Old-time Tips for Washing Dishes

17-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Saturday, June 22, 1912: Went to Watsontown this afternoon. I managed to get through with the dishes and then went for the cows. I found them having a picnic in the corn field, and they were quickly dispatched to safer premises.

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Here’s some advice from the early 1900s for doing the dishes. It is abridged from a 1902 cookbook.

Do not be afraid of hot water in washing up dishes and dirty cooking utensils. As these are essentially greasy, lukewarm water cannot possibly have the effect of cleansing them effectively.

After you have washed your saucepans, fish-kettle, &c., stand them before the fire for a few minutes to get thoroughly dry inside, before putting them away. They should then be kept in a dry place, in order that they may escape the deteriorating influence of rust.

Never leave saucepans dirty from one day’s use to be cleaned the next.

After washing up your dishes, wash your dish-tubs with a little soap and water and soda, and scrub them often.

Do not throw anything but water down the sink, as the pipe is liable to get choked, thereby causing expense and annoyance.

Mrs. Beeton’s Cookery Book (1902)

Cows Escaped

Whew–the cows escaped from the pasture, again! This must be at least the fourth or fifth time in 1912. (It’s happened so many times that I’ve lost track of the exact number.)

15 Responses

  1. Love the advice on dish washing … as well as the charming way your grandmother refers to the cows having a picnic!

    • I can picture the cows in the corn field. She did have a really descriptive way of describing them. Since it’s still relatively early in the summer, the corn wouldn’t have been very tall. The cows probably did a lot of damage to the corn. I bet that her father wasn’t happy.

  2. Washing the dishes reminds me of all my camping trips with my 4 kids and a tent – when the water had to be heated. Sure glad for our conveniences today.

    • And, your comment brings back memories of camping trips that our family made with our children. They were so much fun–but washing dishes sure was a complicated process!

  3. Those cows are at it again, trouble for Helena
    .

  4. That is a good looking frying pan.

  5. Many of those I learned from my wise old grandmother!

  6. With cast iron (such as is pictured here) I believe it was common to “cure” it with a little oil so that it didn’t rust. Since the oil would combat the combination of moisture and air necessary for rust. My Mom always had specific uses for different pans such as this…and they took on a flavoring for the food you can’t duplicate any other way.

    • I still regularly use my old cast iron pans to make bacon, fried potatoes, fried fish, etc. The heavy pan bottoms distribute the heat really nicely. (When I look at my list of foods that I make using my cast iron pans, none of it looks very healthy–sigh.)

  7. This reminded me of something I’d completely forgotten. As a child I was amazed when visiting the home of an elderly family friend. They had no sink & running water in the kitchen. “Lovebird” used to wash her dishes in a bowl on the table and drain them on a tray before wiping, then took the bowl outside to empty in the “gully trap”. Thanks for the reminding Sheryl :-)… she was such a precious person. Surname was “Love” and that’s why we called her “Lovebird” :-)

  8. [...] watch the cows to ensure that they stayed in the pasture and didn’t wonder off—see for example, June 22 and May [...]

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