I was cleaning out some cupboards in my house.
In doing so, I spied my collection of cookbooks.
These books were handed down from my grandmas to my mother and now they are mine.
These beautifully filthy gems have worn out spines barely holding together yellowed pages that are delightfully stained from batters and concoctions made so many years ago. One way to know if a recipe is good is based on how dirty the page has become.
My favorite of the collection is a very old copy of the cookbook put together by the group from rural Clearwater’s St. John’s Church, known as the Christian Mothers.
This cookbook not only holds all the secrets of culinary greatness shared by women of another era, it also includes pages upon pages of “Household Hints.”
For nearly an hour, I sat fascinated with my eyes glued to the words before me. It was like going back in time, as I read their words of wisdom.
I had to share some of their hints toward making a household run like a top. Here are some, word for word, tips from the amazing Christian Mothers (full disclosure, I realize this is lengthy but I just couldn’t stop):
• If beef drippings are beaten into a cream and a few drops of lemon juice and a little carbonate of soda is added, it will serve as shortening in making dark cakes.
• To prevent cake from burning, sprinkle salt in the oven under the baking pans.
• As you take a cake from the oven, place it for a very few moments on a cloth wrung out of cold water. Then it may be turned out easily without sticking to the pan.
• When bread is baking, a small dish of water in the oven will help to keep the crust from getting too hard.
• When separating the yolk from a white of an egg, break it into a funnel over a glass. The white will pass through and the yolk will remain in the funnel.
• Never beat egg whites in an aluminum pan, it is sure to darken them.
• To peel an orange easily and to get the skin off in one piece, heat the orange slightly for three or four minutes before peeling.
• Heat lemons well before using and there will be twice the quantity of juice.
• Stale loaves of bread may be made quite palatable by wrapping in a wet cloth for half a minute. Take the cloth off, then bake in a slow oven for half an hour.
• When slicing potatoes, hold the paring knife over a gas flame or in boiling water and the potatoes will slice easily.
• To keep lint from clinging to blue jeans and corduroys, add a half cup of vinegar to each wash load.
• Lemon juice or vinegar in the water cauliflower is cooked in makes it keep its snowy white color.
• Vegetables that are to be cooked by steaming will preserve their color in the process if, after being washed in the usual way, they are given a final rinse in boiling water containing a little soda.
• Try waxing the inside of your ash trays and the ashes won’t stick. Then you can simply wipe them clean with a tissue and no washing.
• If parsley is washed with hot water instead of cold, it retains its flavor and is easier to chop.
• To keep milk or cream from souring in hot weather, stir in a small quantity of bicarbonate of soda.
• Add one quarter teaspoon soda to cranberries while cooking them and they will not require much sugar.
• When making soup, remember the maxim: Soup boiled is soup spoiled. The soup should be cooked gently and evenly.
• Next time your gravy is colorless rather than a nice brown, add two teaspoons of instant coffee to it. The flavor isn’t harmed and you have a nice brown gravy.
• Root vegetables should be free from all dirt and grit.
• When grease collects on top of broth, float a piece of tissue paper lightly on top of the soup and it will absorb the grease. Then skim the soup with a piece of ice. The grease will harden and can be scraped off the ice.
• To remove a grease mark from wallpaper, mix French chalk with enough dry cleaning fluid to make a very stiff paste. Apply the pate to the grease spot and let it remain overnight. In the morning, brush it off carefully and very lightly. Another method is to cover the grease mark with a piece of blotting paper, then press very gently with a warm iron, moving the blotting paper as it absorbs the grease.
• Place all brewed tea leaves in a jar kept specifically for that purpose. These will come in handy for cleaning varnished wallpaper. Boil in a large saucepan, strain, and apply to the paper with a pad of soft rags. Allow to dry, then polish with an old silk handkerchief.
• To clean wallpaper, dust it thoroughly, then rub down evenly with bread, changing the bread as it becomes soiled.
