Wednesday, August 27, 2008

And so it begins.

OK, so this is a blog about a book. An incredible, helpful old book that is truly one of a kind. But it's also a blog about stepping back and viewing life through a different lens.

Like me, I suspect that there are many people who don't quite jive with the way our society is moving these days. And I wouldn't be surprised to find folks who also long for a simpler, kinder, more "organic" existence - the way that I do. The world has gotten faster, but I'm not sure better. So as I do my tiny part to help slow it down, I thought it might be nice to share my progress with you.

Our guidebook for this adventure will be a brilliant old text called "Practical Housekeeping." Printed in 1881 by the Buckeye Publishing Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota, this "careful compilation of tried and approved recipes" is basically a cookbook. But it's also a unique, intimate snapshot of American history and a useful primer on many subjects, not the least of which is how to live a rich, joyful life (and treat scarlet fever).

I don't know the woman who owned this book originally. My husband bought it at an estate sale years ago. But I can tell you that she cherished it and used it frequently, tucking it with scribbled recipes and important clippings. She also loved to bake, as evidenced by the many stained and tattered pages in the cake-making chapter, and this may well have been the only cookbook she owned.

I have lots of cookbooks – scores of books period – so it’s difficult to imagine, in this era of information overload, putting your trust in one single volume and allowing it to guide the direction of your entire household. Surely our modern world is much more vivid and satisfying, given our myriad choices and options. Or is it? Do our time-saving conveniences and work-cutting efficiencies really make us happier?

I intend to answer those questions in this blog….and test lots of interesting recipes along the way. I’ll also try my hand at some of the more practical activities in Practical Housekeeping, such as removing kitchen odors, dyeing clothes naturally, and growing healthier fruit trees. And when I’m done, perhaps we will all be able, as the book suggests, to tackle our daily to-do’s “not reluctantly like drudges, but lovingly, with heart and hand fully enlisted in the work.”

Perhaps in good, honest labor we will find greater joy.

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