Most of you who have followed this blog for years know that I am a huge reader. Over time I realize that my taste has turned from fiction to more practical and historical topics. I especially enjoy learning about the past–not just “history” as it is taught in the schools, but the “domestic history” of how people actually went about their day to day lives. That’s why I enjoyed the BBC One series like “Wartime Farm” and “Victorian Pharmacy”— They actually delve into how people lived, worked, and ate.
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I think there is a lot we can learn from the past. Sure, a lot of it is dated, but there is also a lot of good information that has been forgotten or lost. So my new goal with TV Thursday is to share a wealth of vintage films (I’ve got a list of over one thousand. Really) that families, homemakers, or just the curious will find interesting. Let’s see what we might learn!
The very first is this video the USDA (that’s the United States Department of Agriculture) produced in 1949 on how to create a step saving kitchen. From what I’ve gathered, there was a real problem around the turn of the century with women wearing themselves out with house and farmwork, to the detriment of their health. Saving time and energy for the farm or housewife was actually a public health issue. I was even told by a member of the local cooperative extension that there was a study in the early part of the 1900’s where they had farm wives wear a step counter to show them how much they were actually walking during a day (they were trying to get them to accept that changing the way they did things to save energy would improve their health and quality of life).
Another interesting (to me at least) point about this timeframe (as opposed to say the mid 1800’s–yes, I have cookbooks & domestic manuals I’ve read from that time) is that this is the time frame when society at large started to take homemaking seriously, as something that could be studied, improved upon and taught as a SCIENCE or discipline. The advances that were being made in the scientific process, in manufacturing (ie time and efficiency studies) started to be applied to home life. Home Economics as we think of it (I know, it’s mostly disappeared into the morass of “FACS”) didn’t emerge as a field until the 1910-1920s. So the makers of this film emphasized the research that was behind all their recommendations.
I thought there were a lot of great information in this video. Some of the ideas presented as new have become so common that I didn’t realize they were “innovative” at one time. Like putting a picture window over the sink, or creating corner cabinets that rotated.
Other ideas easily can be adapted to modern life–I know I really liked the pull out board work surface. There is no way for me to retrofit one into my kitchen, but I realized if I pulled out the second drawer down on my kitchen cabinets, one of my big wooden cutting boards just fit across the top and I could sit at it and do certain tasks (I don’t have an eat in kitchen, so I have to do tasks either at counter level, which is high for me, or on the dinning room table one room over, which is my “good” dinning room table & chairs-not the best for messy tasks). I do admit to being very curious about what exactly she is doing with those boxes, plastic bags and iron. It’s obviously some form of food preservation, but they don’t mention it at all. I guess whatever it was would have been common knowledge to farm wives in 1949. . .
I was also fascinated by the pot built into the stove. Apparently that was a thing for a while, utilized a bit like a slow cooker.
So what did you think? Does this kitchen bring back any memories? What ideas got you thinking about ways to save time and energy in your own kitchen?
Wondering what TV Thursday is all about, and how to best watch YouTube Videos on your computer or TV? Check out my post “TV Thursday & Tips“.