I feel like I may have talked about this before, if so I apologize for the repetition. A few years ago I found this great old book on Google about homemaking on a budget. It appears the book was a compilation of a series of articles from Good Housekeeping in the early 1900’s. I’s a fictional account of a woman teaching her newly engaged sister-in-law about keeping house on a small budget.
I found it fascinating and it was a real learning experience for me. There were homemaking practices, probably common at the time, that seem to have been abandoned in the 21st century and in some cases it’s probably best (like saving all the fat scraps and rendering them down for frying other foods) while others could still be useful never serving leftovers the next night and in the same form. We’ve all heard the statistics about food waste and I’m guilty of this more often than I care to admit. I don’t know if this was standard for homemakers in this time period but this book really emphasizes how to avoid any and all waste.
Avoiding waste also includes reducing fuel costs by using only one burner on the stove but cooking multiple items. Above and blow are photos of the types of pans they might have used.
The one above doesn’t seem very practical if you’re cooking other things since those handles would get really hot. The one below is a bit better in that regard the handles getting to hot but those handles pointing in every direction could get in the way.
I thought this was such a great idea when I first read it I tried to find one but this yellow and green one was all that showed up, it wasn’t for sale. I did find one for sale in the 1898 Sears catalog for $0.75. (sadly my great-great-grandmother didn’t save a copy of the catalog for me so I was happy to find a copy at my local library)
I found the pan below on the Nordicware site and it’s a divided pan not multi-piece set like the vintage sets above.
The following two photos are the closest things I could find to the vintage pan sets. While they appear to be handy to cook individual servings of pasta or vegetables, everything cooks in the same water so your potatoes might end up tasting like broccoli.
I prefer the metal one below to the silicon ones above, the larger size makes them a bit more versatile, and more recyclable.
Here is an excerpt from the book that talks about the three-part pan where the sister-in-law asks about the cost of the gas for cooking;
“Doesn’t your gas cost you a great deal each month? I remember hearing somewhere that it was expensive to cook with it.” “It is not expensive for us, because I use it carefully. Of course if you have a maid who turns on four burners at once, and runs them for hours, you will have a frightful bill. But see these saucepans; three of them, and triangular in shape, so that when they are put together they make what looks like one good-sized round one. You can fill all three with vegetables or other things, and cook them at once on one burner. That’s one great saving, to begin with.“
Instead of the tea menu I usually include I’m adding one of the luncheon menus from the book. The total for this luncheon for four people, in early 1900’s money, was less than $2.00!
Cream of spinach soup Breaded Veal Cutlets New Potatoes Peas in Crusts Asparagus Salad with mayonnaise Strawberry Ices Tea
This meal, like all lunches and dinners, was served in multiple courses. The author explains that she’s able to gracefully serve her guests a three course meal without hiring maid for the day. She explains how she uses a cart to roll everything out of the kitchen and arrange it on a sideboard so that she is with her guests instead of running in and out of the kitchen.
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