Chapter VI, "Everyman's House" book, by Caroline Bartlett Crane Creator
Crane, Caroline Bartlett, 1858-1935, author Institution
Western Michigan University Subject
Architecture, Domestic Subject
Better Homes in America Item Number
Part of Caroline Bartlett Crane "Everyman's House" Collection Type
collection, text Format
SEEING THE WHEELS GO ROUND
THE wheels of industry were started by the hand of woman in the home. While the exigencies of savage life still held men to hunting and fighting--women, kept at home by the duties of motherhood, applied themselves to developing the industrial side of their primitive shelter as men developed the defensive side. Woman, we are told, was apparently the inventor of the kitchen, the oven, and the chimney. She was not only the first cook, but the first farmer, miller, butcher, and general food-bringer of the race; the first potter, cutler, basket maker, spinner, weaver, tailor, dressmaker, hatter, shoemaker, tanner, furrier, clothier, et cetera. In fact, woman was the primitive and supreme Jack-of-all-trades and the first creature to be appropriated as a beast of burden in the transportation
West wall of kitchen, showing separate working unit on either side of sink. [photograph: LA03a006]
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systems of the world.[footnote 1] We are even tempted to infer that Atlas was a woman, and would have been so handed down if the author of the legend hadn't happened to be a man.
However, in the age-long process of becoming civilized, men turned their attention more and more from the hunt and forcible seizure of other men's possessions to the business of supplying other men's needs for a valuable consideration. Indeed, we no longer rear even a picket fence between ourselves and a hostile world. War to the knife is now waged in the field of business. And these lines of business are very largely the ones that women created, and long carried on, in the home. The work thus taken away from women has been specialized, capitalized, systematized, performed with all the resources of invention, and no babies underfoot.
However, there are thousands of women who, if told how civilization had lifted grievous housekeeping burdens off their shoulders, would declare in astonishment that they hadn't missed a thing! The standards and
[footnote 1] 'Woman's Share in Primitive Culture,' by Otis T. Mason, Curator of Ethnology in the U. S. National Museum.
fashions of housekeeping have risen to fill the reservoir of their day's duties as fast as the numerous runlets of household invention can lower it. Recall how the beneficence of the sewing machine threatened at first to be drowned in a swirling surf of tucks and ruffles.
But even the most common-sensible woman who mothers a family and does her own house-work has handicaps unrealized by the business or labouring man. For one thing, she works in isolation and yet in the midst of constant and unforeseeable[sic] interruptions. Few women thus situated have the time, the energy, and the initiative to analyze and reconstruct their methods; to invent, or go out of their way to hunt up, new helps in their old tasks.
It is, therefore, a good thing that business is constantly calling the attention of woman to this and that labour-saving device. (I suppose that even the revolutionary gas stove made its way into our kitchens solely because men wanted to sell gas and other men wanted to sell stoves.) It surely marks a new and most significant advance, when an entirely disinterested National Committee succeeds in inducing thousands of local communities to
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feature a week's demonstration of 'Better Home' building and 'Better Home' management, purely for the sake of better home life.
The demonstrations sponsored yearly by 'Better Homes in America' interest me particularly because they are directed toward improvement of the single-family home where, at best, housekeeping operations can be systematized only in approximation. I, for one, am not looking hopefully toward the day when we shall all live in continuous rows of houses around a hollow square, with not only a central heating plant and laundry and playground--which one must admit would be desirable--but also a central kitchen and dining room and nursery, with help furnished at so much an hour, to come in and make beds, and dust, and feed the cat. I am for elimination and simplification to a degree; however, I am prepared to strike as viciously for my own kitchen as for my altars and my fires. But if the individual family kitchen is to stay with us, we need--oh! how we need!--a Better Kitchen as the drive-wheel hub of our Better Home! Here was one of the chief incentives for staging our demonstration.
The County Home Demonstration Agent accepted our invitation to preside in the kitchen of Everyman's House throughout the whole of 'Better Homes' Week, and to choose her own corps of trained assistants. Please imagine, now, one of these young women impersonating Mother, for the purpose of letting you see the wheels go round.[footnote 1]
We will suppose it is time to get dinner. Mother's menu is: Broiled steak, mashed potatoes and gravy (here's to the observing M. Enrico Blanco, who discovered our national dish to us), green peas from the garden or can; hot baking-powder biscuit; tomato salad and celery, with tapioca pudding for dessert. Also, Mother will stir up a cake for supper while she is about it. She has already set the table, unless one of her helpful children has done that for her.
Mother goes into the kitchen, puts on her apron and the belt with the pretty holders
[footnote 1] Please understand that I do not claim originality for any individual feature of the kitchen plan or method of procedure. It is a composite of the various things read upon the subject, and of a design worked out for my own kitchen on planning our home some years ago. The Committee on Equipment also contributed useful suggestions.
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hanging from it, and washes her hands under the hot water faucet at the sink. She goes then to the kitchen entry for the vegetables, and especially to the refrigerator for the steak, tomatoes, and celery, and the milk and eggs and shortening. Note that, as she stands in the entry door, she takes all the things out of the refrigerator and, without a step, places them on a tray always standing on the work counter which extends from the sink to the entry door. First, she will prepare her vegetables and celery while sitting comfortably on the sink stool, let us hope. The kitchen knives are in the divisioned drawer of the table close by, with the forks and spoons, the apple corer, and can opener.
