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“The grand parlor was the sanctum sanctorum, where the passion for cleaning was indulged without control. In this sacred apartment no one was permitted to enter excepting the mistress and her confidential maid, who visited it once a week, for the purpose of giving it a thorough cleaning — always taking the precaution of leaving their shoes at the door, and entering devoutly on their stocking-feet. After scrubbing the floor, sprinkling it with fine white sand, which was curiously stroked into angles, and curves, and rhomboids, with a broom—after washing the windows, rubbing and polishing the furniture, and putting a new bunch of evergreens in the fireplace—the window shutters were again closed to keep out the flies, and the room carefully locked up till the revolution of time brought round the weekly cleaning-day.”
Mrs. Grant fully confirms and emphasizes this account as applicable to the parlors of country-houses as well.
The kitchen was usually in a long rambling ell at one gable-end of the house, rarely in an ell at right angles to the main house; in it centred the picturesqueness of the farmhouse. It was a delightful apartment, bustling with activity, cheerful of aspect. On one side always stood a dresser.
“Every room was bright
With glimpses of reflected light
From plates that on the dresser shone.”
The shining pewter plates, polished like silver, were part of every thrifty housewife’s store; a garnish of pewter, which was a set of different-sized plates, was often her wedding-gift. Their use lingered till this century, and many pieces now are cherished heirlooms.
Methods of cooking and cooking utensils varied much from those of the present day. The great brick oven was built beside the fireplace; sometimes it projected beyond the exterior of the building. It had a smoke-uptake in the upper part, from which a flue connected with the fireplace chimney. It was heated by being filled with burning dry-wood called oven-wood. When the wood was entirely consumed, the ashes were swept out with an oven-broom called a boender. A Dutch oven, or Dutch kitchen, was an entirely different affair. This was made of metal, usually tin, cylindrical in form, and open on one side, which was placed next the fire. Through this ran a spit by which meat could be turned when roasting. A bake-kettle, or bake-pan, was a metal pan which stood up on stumpy legs and was fitted with a tightly fitting, slightly convex cover on which hot coals were placed. Within this bake-pan hot biscuit or a single loaf of bread or cake could be baked to perfection.