What is a woman’s role when she has lived in 7 different eras like I have? I am influenced and pulled this way and that by all the kitchen experiences I have had and formed a very hodge-podge definition of a woman’s role in life. Well, at least my role in the kitchens of my life.
Let’s start with life in the kitchen first. That gives the best picture of all the drastic and sometimes confusing changes on ‘who-the-hell-should-I-be-this-year?
I was born in 1943 so many of these things are memories of the older women in my life as they demonstrated by their lives what I was going to be when I grew up.
1940’s Kitchen Life
- women only in kitchens
- It was the center of the home
- Always spic N span clean
- Always some delicious cooking smell coming from the kitchen
- Cooking took a long time because everything was from scratch
Without dishwashers I would guess clean up after a Thanksgiving dinner took a long time too. thankfully I was young and didn’t have to get into that. yet.
No microwaves: instead modern appliances were pressure cookers and double boilers. Pressure cookers were used for tough meats. A dangerous appliance, it had a rubber sealed top and a pressure gage on the top that whistled to warn you that it was at its max pressure-wise and you better get your ass in there and gently turn the petcock up and down to let out extra steam so it would not blow up.
1940's & 50's pressure cooker
A pressure cooker that blew up when it was full of
spare ribs in tomatoes sauce was really fun to watch as a kid. But getting
the red sauce off the ceiling and out of the crevices of the rest of the kitchen was a big job. The pressure cooker was also used to can meats and dangerous vegetables like beans. Had to cook the crapola outta all those natural germs and stuff. It was best not to get involved in any other projects while using this appliance else you might forget it was on the stove and POW! Dinner is served. All over the floor, ceilings and counters in the kitchen.
The other appliance was the double boiler. One bottom pan filled with boiling water, the other pan sitting inside that one cooking the pudding or re-heating foods or making candy. An early microwave function if you will. Prevented food sticking to the bottom of the pan like it would if it were on direct heat.
I loved canning!
Canning was done every year. Either from grandma’s garden in Tacoma or going to farms and picking your own.
This would last for days. Making jelly fascinated me as she melted the paraffin to be poured on top of the jelly or jam to seal it tight. Basically melting candle wax and topping off your jams, preserved and jellies. There was no other need for a top. Didn’t have screw on tops anyway.
Used glass jars to can the jellies and jams. These lasted for years.
That is why when canning the women always made as much as they can because they only did it once a year
Apple sauce was the most fun to help make.
Peeling and coring the apples first then putting them into the masher to make it as smooth as possible. No lumps in our apple sauce. We cooked huge metal pots of smushed apples, simmering with sugar and cinnamon……..oh the smell was delicious.
I remember all the windows in the kitchen steaming up during canning days. It was hot work.
Peaches were blanched first (plunged into hot water-then into cold water) and placed lovingly into huge jars. then we poured sugar water all over them up to the top of the jar. Sealed them and stored them
away. That was when peaches actually smelled and tasted like peaches. Now days I pick up a store peach and can’t even get a whiff of peach smell.
We canned tomatoes, beans, peaches, made tomato sauce and my adventurous grandmother canned meats. Especially Norwegian specialty meats like pickled pigs feet. Yuk.
As a little girl I loved seeing the jams and jellies coming out on Thanksgiving day, ready to be put into a china bowl and served with the homemade biscuits. Of course today produce is way too expensive to make canning your own fruit and vegetables worthwhile financially. The big plus if you did can today would be NO preservatives, chemicals or other unidentifiable ingredients in your food.
There were no Bar B Ques,
dishwashers, fancy stoves, plug-in griddles or anything else like that. In fact my grandma used a wood burning stove down in her basement so that she could make Lefsa and other Norwegian specialties that could only be made on a cast iron wood burning stove. Now that was another delicious smell.
There were no cake mixes or pudding mixes……….well no ready-made foods for that matter. There was not even homogenized milk yet. Pasteurized is as far as we had gotten then. So it still had about 2 inches of pure, off white, thick cream on top. You could either spoon that off the top and save for cooking or shake the bottle till most of it blended in with the milk. Never could shake it enough to get rid of all
the little tidbits of cream floating in your milk.
There were no 7/11’s or grocery stores open on Holidays or Sundays to get those last-minute items you had forgotten for the big family dinner gathering either. If you didn’t already have it, you went without it.
There were no Mr. Coffee makers. Mostly it was stove-top coffee pots or the glorious invention of a plug-in electric percolator.
I actually still have an electric percolator similar to this one...from the 1930's Grandma and Mom used broken egg shells to settle the grounds because there was no filter or filter papers. For special occasions they dropped an actual raw egg into the coffee. Not sure why but they swore by the improved taste of the coffee.
Did I mention there were no microwaves to reheat the left over turkey late that night after everyone had gone home? Get the double boiler out and heat it up.
So these were my first memories and experiences in the kitchen as a future woman. This was my foundation. This kitchen path was
assumed for me by the women in my life. We girls were taught along the way, no matter how young. It was never considered that we would not be in the kitchen like grandma and mom where when we grew up. It was a given.
That’s why Home Economics was required classes in high
school for ALL girls. From 9th grade to graduation. Even if you
thought you were going to college, you had to take Home Ec.