Then she will make the biscuit and stir up the cake. The tray holding all the ingredients from the refrigerator is now immediately above the mixing board. The flour is beneath in its sack in the two-parted tilting bin, with the rolling pin and flour sifter beside it. The measuring cup and spoons and biscuit cutter are on a rack in the inside of the cupboard door just in front of her; also, on a hook, are the little squares of soft paper for use in greas-
ing tins. The baking tins are on a shelf in this cupboard. When she wants the baking powder and salt, they are in the little spice cupboard just at her left hand, the shelves so narrow that nothing can hide behind anything else. So she may notice and set out the salad dressing, too, at this time.
She will want to wash the top of her milk bottle before removing the cap; for milkmen are prone to carry them by the head. The cap opener is at her right hand on a hook over the sink. She cuts out the biscuit and puts them in the tin.
Then the cake. Her cake flour comes from the other side of the bin partition; eggs, etc., are on the tray before her. Her sugar, mixing bowl, egg-beater, and baking tins are in the cupboard above. Flavouring essences, raisins, chocolate, powdered sugar, spices, or what you will, are close by in the little spice cupboard at the left. Really, hardly a step is required in making biscuit and cake.
And now for the steak. Mother passes the sink to the work counter on the opposite side. She takes that trayful of things with her, which
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is the reason for setting them on a tray instead of on the counter itself. Drawing out the meat board and taking a meat cloth from the drawer below, she wipes and trims the steak and gives it whatever attention the particular cut may require. She turns without a linear step, opens the broiler door, draws out the pan, and lays the steak upon the broiling rack. There is time to wash and slice tomatoes while the steak is broiling. The dishes for tomatoes and celery and butter, the water pitcher, and the milk pitcher are in the cupboard in front of her, immediately by the sink. The cupboards and drawers, above or below, hold chopping bowl, meat-pounder, meat-grinder, potato-masher, and all the more frequently used utensils for every kind of cooking, except cakes and desserts, which are to be made on the opposite side of the window. Some of the more common ingredients, as sugar and salt, are kept in both cupboards.
The potatoes and peas have been put on to boil sometime before, in stewpans taken from the shelf above the stove. Mother also fills the lower part of her double boiler with hot
water from the faucet, and puts her minute tapioca on to cook. She gets ready the ingredients to be added to this pudding.
We will imagine that the vegetables and steak are now done. The potatoes are drained in the sink and shaken and whitened over the fire, preparatory to mashing. Milk and seasoning are added to the peas. The steak is salted and peppered from the shakers kept with the covered salt bowl and the flour dredge on the little raised shelf on the right-hand counter. Our imaginary steak,[footnote 1] buttered, is ready to take up. So are the vegetables. Biscuits and cake are now in the oven. The pudding is done.
But Mother has forgotten to warm her platter. This having to warm platters and vegetable dishes and soup plates and dinner plates--what a nuisance it is, just as one is hurrying to take up a meal! Of course, with a hot oven, Mother could have set the dishes on top--and had them too hot to handle, and,
[footnote 1] This had to be an imaginary demonstration. There were as many as 2,700 people a day during 'Better Homes' Demonstration Week---all passing through our little kitchen. Few, indeed, could have lingered from soup to nuts, as it were.
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possibly, 'crackled' into the bargain. But this wouldn't work if it were a cold morning, with nothing baking but pancakes. Or, she could have heated them under the hot-water faucet and then dried them, which is a terrible nuisance when one is in a hurry. But Mother does neither. She warmed all her dishes that needed to be warmed when she drew the hot water for washing her hands, or for the double-boiler for the pudding.
Who that cooks has not wished for a device that will automatically and unfailingly furnish warm plates and vegetable dishes, warm platters for meat, etc.? Well, we have a device in the kitchen of Everyman's House guaranteed to furnish warm dishes whenever a warm meal is being prepared, or even when the hands are washed before beginning operations. It consists of a cupboard close by the stove and immediately beneath the passway counter through which food is served in the living-dining room. At the precise strategic point for service, is it not? Nothing in our kitchen attracted more instant attention than this trig little two-shelf cupboard, with its door ajar, disclosing a white-enamelled
interior and an array of platters on edge, above which were arranged dinner plates, biscuit tray, soup plates, gravy bowls, etc. In my original plan of this warming cupboard, the hot water coil operated only when the furnace was in use. However, the architect who translated my design into builders' drawings had a better idea; namely, to put, inside the cupboard, two coils of the pipe which carries hot water from the automatic heater immediately below in the basement to the kitchen sink. When you open the kitchen faucet and the hot water comes forth, you would never guess the gay whirl it has taken with that cute little china cupboard by the way. I must mention, also, the great convenience of this cupboard when somebody's dinner must be kept warm. Crackers and breakfast foods regain their crispness here. Refractory salt shakers will 'give down' after a few hours' solitary confinement in this neat little cell.
All kitchen work, as I have said before, is naturally divided into three parts--preparing food, cooking it, and clearing up after meals. As Mother places in the passway the platter
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of steak, the vegetables, the salad, the biscuit from the oven, the water from the faucet, the children's milk, and the dinner plates--the pudding, too, where it can be reached from the other room--we have witnessed in imagination two of the three processes. Before the official demonstration began, to make sure of myself on all points, I 'went through the motions' of this demonstration in the presence of a few friends. 'Gosh!' exclaimed one astonished man. 'The woman who wears a pedometer in your kitchen will have to take it out for exercise!'