• A quick and presentable repair may be effective on a torn cotton blind in the following manner: Dip a piece of the same material into hot starch, place it neatly on top of the tear and press with a hot iron.
• Cloths for cleaning windows without the use of water can be made with a semi-liquid paste of benzene and calcined magnesia. The cloth, which should be of coarse linen or something free of lint, is dipped into this mixture and hung in the air until the spirits have evaporated and it is free from odor. This cloth may be used again and again and is a great convenience.
• When packing a trunk of woolens for long storage, place in it a bottle of chloroform with a small hole in the cork. The fumes will permeate the garments and destroy the moths.
• When ferns turn yellow, slice a raw potato and put on top of the soil. This will draw out the worms, which are usually responsible for such a condition.
• Silver should always be washed and scrupulously cleaned in hot soapy water, then thoroughly rinsed in clear hot water and wiped dry. Great care must be taken not to scratch the surface. When silver becomes dull, rub it with a piece of potato dipped in baking soda.
• To clean chimneys and stovepipes, put a piece of zinc on the live coals in the stove.
• Save tobacco ashes and use them for cleaning silver.
• To whiten piano keys, wash them with alcohol.
• White marks on furniture may be removed with turpentine or kerosene.
• When recovering your ironing board, place a sheet of aluminum foil under the cover. It will hold the heat.
• If you keep the candles for a birthday cake in the refrigerator for a day before using, they will burn slowly and evenly.
• Cut corn over an angel food cake pan, using the center of the pan to support the ear, cutting the corn off the cob and into the pan.
• The life of linoleum may be prolonged and preserved by an occasional rub with a rag dipped in olive oil.
• After polishing white shoes, rub over them with a piece of wax paper. This prevents the polish from rubbing off on clothes and hands. This is especially good for baby’s shoes.
• If there is a coal oil stove in the home, a small bag of fine sand should be kept handy. Then if an explosion or fire should occur, the sand thrown over the flames will quickly extinguish them.
• The white of an egg will make rough skin white and soft. Rub a little onto the skin at bedtime and wash off in the morning.
• To remove inflammation from the eyes, boil together for three minutes one teaspoon of boric acid and one pint of water. Apply with a clean soft cloth.
• Instead of using a mat to kneel on when scrubbing or waxing the floors, use two rubber sponges. Fasten them about the knees with elastic.
• Badly discolored aluminum pans may be brightened by boiling apple parings in them for a short time.
• Stick diaper pins in a small candle. It keeps pins well waxed so they slip through diapers easily. Also use candles as pincushions when sewing.
• Wine stains may be removed by holding the stained portion of the cloth in boiling milk.
• Don’t dispose of circular cardboard backs from frozen pizzas. Cover with foil and use as plates when taking round cakes away from home.
• When white furs need cleaning, rub equal parts of salt and flour well into the roots and then shake out.
• For a cure-all for headaches, cramps, upset stomach, colic – boil fresh mint leaves in water. It will be dark green. Place in a quart jay and keep in the refrigerator. It can be diluted by adding a little more water when ready to use. When giving to babies, add a little sugar and warm in a baby bottle.
• Save little plastic pill containers from the drug store. With their tight fitting tops, they can be used for individual portions of mustard, mayonnaise, relish, ketchup, etc., to take along in picnic baskets and lunch boxes.
• A stamp can be removed from an envelope by applying lighter fluid to the inside of the envelope behind the stamp.
• To water plants while on vacation, place one layer of bricks in the bathtub. Fill tub almost to the top of bricks. Set plants on bricks while away.
• When the phone rings or something else needs handling when you have messy hands from baking, solve the problem of getting the phone messy by slipping a handy plastic bag over your hand.
• To clean the dial holes on your telephone, dab a cotton swab in liquid cleaner.
• When hanging out clothes, put your basket on the children’s wagon. If a child is handy to pull it for you, so much the better. It saves stopping and keeps the basket clean on muddy days.
Words of wisdom, from another time . . . from the Christian Mothers.