Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Basic Cookery

Library of Congress: Setting the table in home economics class,South Carolina, 1939.



I studied cooking in Home Economics classes when I was a teenager. My mother also gave me freedom in her kitchen. I would look through her cookbook and bake special treats when the pantry ran low.  While Mom did most of the cooking, I was happy cleaning and cooking whenever I got the chance.

In my first home, I enjoyed making meals for my husband.  I still remember our first trip to the local supermarket.  We were so excited to pick out our own groceries, together.  I made his breakfast, packed his lunch, and made his dinner each night.  With a small household, and a decent income from his job, we didn't have much to worry about financially.

As more and more children came into the home, I had to learn to make many things from scratch, with the ingredients I had on hand.  I remember going to the local library and finding all kinds of old cookbooks.  I borrowed them, and found recipes that would work well for my family.   Many of these recipes (like breads and stews) were made so many times that I memorized them.  If I really loved a borrowed cookbook, I would save up and buy my own copy.

Frugal, or thrifty, cooking is a valuable skill for the housewife.  People often share recipes, which is good.  However, many families have different tastes.  Some have allergies.  We also live in different climates and have a different cultural basis for what we eat.   In the Boston area, fresh lobster and clam chowder is common, whereas, they may not be staple menu items in a little town in Idaho.    Restaurants in Florida serve the most delicious fresh orange juice you could ever taste!  They are known for their oranges and have them in abundance.   We have to make use of what is available and low cost, in our area.  It is important to learn how to adjust recipes to work in our own kitchens.

It is a common cliché for mothers to save money by serving "rice and beans."   This might work for many, but not in my house.  One cannot always save money by doing what the masses suggest.  We have to remember to serve foods that our own family will enjoy.  Cooking basic foods from scratch will save money.  Serving carefully portioned- sized- meals and storing leftovers will also save money.  

To learn basic cooking skills my favorite book is The Good Housekeeping Illustrated Cookbook.  It boasts 1,400 recipes!  The pictures are stunning and are set up almost encyclopedia - like.   My children used to love to look at all the pictures and say, "Let's make this one!"   You will learn to make easy breads, muffins, meats, and all kinds of dinners and desserts.  Once you learn the basics of these foundational recipes, you can start adjusting ingredients to meet the needs of your family. 

Basic cooking also means you have freedom from the supermarket sales ads.  Certainly buy hamburger or chicken only when they are priced reasonably.  But you can make so many different things with them. The store will recommend processed foods to go with the meats. Cooking from scratch means we don't need those items. You will no longer be a slave to what is on sale.

 When we buy hamburger in a "family sized" package, I take it home and divide it up into smaller portions.  I then put each meal's serving in a gallon Ziploc bag and freeze it.   Even though we have a lot of people in this house, I only cook with that small amount of meat. It is the ingredients that go with it, that make the meal stretch - the vegetables, the bread, etc.   I love the older cookbooks from the 1960's that have old menus that go along with the recipes. This was from a time when portion sizes were much smaller than those of today.  The fun in the dinners had a lot to do with the beverages, the way the vegetables were prepared, and the lovely way in which it was all presented. 

Nourishment was key, and homemade was the most nourishing of all.

I realize we mothers have days of being exhausted and can't do as much as we would like.  But when you are in the habit of cutting and washing vegetables for stew, or whipping up a quick batch of muffins, making food from scratch can be a valuable part of the daily routine.  When all my children were little, I had lots of helpers.  We set to work at the big kitchen table.  I had children rolling out dough, or peeling vegetables.   The bigger children were at the counter or stove stirring sauces, or handling the hot foods, while the safe work was done at the table. Meal preparation was a happy, pleasant way to pass the time with small children.   To them, it was playing!  It got the work done, and the children enjoyed it.  They also loved taking turns serving the food and giggling and visiting at the table.

These days,  I have a barstool in my kitchen. I often sit near the counter to wash dishes, or to make biscuits.  I also have my kitchen radio nearby to hear CDs of gospel music or sermons.  Often my grandbaby is in the highchair watching me work. He plays with bowls and lids and has a wonderful time.  The kitchen can be a happy place to be, making frugal cooking a pleasant part of life.

Mrs. White

From the Archives:

Remembering my Childhood - When Television was Special.

The beauty of a formal morning table - Breakfast at Home.

Mother's work - The Pleasant Task of Cleaning.

  - To find out more about this blog, or Mrs. White, please visit our About page. -

Find Home-keeping Inspiration, in Mrs.White's book

 - For The Love of Christian Homemaking.  

Paperback, 274 pages.


busymomof10 said...

I love this post, Mrs. White! Thanks for sharing this perspective! This was how my precious mother always cooked and how she taught me to cook. For a season, I fell into the trap of using processed foods, thinking they were so much easier and more convenient. Then, I found my way back to the value of cooking like my Mom did -- simple foods from scratch prepared with love! :)

Jan said...

Thank you for sharing this post! So many times, we mamas think of the kitchen as just another time of drudgery, but it can be a place of peace and happiness if we let it.

I have beans in the pressure canner and enjoy listening to the soft hissing sound in my kitchen. I am also working with my teenaged sons to teach them to make some complete meals for our family. Hopefully, these lessons will serve them well when they move out on their own.

I am visiting from the Homemaking Link Up!

Unknown said...

I love coming over here to read your posts. It's so easy to fall out of homemaking with our busy lives. Thanks for putting things back into perspective for me. Life gets crazy and I need a redirection once in a while.

Glenda said...

I have cooked from scratch for many, many years. We have bought in bulk quantities, stored the foods properly, and reaped the rewards of both savings and convenience of having the items in our storage. I truly enjoy cooking meals that are both nutritious and appetizing to view.

I can't tell you how much I enjoy your blog. I check each morning to see if there is a new post and, if not, I go read or reread a past post.

Thank you so much for sharing with others. Blogs are alot of work and your efforts are greatly appreciated.

Robin said...

I came across your blog today and I really appreciated what i read. I too would rather cook from scratch and I treasure my Mother and Grandmother's old cookbooks. Thanks for writing this and will be looking forward to reading your blog from now on.

living from glory to glory said...

Hello Mrs. White,
I think it is wonderful on how you stay focused and you approach being a homemaker with love and purpose. I also love to cook and clean and sew and write. And my home has been the place where God speaks to me and teaches me, because the chaos of this world is not welcome here. Your heart and your desire to teach will make a difference in many lives. You're a breath of fresh air to a dying suffocating world mentality. We need real women to stand their grounds for their children and their marriages.
Have a wonderful week-end.
Blessings, Roxy

Kimberly said...

I loved the point you made about being set free from the sales ads. I used to shop sales every week and it got exhausting! I spent a lot of time learning to cook "the old fashioned way", and I love it. For me, there is nothing as satisfying as setting a good meal down in front of the family, knowing what is in their food, and watching them enjoy the meal. I home school my three daughters and have made it a point to bring them along my kitchen adventures. I'm grateful they enjoy it too.
So glad you are up and about and seemingly a bit better! :) Your blog is my absolute favorite.

Ceil said...

Hi There! You make your home sound so inviting...I can just see you at the sink, with a baby in the highchair.

I did the same thing with hamburger. You do what you have to do! and it stretches just fine. It's good that you know what everyone likes, so you cook to nourish them. Beautiful!

Happy Weekend, my friend!