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Notes from the Paynesville Historical Society. . .

Kitchens are still the center of a home

By Dolores Hislop

The kitchen was an important part of every household and from there came the meals, conversation, and the general day-to-day running of the household.

From some of the older books that are in the museum, come some general ideas for establishing the kitchen. An admonition was to always furnish the kitchen well and systemize everything to bring order to the kitchen area. Also, there should be lights placed at each end of the sink so the area is well-lighted in the evening and not less than three large windows are desirable for the kitchen.

For the kitchen worker, "a large kitchen apron should be made full length with bib and sleeves, if wished, and the skirt to button close around the dress." One book also stated that the apron should have pockets in which to place the potholder so it would be handy to use on hot pots.

The kitchen range was wood fired so the directions for starting the fire and keeping the stove clean and in good cooking condition are given in several books. The wood range came into more common use around 1885 and was to replace the fireplace as the cooking area for the household. The 1885 range had no warming oven or warm water reservoir. However, by 1900 the kitchen range had a reservoir and warming closet with steel stove lids and nickel plated trimmings. The stove kept evolving from kerosene to gasoline and finally, by 1924, the electric range was starting to be used. Most stoves were a combination of electric, and either coal or wood, which enabled the use of the stove under different conditions.

The ice box was used to keep cold items around the 1900s. By 1916, an electric refrigerator was first tested and by 1925 was on the market. Our refrigerators of today are still based on this early refrigerator design and operation.

The kitchen at the museum has numerous items displayed in it and among those are cookbooks. The cookbooks contain recipes, as our book of today, plus they gave advice on running a household, caring for the sick, and keeping healthy. The lady of the household was expected to have a knowledge of many topics and this was incorporated into one book of useful advice. We still see some of the "hints" in the modern cookbooks of today. The recipes contained in the cookbooks are the usual kind for cakes, cookies, meats, and the preserving of jams and jellies.

One cookbook I like in particular is "Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping," copyright 1877, because it is dedicated "To the Plucky Housewives of 1876 who master their work instead of allowing it to master them." What a wonderful way to begin a book to help the lady of the house to do a good job in all of the aspects of housekeeping.

We have several items at the museum that are featured in this article. The early wood cooking stove with the portable oven, the later stove with the hot water reservoirs, and other stoves are in the exhibit. The cookbooks on display also range from the early ones of 1876 to the modern cookbooks of today.

The museum will be closing Saturday, Aug. 31, for the season. Mark Braun and I thank all of you who have come this past summer and have donated items or helped in any way to keep the museum active. We have enjoyed working here and showing you the history of Paynesville.

Bertha Zniewski, the curator, can be contacted for any museum concerns until it opens next June. Her phone number is 320-243-4433.

See you next year!

Author's note: Information for this article was taken from several books located at the Paynesville Historical Museum - The New Buckeye Cookery, Part 5, The 20th Century Cookbook, Buckeye Cookery and Practical Housekeeping, and A History of Man's Progress.