Furnishing the kitchen is often looked upon as quite of secondary importance; but, instead of being last and least, it ought to be first and foremost, for a cook cannot be expected to send up a good dinner without proper utensils, any more than a carpenter can turn out a piece of furniture without proper tools. It is no doubt a great mistake to have many things in use, for a bad servant will have every one dirty before she begins to wash up, and a good servant will have a lot of work in keeping them clean and in good order. There are a few utensils, not at all expensive, which are a great aid to the cook and a saving of time too, and yet from some cause or other are seldom found in an ordinary kitchen. Before glancing at these we might consider what is the best covering for the floor. There is no doubt that deal boards well scrubbed look nicer than anything else, but to keep them spotless involves a lot of labour, and as this is not always to be had, perhaps the wisest plan is to cover it with oilcloth or linoleum; a good medium quality can be bought for 3s. 3d. a square yard, and if properly laid will last for years. By the way, it should not be washed, but only rubbed with a damp cloth first and then with a piece of flannel dipped in oil soda and scrubbing will ruin it very quickly. If the cupboard accommodation is scanty the dresser should be bought with cupboards underneath; in this case it will cost about three pounds, but if without cupboards one pound ten shillings. A deal table is the best, and this must be kept white with constant scrubbing; while the cookery is going on a piece of oil baize might be laid over it. Pearson’s carbolic sand soap will remove any grease spots very quickly; the paste board and rolling pin can also be kept white in the same way. It will be found an advantage to have two or three French or butchers’ knives for cooking purposes, instead of using the dinner knives. These can be bought from 1s. 6d. each; they are stronger and take a better edge than ordinary knives. Wooden and iron spoons will be found cheaper and better than using table spoons as these latter are soon ruined if used for stirring; cookery spoons cost about 3d. each; two of each would be found sufficient. A conical strainer is more convenient and useful than the round ones so generally used. For mixing bowls the agate iron are the best; they are a little more expensive in the first place than the yellow earthenware, but they are unbreakable, and therefore cheaper in the end; they cost about 4s. 6d. each. A small sausage machine is very necessary, for by means of this useful contrivance many scraps of meat and bread can be utilized; the cost of one is 10s. 6d. A pestle and mortar, too, will be found of great use in making up odds and ends into dainty tit-bits; these, too, cost about 10s. 6d. Wire and hair sieves are invaluable for preparing soups and many other dishes; sieves with a wooden rim will be found the most durable; they cost 2s. 6d. Each. Agate iron saucepans are light and durable and very easy to keep clean; they are much better than the blue enamelled ware, as they do not burn so readily or chip so soon. Frying pans are nice, too, of the same ware. A set each of wire and metal dish-covers must not be forgotten; the latter should be of plain blocked tin, and as the fluted ones soon get shabby, these should be well washed inside and out with scouring soap and polished with Goddard’s plate powder. A French fryer is invaluable; it will cost 7s. 6d. Three or four pounds of dripping clarified should be put at first; this will require straining. After being used once or twice, the fryer should then be washed out with soda water, well dried, and the fat put back; it can be renewed from time to time with some fresh fat, and it will keep good for weeks. When it looks very dark throw it away and start with a fresh lot of fat; it can be used for fish, rissoles, fritters, &c., and one can never tell that anything has been fried in it before, if it attains the right heat before the FRITURE is put in. It should be between boiling water heat (212 degrees) and boiling fat (600 degrees), 385 degrees being exactly right, and can be tested by dropping in a small piece of bred. If it browns instantly it is ready; whatever is put into it will fry in two or three minutes. Food cooked in this way will not be so greasy and indigestible as it often is if cooked in a frying pan.
And now, last and most important of all, the stove; for although we may do without a great many things which are nice and useful to have, without a stove it is impossible to cook well. It may be for gas, wood, or coal, but it must act well. Gas stoves are extremely simple, clean, and easy to use, there are no flues to get choked, and in towns where gas is cheap it is no doubt the easiest and pleasantest heat to use. To keep them clean and sweet they should be well washed inside and out with soda and water at least once a week and polished with a little Electric black lead. The flues of wood and coal stoves should be thoroughly cleansed out once a week, and the oven cleansed with soap and soda; this is very necessary work, for if the ovens are not clean whatever is cooked in them will be spoilt. A little thoughtful care in these matters will often prevent much trouble when cooking. Let a housekeeper, therefore, thoroughly master her stove first, and understand the flues and dampers, for only in this way will she be able to successfully cook the dishes she has skilfully prepared. Cleanliness and care in respect of the stove and kitchen utensils generally are as necessary to success as knowing the right materials to use and how to put them together, and every one who can cook a dinner should also know how to clean and keep in good order the stove and all culinary utensils. Order and neatness must reign in the kitchen as well as in the drawing-room, and it will help greatly to bring about this desirable state of affairs if all utensils are cleansed and put away immediately they are finished with, for it is much easier to wash them then than if left dirty for some time. As soon as the contents of a saucepan have been dished, fill it with cold water, add a lump of soda, and stand it on the stove till hot; it can then be washed up in a few minutes. Plates and dishes should at once be put into a bowl of hot or cold water; treat spoons and forks in the same way. Knives, wipe at once, and clean as soon as possible. A damp cloth rubbed with Monkey soap will do wonders in removing stains and dust; these, if left for a time, are hard to get off, and the kitchen, which ought to be bright and cheerful, soon has a greasy, dirty look.
Some of us can call to mind delightful old kitchens in country houses, which were a pleasure and a joy to both mistress and maids, where bright copper stewpans reflected the blazing fire on all sides, and metal covers shone like mirrors; while as for “eating off the floor,” one might certainly do it if so inclined, without the “peck of dirt” at once.
How cosy and delightful everything seems in a kitchen like this, and what visions can we not see of home-made bread and cakes, well-cooked joints, succulent vegetables, delicious puddings, dainty dishes of all kinds concocted with skilful fingers! And why should not these visions turn into substantial realities? They will do so if women will consider it a pleasure, instead of a degradation, to “look well to the ways of her household,” and establish a system of order and neatness from cellar to garret. When this happy time comes she will be “emancipated” from many cares and have more leisure to cultivate her intellect than she has now. Surely “a study which helps” to make cheerful homes and healthy, well-conducted, “prosperous citizens is worth at least a trial.”
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:53