While the world is abuzz about the Duchess of Sussex “stepping back” from her royal duties (seriously, though, I didn’t see that coming and apparently neither did the Queen!) I’ve stepped back in time and from the fancification of Duchess potatoes with this simple, frugal 1915 recipe found inside a Portland, Maine elementary school book. All that is required to make these tasty little puffs are three ingredients plus salt and pepper for seasoning.
“A snug and a clean home, no matter how tiny it be, so that it be wholesome; windows into which the sun can shine cheerily; a few good books (and who need be without a few good books in these days of universal cheapness?)–no duns at the door, and the cupboard well supplied, and with a flower in your room! There is none so poor as not to have about him these elements of pleasure.” -Samuel Smiles, Eliza Cook’s Journal, 1850
There was a lone late October rose growing on one of the bushes that I cut and placed in a stem vase today. I came across the above quote minutes afterward! It really speaks to me. One doesn’t need to be poor or have a large, modern kitchen to enjoy the many riches to be found in the simple things! Here are some more gifts I’m appreciating right now:
I purchased the vintage 1950s percolator above new in the box at a rummage sale three summers ago for $1 and I’ve made wonderful coffee in it every morning since. It’s a relic from an era when things were made to last. Now planned obsolescence is part of our consumer economy over which we have little control forcing us to spend and trash, spend and trash.
Most recently I had to buy a new computer (and may have to upgrade my Office for an annual subscription fee of $70 [you can’t just buy Office 365], subject to price increases, of course). When I bought my house ten years ago the wall oven died shortly thereafter because a computer component malfunctioned and they stopped manufacturing the replacement. The entire oven was therefore trash. My washing machine stopped functioning properly a few years ago, and that, too, was due to a computer part that was no longer available. The replacement cost for both combined was about $2,000, all due to planned obsolescence.
When it’s possible to not pay into “the cost of living in today’s world” I’m on it! Here are some recent examples:
I have many roles in my life, of course, but I see “homemaker” as part of my identity. It’s not a consolation prize or because I’m not empowered. Now when asked about what I do for work, instead of telling people only about my for-profit pursuits as a self-employed person I’m now also sharing that I’m a homemaker. I even added it to my LinkedIn profile! The conversation usually goes something like this:
“I love cooking and cleaning! When Wayne comes home he has a hot, nutritious dinner made from scratch waiting for him on the table.”
I sometimes get a look, so I follow up with: “You know, like June Cleaver.”
“Well as long as it’s a choice,” is a common response, or a variation along the lines of concern that I’m fallen prey to antiquated societal dictates. No. Well yes less the dictates. It is a conscious choice! Is it so odd for a woman to consciously choose to find joy in house work or apartment work, wherever you live work? Does that make one a vapid throwback?
Take thrift, that presumed state of misery and penny-pinching. Proper Yankee thrift, on the contrary, feels delicious. In my experience there is a kind of nausea that attends too long a time of buying too many clothes for too much money; of paying more for restaurant dinners than they are worth; of disgorging lavish tips for which one is not even thanked (as who doesn’t have to, these days).
This past Sunday on the way to church Wayne and I stopped at the flea market, or rather, he sat in the car to read the New Yorker as I made my rounds. I had decided earlier in the week that the antique primitive jelly cupboard that I had repurposed into a shoe closet in my home office is too glorious to not be in my kitchen. I simply needed to find three antique crates that would stack nicely to coordinate with the others I had to take its place.
While I think it’s a sin to pray for material possessions, especially luxury wishes, the flea market fairies with whom I had shared my wishes delivered in a very crafty way! The price was right and I carried my new treasure all the way back to the car which, true to a flea find, was dusty and a bit dirty. It left some light soiling on my chinos as it brushed up against my legs as I walked. Yikes! I quickly decided it was simply a patina on my pants and it was fine for church.
We live in a culture of RENOVATE! UPDATE! BE ON TREND! with the specific dictates changing frequently. We’re confronted with TV shows where a perfectly serviceable kitchen is perceived as some sort of ugly moral failing followed by gleeful smashing it to pieces (instead of salvaging and donating it) to make room for whatever their sponsor/producer/unchecked budget is providing them. Online “influencers” show off their HGTV-worthy homes that are often renovated with a high frequency. It can be easy to feel like there’s something wrong with good enough if it’s not fashionable.
Here’s my first of many batches of homemade sauce using a variety of tomatoes from our garden. There’s something somewhat controversial and extra healthy about it, however: I don’t remove the tomato skins! Most if not all recipes will tell you to remove them, but they break down as they cook so they blend right in with the sauce. More importantly, your body will appreciate it because the skins contain a high concentration of carotenoids and flavonols, both of which are antioxidants.