry or other cool, dry place for a day and a night. Make a mixture of two parts salt with one part each of saltpetre and brown sugar, immerse the fish in it and rub in. After another day and night, drain and dry the fish, whereupon it will keep reasonably well. Use as you would smoked cod.


Cod Bladders

The technical term for cods' air bladders is 'sounds'. These are usually sold from salt and so need soaking and rinsing before use. Simmer them in milk diluted half and half with water for half an hour or so; discard the cooking liquid and serve the sounds with a parsley sauce poured over.


Durham Cutlets

This is an excellent way to use up left-over meat. First, thicken some stock with flour and butter - a gill if you have a half pound of meat, a half pint if you have a pound - season, add a goodly dash of Worcester sauce or Yorkshire relish and a spot of mustard, and mix in your meat. Add sufficient breadcrumbs to make a stiff 'dough'. When cold, divide into balls, flatten, and shape into cutlets. For authenticity, a short length of cooked macaroni can be fitted to look like a bone. Coat the cutlets in egg and breadcrumbs and fry. Serve with mashed potato and peas.  


Œufs au Cerveau de Veau

For a light lunch, make a quantity of parsley sauce in the usual way, then add a set of calf's brains, boiled and chopped small. Fry a slice of bread and an egg per person; serve with the egg on the bread and the hot sauce poured over.


Conger Eel in its Own Sauce

Although this fish may be seen on the slab all year round, it is best for eating in the Autumn. Cover with salted water and stew for half an hour. Strain off the liquor into a saucepan, add a similar quantity of milk, an onion cut small and a dessertspoonful of chopped parsley. Simmer for a few minutes, thicken with butter and flour, and pour over the fish to serve.


Calf's Foot Jelly

Wherever aspic is required, calf's foot jelly is the old fashioned, better but more laborious replacement, which can be either sweet or savoury. The basic method is to simmer two or three feet in plenty of water for several hours, perhaps as many as six; strained and with certain ingredients added, this liquor will make a fine jelly.


First, to clean the feet thoroughly, boil them in some water until the scum rises, strain, and rinse them in cold water. Place the feet in a large pan with half a gallon or more of water, bring to the boil and simmer, skimming off any scum that rises. When the liquor is reduced by at least half, strain, allow to stand, and take off the fat. In a cool place, the liquor will become jelly, when the last vestiges of fat can be scraped off.


Boil the jelly up again and add wine, lemon juice and spices. A dry sherry and a few cloves will make the basis of a savoury jelly; sweet wine or sherry, sugar and cinnamon should be used for a dessert jelly. If it is necessary for the jelly to be clear, boiling up with beaten egg whites should do the trick, followed by repeated straining through fine muslin.



Peel, core and slice half a dozen dessert apples, plus a couple more if small, and cook to a pulp with a little water, and sugar if necessary. Peel and core another eight apples and bake whole in a slow oven, sufficient to cook but also to keep their shape. When cool, fill the centres with strawberry or raspberry jam and arrange on an entree dish in the shape of a hedgehog. Use the apple pulp to finish the shape and fill in. Beat an egg white stiff, blend with two cupsful of icing sugar, and smooth this 'plaster' over the hedgehog. For spines, take 2 oz of flaked almonds and stick them into the plaster. Give your hedgehog a few minutes in a hot oven to brown the icing 'skin' and the spines. Serve warm or cold.



Household Hints