In the kitchen
A good housekeeper may for a moment shrink from rolling up her sleeves, putting on a real work-apron, and taking hold of the kitchen work in earnest. but not for long. Putting one’s hands to the work reveals such gross neglect, and the absolute necessity that there would soon have been for a change, far better than any supervision can do.
Passing round among the work, stepping into closets or storerooms while doing some light work for cake or desserts, cannot enable the mistress to estimate the true way in which her work is done. One who has not done any rough manual labor for months, perhaps years, may not willingly bend to the work.
If by any rebuke for carelessness her servants leave her, for a day or two, when she first finds herself alone, all must seem strange and the work hard. She will make many mistakes and feel half discouraged. Her hands, long exempt from the rough toil, will be stiffened and sore from handling ironware, the scrub-brush, or washing dishes in hot suds. But this will not annoy her long. Soon she sees the great change a few hours of well-applied labor can make in pantries, dish closets, and particularly in the dishes themselves, and then she begins to find solid pleasure in her work.
The perfectly washed dish, polished with a spotlessly clean and dry towel, is a joy to look upon. The silver takes on new luster. The glass is as brilliant as crystal, and holding it up to see if any mote or speck or lint remains, if tho lady sees only the clear, transparent glass, shining like crystal, no wonder her face lights up with a real and far more satisfying pleasure than she has ever felt in the finest work of art, because this freshening up and renovating everything over the house is the work of her own hands, well and faithfully done.
When at last, from attic to cellar, order and scrupulous neatness reign, how much more a good housewife shrinks from bringing in “help” than she ever did from losing them! Such loss she has found her exceeding gain. But she knows other duties have a claim on her time and strength, and, as a matter of duty, she must look for help. How firmly she resolves that in superintending her servants hereafter she will lie sure that nothing shall escape her notice. She will never allow herself to form her judgment of the efficiency or faithfulness of those in her employ by trusting simply to her eyes. This last exercise has clearly shown her that her eye will never so readily or truly detect neglect or deceit as her hand.
“These dishes look well. Yes. But let me take them in my hand. I shall easily know if they have been well-washed and perfectly polished with a dry towel. The top may be clean. Is the bottom of the plate equally so? Or shall I find it sticky, because wiped with a damp — not over-clean — cloth?”
Kettles and tins may look clean, and may have been well dried on the side of the range or in the sun before putting away. Ah! Take them up; pass the finger round the rim or binding, or where the handle or bail is attached to tho kettle. How greasy! The inside seems clean, why should the outside be so important? Because in a day or two, if neglected, there will be found a constant accumulation of greasy particles where ashes from the grate will lodge, and an ugly crust of this deposit will soon give an unpleasant rancid taste to any food cooked therein, however clean the inside may be.
In no one article is this so apparent as in the pans used to bake bread or cake in. If not carefully washed and as faithfully dried, so that no semblance or odor of grease can be discovered about the rim, or inside or out, the under-crust and sides of bread or cake cannot fail to have an impure, unpleasant taste and smell. In sheet-iron pans it is more noticeable than in tin.
All this a housekeeper who has had the pleasure of working without any so-called help for a week or two, until every utensil and arrangement about the house is in perfect order, will bear in mind when, at last, she finds other duties must compel her once more to resort to these encumbrances, and she will most resolutely determine that the work henceforth shall be so faithfully watched that never again will she be obliged to have so much to clean up after any girl. Happy the woman who docs not find outside calls engross her time so thoroughly, the moment she turns the kitchen work over to another, that many small things, here and there, will have escaped her notice. To what proportions will those small items have grown when next she is left alone?
– Mrs H W Beecher (possibly wife of Henry Ward Beecher), in Christian Union