(Time - The cook's "afternoon out.")
It is the Christian duty of every housemother in this comfort-loving land to provide a commodious, well-appointed kitchen and laundry, where daily household work is done, and clean, airy, comfortable chambers for workers, where they may take rest in sleep when that work is over. I should fail in observance of the Golden Rule if I were to oblige them to work where I could not work, or to sleep where slumber would be an impossibility to me.
My own preference for a kitchen floor-covering is really good linoleum of conventional design and light in color, therefore cheerful in effect. Many housewives insist upon oiled hardwood or painted floors. Not one cook in twenty takes proper care of an oiled floor, and paint soon wears off. It is economical to buy a prime quality of linoleum, and to lay the same pattern on kitchen, laundry and hall. When it wears out in one room it can be replaced from another. Inlaid linoleum will last for years.
Thick, strong rugs should be laid before the range and by the tables, one under the table at which the servants eat. Linoleum is cold to the feet, and one takes cold readily when over-heated.
I read, last year, that kitchen tables are now, as "a taking novelty," covered with zinc. Over a score or years ago I covered what may be called the work-tables in my kitchen with this useful metal, tacking it neatly under the edges, lest a loose point might tear hands or clothes. I have kept it up ever since. The table-tops are cleaned easily; they never "take" grease or stain of any kind, and they outwear wood by many years.
Another invaluable invention which i wish i could place in every kitchen is a sheet-iron hood and asbestos curtain, fitted to the top of the recess enclosing the range. It works so easily upon pulleys that a little finger could pull it down. When raised, it is entirely out of the cook's way; when down, it shuts in the range like an impervious screen. Sliding doors in the center allow one to look into pots and kettles simmering behind it, when oversight is advisable. If left closed, it will lower the temperature of the kitchen twenty degrees within two hours. It cost twenty dollars when new, twelve years ago. If I could not get another, twelve hundred dollars would not buy it.
I long ago discarded the old-fashioned tin and iron cooking utensils in favor of agate-nickel-steel ware, which is as easily washed as crockery bowls and plates; is light and neat in appearance; never rusts, and is altogether satisfactory. All of my kettles have covers, and we use covered roasters - another boon to housewives - for cooking meats. They keep in flavor and juices, and lessen the labor of basting.
Always have a rocking-chair convenient into which the cook can drop for rest between the times of active duty, and one apiece for maids in the laundry. For yourself, follow the rule I laid down imperatively a quarter-century ago in Common Sense in the Household - "Never stand at your work when you can sit." A chair suited in height to the mixing table will save you many an ache in the feet, back and head.
Do not allow servants to jumble their table crockery, etc., up with pots, saucepans, kettles, colanders and the like. There is no reason why the dresser or closet in which the kitchen tableware is kept should not be as daintily arranged as the dining-room buffet. It should hold no commerce with the pot closet.
The servants' chambers must be furnished with iron bedsteads, good mattresses, plenty of clean blankets and white spreads. The "honeycomb" spreads are absurdly cheap and easily washed. The rest of the appointments of the dormitories need not be elaborate. If they are neat and comfortable the occupants are more likely to try and make them attractive. When one pins up a crucifix over her bed, her mother's or sister's photograph against the wall, or even a colored lithograph of a patent medicine - notice it pleasantly. It means that she is catching the home feeling. Muslin curtains cost next to nothing. Hang them up at her window; give her a pretty cover for her bureau-top and a plain one for her washstand, and plenty of towels. The Golden Rule works well here - where does it not?
Range-Screen Partly Raised
I read a little story many, many years ago - before you were born, I think - a slight, commonplace affair, that has furnished two generations of busy housewives with a hard-worked mot de famille.
Excuse the foreign phrase! We have none in English that exactly translates it. "Household word" comes nearer to it than anything else, without quite covering it.
The tale was of a fidgety housekeeper of the sort stigmatized in the rough parlance of the sensible vulgar as "nasty particular." A friend, calling upon her soon after breakfast, found her fairly beside herself with worry because guests she had expected at noon had telegraphed that they would be with her at eleven o'clock that morning. Distracted Martha "could never in the world be ready for them. There was so much to do that she did not know what to take hold of first. It was enough to drive a woman out of her senses," etc., etc., etc.
"But what have you to do?"
"Do! Do! Do! Why - everything!"
The visitor drew off her gloves.
"I will stay and help you. Shan't I get the spare room ready?"
A gesture of disdain.
"As if I would have put that off until today!"
"Can I help about luncheon?"
"Well! I should be ashamed of myself if the cook hadn't her orders and materials and all before this!"
"Perhaps I could dust the parlors? or polish silver? or - " glancing around the perfectly appointed dining-room, where the luncheon table was already laid - "I might arrange the flowers in the vases?"
It finally transpired that the frantic and "forehanded" hostess could specify but one thing that remained to be done before everything should be in order for the visitors. She had "butter-balls to make for luncheon. She always kept the paddles in ice-water for hours beforehand."