Saturday, November 04, 2006

A thought inspired by Alice James
(Or, I knew there was a reason why I like this author...)

"Many very wise housekeepers pursue the plan of leaving the dinner or supper dishes to be washed the following morning, the cooking things having been washed and put away during the process of getting the dinner... Leaving the dishes at the end of the day saves one's time and sterngth for something pleasant in the evening, and also saves one's good dresses from much extra wear and tear and incidental injury," says Alice James, in Housekeeping for Two.

Aha! I've finally found a cleaning expert who not only okays leaving some dishes rinsed and ready to be washed the next morning, but actually calls it wise!

The truth is, though I'm often known to do it, I don't think this is a wise practice. If you get up in the morning to find a sink of rinsed dishes, waiting to be washed, you find yourself already behind schedule. When possible, it's far more efficient to completely clean the kitchen after supper or dinner.

There are occasions, however, when this is not possible. Perhaps, you're heading out to church on a Wednesday night. Or, maybe, you have only one evening to visit with a certain guest, and you don't want to spend the whole time in the kitchen. In such cases, it's essential to put away all leftover food that is to be saved and to scrape and rinse away any food particles on dishes. As long as you are not leaving anything that's unsanitary, you can get away with leaving some items overnight.

At any rate, this statement underscores something that I'm learning. The principles of home management are universal; there are varying ideas when it comes to the details of how to apply those princples to daily life. In this example, everyone -- including Alice James -- agrees that it is essentail to a family's well-being to keep a sanitary kitchen. This requires at least some degree of attention every night. Some would never go to bed until the entire kitchen is spic and span; others, like Alice, might leave a dish or two to do in the morning.

So, when reading all of the many books and web sites about home keeping and when listening to the advice of women that we know personally, we have to look beyond what might seem like conflicting opinions about methods to the underlying principles. Then, we can choose advice that helps us apply these concepts to our situation.

The author of Home Comforts, alludes to this as well. One of her grandmothers was of Italian heritage and followed the Italian custom of opening windows and drapes to let in lots of sun. Her other grandmother was of Scots-Irish heritage, and she followed her culture's custom of keeping drapes closed to keep sun from fading upholstery. Yet, notes the author, both women were excellent homekeepers, and she credits them both with insitlling in her a love of all things domestic.

Deciding whether we will open windows and drapes or keep them closed depends on understanding the "why" behind the advice. There is a lot of merit to letting in sun and fresh air. Both will chase away stale odors. Both make for a cheerful enviornment. Both add to our health. Yet, there is some merit to the opposite argument as well: strong sun does fade upholstery and carpeting. And, for some, open windows bring in allergens that worsen conditions such as asthma.

So, we have to decide what works for our situation. Perhaps, we will even employ a combination. I love sun and fresh air. But, I have a long wall with a western exposure. During the summer, if I don't keep the light drapes and sheers over the windows on that side of the house drawn, the glare and the heat become unbearable.

I love to read about homemaking. I like to glean new things that will help me be a better wife, mother, and keeper at home. But, especially when it comes to scheduling and order, I've found that you can't let all of the information that's available get your sidetracked. Sometimes, you have to pick a plan and stick with it -- at least until your circumstances change and you need to draw up a new one.

I'm sure we've all heard this story, which highlights the need to understand the reasoning behind homemaking advice:

A husband saw his young bride cut off the end of a roast before cooking the rest in her huge, brand new roasting pan -- the pan that his mother had given the couple for a wedding present.. He asked her, "Why?" She said, "Oh, I learned that from my mother. She always did it that way. That's just how you cook a roast."

Later on, she started wondering why it was necessary to remove one end of a roast. So, she called her mother.

"Oh, I learned that from your grandmother. She always did it that way. That's just how you cook a roast."

Later on, the mother started wondering why it was necessary to remove one end of a roast. So, she called her mother.

"Oh, my pan is too small to hold a whole roast," said the grandmother.



Mrs Blythe said...

Lol, that last part really made me giggle.

I like to have a tidy kitchen before I retire to bed. There's nothing worse than getting downstairs rather groggy-eyed and then finding a big pile of dishes that need attending to.

I vary with our curtains. Our living room and two main bedrooms are south facing. So in summer the curtains are kept shut much of the time to stop the sun fading the furniture and overheating the rooms. I like to keep the windows a wide open as is safe for the children too. In winter I keep the curtains open, especially when it is sunny as it warms the rooms up lovely and saves on heating. I also briefly open the windows to air the rooms off in the morning, even if it is very cold; so the sun warming the rooms up later is a definite bonus.

Elizabeth said...

Hello, Mrs. Blythe,

It's always such a treat when you stop by.

That last part of the post is actaully an old preacher's story, which I've heard preachers use to talk about how we can latch on to certain traditions in religion without really understanding them. But, as it involved cooking, it seemed so appropriate for the same thing in hmemaking.

I'm like you, I vary our curtains. I'm a sunshine and fresh air kind of girl, as much as I can be. It sounds like we're kindred spirits on that one.

That feeling you describe is why I can't entirely say that the leaving of dishes until the next morning is a wise one -- even though I'm a culprit at times. I thought it was interesting was that part of her reasoning was that it saves wear and tear on you good dresses. That takes me back in mind to the era when women had their morning dresses and their afternoon dresses and their evening dresses.