Friday, April 4, 2008

Home Comforts

Tonight's post is about home comforts in all their forms: warmth, sustenance, and art (if I can call my needlework an art)...

homecomforts oven

When I was young, I lived with an elderly great aunt, the younger sister of my grandmother, and her (much) younger husband. My great aunt came from a quieter age - she was 80 to 90 when I lived with her, passing away when I was in my teens. She lived on a beautiful estate with rolling lawns that touched the water on one side, and encompassed an old forest on the other. She had a big barn and kept chickens and loved each one, even the sickly picked-on ones. My job was to feed them and to gather the eggs each day. She had a small garden and a large stand of raspberry bushes. She made the best raspberry jelly in the entire world - storing it like captured rubies in clear glasses topped with parafin wax.

Auntie had a wonderful old stove that I think had been her mother-in-law's - and since it worked so well, she saw no reason to replace it. While homes around her graduated to gas stoves and then electric, she continued to cook marvelously on a combination wood and oil stove, with pressure water heater. This is what I learned to cook on. For small baking or in summer, when she didn't want to heat the house with a strong wood fire in the oven, a tin box with shelves was placed on top of the stove. The temperature of the actual oven was calculated by sticking your flat hand inside (not touching the sides of course) and testing how warm the heat felt on your hand - if it was a "slow" oven (250 - 300 degrees) or a "moderate" oven (325 - 375), or a "fast" oven (400 - 475). I'm still quite good at this and can tell the temperature of my Glenwood Gas Range by the feel. There is no comfort like the warmth of a wood stove in the kitchen (especially when potatoes are cooking in a pan on top)...

From the Home Comfort Cookbook, 1864:

homecomforts book

"To keep a cake fresh for several weeks, take it from the oven and, while still hot, pack it completely in brown sugar."

"Broken bits of licorice sprinkled about pantry shelves, will banish red ants."

"The lid of a teapot should always be left so that the air may get in. This prevents mustiness."

"Have in your kitchen a cheap office stool to sit on when ironing or washing dishes; this will prevent backache and tired feet."

New England Tart

Prepare and bake a crust of plain or flake paste as for pie. Use 2 cups cold dry apple-sauce, or fresh apple-sauce cooked with as little water as possible; press through a sieve before measuring; add 2 cups cream, 3 beaten egg yolks, and mix, adding 1/2 teaspoon each of nutmeg and salt; add 1 cup sugar, more or less, to properly sweeten; spread in paste shell, and bake filling in moderate oven; when partially cooled, cover with meringue made of the 3 egg whites and granulated sugar, and brown top in oven.

Maple Butter Tea Sandwiches

Prepare a filling by creaming one cup light brown sugar with one or two tablespoons butter and further reducing to an easily-spreading mixture with maple syrup. Spread on thinly sliced brown bread and cut into shapes with a tin biscuit cutter or a sugared glass rim.

Pear Omelet

For each omelet, beat 3 eggs with 3 tablespoons milk until combined, and season with salt and pepper; have a teaspoon melted butter or fat in hot frying pan; pour in eggs and gently shake pan to spread mixture to size and distribute thin portion while cooking; just as top is becoming well set, lay a half pear that has been previously canned in sugar syrup on one half of omelet, folding other half over it. When browned on bottom, serve on hot plate. Other fruits may be substituted.


I found more comfort this week curling up on the couch with my hot water bottle to soothe my aching belly. I finished a cover for the bottle yesterday, and it will be traveling in the post to my sister soon. Making it gave me many pleasant hours.

Reverse the Curse
by UnravelingSophia
C 2008 All Rights Reserved


This pattern can now be found on ravelry:


Karla said...

I enjoyed your post today. Nice pattern. I don't knit, but it looks cute.

Unraveling Sophia said...

Thanks Karla. It would be easy to change this pattern to crochet using the measurements, although I think a fun fur type yarn like Chinchilla would be terrible to crochet with! I wonder if anyone has crocheted with that type of yarn?

CanarySanctuary said...

What a wonderful reminiscence. I especially love the description of the jam. My mouth is watering :)

The recipes and pattern are very cool - thanks for posting it! I really like the hot water bottle cover. It's title is great.

Too bad you felt icky and had to use it, but a lovely FO came from it!

Unraveling Sophia said...

what a nice way of looking at things you have! :) yes, I suppose necessity is the mother of invention, as they say...