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Miss Parloa’s Young Housekeeper was first published in 1893 and was an essential guide for any young wife learning how to cook, clean, and look after her home. Maria Parloa was a lecturer and expert on domestic science or home economics.
In fact, Parloa could arguably be called America’s first celebrity cook!
The text below, while vintage, is still useful for the modern homemaker. I’ve done as few edits as I could manage, but I still wanted to make the text more readable while preserving the information Parloa left us.
If you, like me, are interested in vintage homemaking and vintage recipes, you will find this information both entertaining and informative.
If one were to get a hundred reputed good housekeepers to come together and give their ideas of what constitutes good housekeeping, no two would agree upon all points.
There are essentials which every one recognizes, but there are many things which one housekeeper considers of the greatest importance, whereas another may think the same things of minor consequence or of no consequence whatever. It is a sad fact that some good housekeepers are not good home-makers.
The young housekeeper should bear in mind that, while it is essential that the home should be clean and orderly, and the food well cooked and regularly served, this does not make the home. One can get all these comforts in a well conducted hotel or boarding-house, but the man or woman is to be pitied who has no higher ideal of a home than what is furnished by a hotel or boarding-house, no matter how sumptuous.
A selfish woman can make a good housekeeper, so far as the keeping of the house in perfect running order is concerned, but it is difficult for a selfish or lazy woman to make a home. A young woman who would create an ideal home must possess some judgment, and a heart in which charity and sympathy have a large place.
My idea of good housekeeping is where a woman keeps her home sweet and orderly; provides simple, well cooked food; makes her home so restful and cheerful that all who come into it shall be better for breathing the atmosphere of kindness and cheerfulness that pervades the place; and where the household machinery always runs smoothly because of the constant thoughtfulness of the mistress of the house.
A place like this is truly a home, and the woman at the head of it deserves the respect and admiration of everybody. I have seen such homes among the rich and among the poor, for neither wealth nor poverty prevents the right person from filling with the atmosphere of comfort and happiness the house of which she is the mistress.
A housekeeper’s duties are many, and, to one nervous and fretful, they are exhausting. What seems to the woman of good digestion and steady nerves a mere trifle, to be laughed at and forgotten, may appear to the delicate, nervous woman a calamity to be wept over.
Much of the irritability from which women suffer is due to their expectation of too much of themselves and others. If women would be reconciled to the inevitable, they might make everybody about them much happier. A choice bit of china may be broken.
Is it worth the while to make the whole household miserable for what cannot be helped? A dish may be spoiled in the cooking. It will not help your digestion or that of the family to fret over it. You may be naturally very orderly, but some members of the family may not.
Will it pay to make them and yourself uncomfortable by worrying over the matter? If your servant or any other member of the household should not come up to your standard, throw the mantle of charity over the faults that you cannot remedy, and pray that others may be equally charitable to you.
The good housekeeper will certainly look well to the ways of her household, but her eyes will be those of the kind, just woman.
She will not look for miracles; she will not expect to get the best supplies and service when paying only the lowest price; she will not hope to make something out of nothing; she will be brave enough to live within her means, even if they be small; she will not be afraid to do her work honestly and well; and, finally, she will be so true to herself at all times, and so adjust and simplify her domestic duties that she will not exhaust body and mind in trying to do two persons’ work for the sake of “keeping up appearances.”
How many families lose all the comforts of home life in this senseless effort! If you stop to consider what this “keeping up appearances” means it puts the people in a very unenviable light, for it simply means that people want to give you a false impression of their possessions.
No member of the family is so much injured by this deceptive life as the housekeeper. All her power of body and mind is bent to the task of making the best possible appearance with the smallest amount of expenditure. Intellect is cramped in the battle and all repose is gone from home life.
No matter how good the housekeeping, the spirit of the home-maker is not there. No young woman has a right to dwarf her life for such a purpose. Let her make the most of the means at her command, but let her never sacrifice her physical, moral, and mental well-being to a desire to make a display disproportionate to her circumstances, for that is not good housekeeping.