I N T R O D U C T I O N
THREE MEALS A DAY
This is the title of a cookbook which was owned by my motherís Aunt Prudy (Mrs. Prudence Putnam Bent) who lived between Brownville and Chaumont, N. Y. The title page of the book is now missing, but her name is written in the fly page. A couple of pages of recipies have been written on the blank pages before the Foreword. I recall seeing a date of 1880 on this cookbook. This cookbook ended up in my parents' household and had been a part of it ever since I can remember. My mother had a huge "kitchen cabinet" which sold at our auction for $900-some -- I surely hated to see it go -- because it was a beauty. Well, in the recipe compartment of the unit, this old book held reign....yes, "Aunt Prudy's Cookbook."
The word cookbook is a misnomer because it is much more than a cookbook. It is in essence a household bible -- probably a much treasured wedding gift of its day. Itís loaded with eye-opening recipes, house cleaning tips, laundry and care of clothing, soap-making, items on invalid care, how to make sickroom rememdies, medicine and tonics and dyes. Thereís a section on personal care, cosmetics, and hair coloring and much, much more. How could any newly wed do without this book!
As I started out reproducing this book to electronic form, I ran into the section on tonics -- you know the spring tonics one heard about from the old days. Then, I happened to think about how these tonics must have been different, according to where one lived in this country. We were told, when we Northern New Yorkers moved to Ohio, that a tonic of ramps was very prevalent in the Akron area where we first lived. I still donít know what a ramp is, but from hearing the conversations, they were something like a very strong onion which people from the area, for years and years, went on a trek to W. Virginia to get. Well, the tonics youíll find in this book didnít speak of ramps.
As I thumbed through the book a little more and noticed the sick room items, I was reminded of the information on the obit of my husbandís blood-line grandfather, a man right from Italy, who died during the 1918 influenza epidemic.: "He was taken sick a week ago and his condition had been critical the past six days. It was impossible to secure for him the medical attention needed and the home remedies administered by relatives failed to relieve his condition. A mattress had been placed over him to cause him to sweat and keep him warm and he was found in this condition by the undertaker.Ē The young, care-giver wife, was not directly from Italy, but undoubtedly the older generation around her at the time, was. Then, I thought how interesting a probe into the home remedies of others countries would be; but for now, weíll explore this book and gain a more compassionate understanding of the struggles and hardships of our immediate ancestors. We will feel the pain, so to speak, of those conditions which led to their deaths at ages much earlier than those reached today. The reasons for death on the obits and death certificates which weíve worked so hard to dig up, will deserve another dimension of respect.
Before I submit to letting you browse, it might be thought-provoking to remember the "maids and servants" listed on the census for some of our ancestors. If they worked for the more wealthy citizens, they undoubtedly were committed to some of the practices you will read about in sections such as "The Table" and "Canning." I know this was the case with Aunt Prudy's half-sister who worked all her life in Watertown for doctors and lawyers. I just can't imagine Mom's shy "Aunt Lib" being able to keep command of a household while meeting such strict conformities. These maids and servants surely had to work hard. And, I promise you, once you read through some of this material, you will not find yourself complaining about much of anything. How fortunate we are!
The format of presentation is evolving and at this point I've find myself chasing my tail as far as structure is concerned. Ole Shirley never works with a plan. For now, go to the URL for the Index to Three Meals A Day (it's at the end of this Introduction -- under the My Family.com ad) Index - Three Meals A Day-- click on your favorite topic and hope something is there. Some topics will be void of material for awhile. I hope to add a little to each section as time permits -- so come back often to see if I have anything new in your favorite section.
If you have any related stories to tell or reminiscences from your childhood, please drop me a line. I always enjoy hearing from you.
February 20, 2001Return to Index - Three Meals A Day
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