This section is from the book "Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery", by Mary E. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Elements Of The Theory And Practice Of Cookery; A Textbook Of Domestic Science For Use In Schools.
Have you ever thought what an important business home-making is? The welfare of a nation is founded upon the welfare of families, and the welfare of a family depends upon its having a healthful, happy home.
The home, as we know it, has grown out of the need of a shelter for family life. Parent birds build nests, not for themselves, but for their young. The first homes of human beings were caves. Women have always been the home-makers. In early times men spent their lives in hunting and fighting. The animals they killed they brought home for the women to cook. When they learned to raise grain, it was the women who crushed it or ground it between stones. Women made clay dishes and baked them by the fire or in the sun. For a long time after people became civilized and lived in comfortable houses, nearly everything used in each home was made in it. Up to a century ago, even, women made at home cloth; soap, candles, and many other things which are now made in factories. As a rule, the only work we do or have done for us by others at home is housework; that is, cooking, cleaning, and laundry work.
Natural science is what we know about nature, about earth and air and water, about fire and electricity and other natural forces, about plants and animals. Applied science is the use of this knowledge to improve our way of living. Domestic science is the application of natural science to housework. Cookery is often defined as the art of preparing food for the nourishment of the body. But cookery is taught in schools not merelv as an art, but as a branch of domestic science. As such, it includes both practice, learning how to do things, and theory, learning why they should be done.
In its mission of training children to be good citizens, the school needs help from the home. For without right home conditions, including a sufficient supply of suitable and well-cooked food, boys and girls cannot have the strong bodies and clear minds needed for doing school work while they are children, and for their life-work as men and women. Think, then, how important to the nation it is that home-makers should have a knowledge of Domestic Science!
All knowledge comes by study and practice; a girl spends two years, at least, in fitting herself to teach; a boy, even longer in learning a business or trade. Is special preparation less necessary for home-making, which involves many kinds of work, some of them difficult, and which usually includes the noblest of all occupations, the care and training of children?
In studying Domestic Science, and particularly in studying Cookery, you will not only learn many interesting things that you would be unlikely to discover for yourself in doing housework at home, but you will find pleasure in the work itself. Because certain household duties may seem hard or unpleasant is no reason for considering house-work unworthy of attention. Some people make hard work of housekeeping by doing it in an unthinking way; when, by putting their minds upon it, they might discover how to make it easier and pleasanter. Only by treating housekeeping as an honorable employment, worthy of our best thought and skill, can we bring about conditions of health, comfort, and happiness in our homes.
It is true that there is less housework to be done than there used to be. Modern conveniences and the partial preparation of much of our food before we buy it lighten the housewife's burden. But more intelligence is needed to use these conveniences and select these foods.
It is true also that more women than formerly are doing work other than housekeeping. But all must eat, and therefore all young people, boys as well as girls, will find it worth while to learn about food, its preparation, and its uses in the body. For eating right is a help toward thinking and doing right.
Notable among American women is Ellen H. Richards, a professor of chemistry who devoted her life to solving household problems with the aid of science. She wrote: "The very essence of science is plasticity. If home life is to be saved, new forms must be found suitable for the time. The school of to-day must furnish the home of to-morrow with its weapons of defence. But the school of to-day must be in line with the scientific spirit of today, ever searching for the better way. Let us keep ever ready to take the next step. The right solution of keeping a happy healthy home will come at last."
For further development of topics treated in this section see: -
Mason : Woman's share in primitive culture. (Illustrations show primitive homes and home industries.)
Earle : Home life in colonial days.
Richards : Art of right living.
Beard : American citizenship. Ch. 2, Food, clothing, and shelter. Ch. 3, The family.
Terrill : Household management. Housekeeping a profession, pp. 5-16.
Hunt : Life of Ellen H. Richards.