Thursday, 12 February 2015

The Social History of Crafting and The Home


I find social history so interesting. I am always sure to get raised eyebrow and an elongated "okaaaay" from the seller or fellow shopper I get into conversation with at the library book sale, second hand book shop or market.  Interest in this topic is not rare of course, but those who are not interested cannot seem to fathom why someone would pay a couple of pounds for a tatty old Marguerite Patten budget cookbook from the 70s with advice on hayboxes and turning leftovers into hors d'oeuvres to produce really simple and truly budget humble meals; why would anyone want The Complete Homemaker above, first published in 1972 and a true compendium of furnishing patterns, intensely orange and yellow photographs of laughing young couples in knitted tank-tops and huge stiff collars, and a chapter on the legalities of getting married?

Me. 

And I am sure quite a few of you all too!

And anyway... who could resist such highlights from The Complete Homemaker as...

  • A sub-chapter entitled "What is a Freezer?"
  • "Running a household for the first time can be a daunting experience; there's a budget... to be adhered to, a new husband to be fed... And nowadays, more often than not, all of this has to be done in an addition to a full-time job!"
  • "Should you get held up or...arriving on the doorstep at the same time as your guests... you haven't failed if everything doesn't go like clockwork.  Sometimes a casserole will take longer to cook than the recipe says or the potatoes will seem never to become tender. Your husband can help out here...; he can offer them a drink or open a bottle of wine while you complete things in the kitchen."  -  Thanks, love!
  • "The most basic of the husband's traditional duties in marriage... is to 'provide' for his wife- at least all the necessities commensurate with the family's life style."
Perhaps the social history after the 50s is less of an interest than that of the War Years and before.  The past 65 years are in living memory of a lot of people, many of whom do not wish to remember tight years of striking and budget recipes or at best trying to block out fashions they even found hideous the first time around!  I loved home stories of my parents and grandparents even as a child though, it striking me how many little and big things have changed as well as those things that stay the same.

I do like to read books on domestic social history, such as Marguerite Patten's Victory Cookbook or her Century of British Cooking and more, or one of my very favourites... "Cattern Cakes and Lace" with the traditional recipes, glimpses into the ancient lives of folk in Britain, and photographs of beautiful delicate lacework.  But the primary sources are something I like to gather too, and think about all those people who used it first time around, wondering which recipes or patterns they tried.

My most favourites finds:
The Daily Mail Cookery Book, edited by Mrs C.S. Peel, 1924
The Complete Homemaker, edited by Isabel Moore, 1976
Cattern Cakes and Lace A Calendar of Feasts by Julia Jones and Barbara Deer, 1987
Good Cooking on a Budget by Marguerite Patten, 1972
Cannon Cookbook, 12th edition, published 1950

I am so glad we live in an age in which can enjoy all of these books and have also seen such change in the way we all share crafts and homemaking.  In the past we were reliant on books and local interest groups.  Now there is the world at our fingertips, and we can instantly access a pattern for what we need, advice from the author, share our own knowledge and discoveries, and I am thankful for it!

What are your favourite social history sources?  I would love to hear what your favourite books on the subject are!


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