When writing My Heart Will Find Yours I learned a lot about nineteenth-century kitchens.
Very few homes had an ice box, the kind where a block of ice was delivered to sit in an insulated reservoir in the top of the wooden structure. They were invented for home use in the 1840s, but it wasn't until the 1870s that the U.S. had ice plants that produced artificial ice. In the model seen here, the block would go in the unopened door to the left. As the ice melted the cold water flowed down the sides and kept the contents inside cool. Note the pan on the floor. Of course, in hot weather, the ice didn't last more than a couple of days. Owners had a sign with 25 lbs, 50 lbs, 75 lbs, and 100 lbs on each side. You'd prop the side up with the amount you needed out front so when the iceman came by he'd know what size block to bring in for you. This picture can be found in an online article titled Early Days of Refrigeration at www.lclark.edu/
I found an advertisement for a model almost identical to this one. No date was given but the price was $16.98.
My mother-in-law said that even in the early thirties they kept their perishables in a spring house, a small shed built over a spring. Food was covered with dish towels or cheese cloth to keep out flies and other pests, and the flowing water kept the room cool. Some homes had a larder which was a room on the coolest side of the house or in the cellar. None of these solutions would make modern homemakers happy, but folks back then didn't know any difference and the system worked for them.
No kitchen was complete without a cupboard or Hoosier. Here kitchen utensils were stored. Many had a flour bin (see above right in cabinet), a built-in sifter, a granite or tin top for rolling pie crusts and biscuit dough, and drawers for storage. Note the meat grinder attached to the left and the butter churn on the floor to the right with a wash board behind. Hopefully the homemaker had a sink with a hand pump with room to the side to stack clean dishes to dry. A shelf below would hold pails and a dish pan.
This picture was taken at the East Texas Oil Museum in Kilgore, Texas, and dates somewhere around the 1920s or 1930s. The design in these cupboards didn't change much over time so earlier models looked much like this one. Today cupboards or Hoosiers have become popular decorative additions to modern kitchens, as have old ice boxes. I'd love to have one but my kitchen is too small.
Last, but not least, in importance to the homemaker was the
wood cook stove. Before the cast iron kitchen stove was invented, women cooked over hearths with ovens built into the wall, if they were well-off, or outside in a fire pit. Both methods were hard on the back due to bending over to stir food in pots suspended from iron hooks. Cast iron pot bellied stoves, used mainly for heat, could be used for some cooking, but lucky was the woman who had a genuine kitchen cook stove like the one pictured here.
This is a restored model pictured at http://www.bryantstove.com/ Many models such as this one had a copper lined reservoir on the side to keep water warm for beverages, dishwater, or bathing. In my reading I noticed some even had a kick plate to open the oven door when hands were full. Some of these models were designed to use either wood or coal oil. Restored wood stoves are popular and being added to homes of individuals who like antiques and love to cook. They aren't for the person who wants to pop something in the oven and go about their business as the product must be watched carefully to make sure oven temperature is maintained. Also, they're quite expensive, between two and three thousand dollars.
Managing a house hold during this era wasn't for the weak. Just lifting those iron cooking vessels took a strength many modern women don't possess. But, I guess carrying buckets of milk from the barn, doing the wash in the yard using a scrub board, and their other daily chores built muscles.
Texanna, the heroine in my upcoming Cactus Rose novel, My Heart Will Find Yours, has to learn to cook in a Victorian kitchen. It would have been easier if she could cook in a twenty-first century one, but she's a take-out kinda gal. Below you'll find the blurb and a short excerpt. You can watch the book trailer at http://www.lindalaroque.com/
Fated lovers suffer the agony of loss only to be reunited to fulfill a greater plan.
TEXANNA KEITH doesn’t believe an antique locket is the key to time travel, but plays along, and to her horror, is zapped back to 1880 Waco, Texas. Her mission is to prevent Royce Dyson’s death in a shootout. Wounded, she loses what she longs for most — a life with Royce.
Marshall ROYCE DYSON’S wife disappeared in 1876. Now she’s reappeared, claiming she’s a time traveler from 2007. As he seeks the truth, he’s determined to keep Texanna with him, but it’s not destined to be.
Royce, buttoning his shirt, walked into the kitchen and grabbed the coffee pot. “Come here. I want to show you how to make coffee.”
“I know how to make coffee. With a Mr. Coffee.” She almost laughed at the look on his face.
“Well, I’m your Mr. Coffee so come here and pay attention.”
“I want to know where—”
“Come here and watch.” He grabbed her around the waist and pulled her to the sink.
“Okay, okay.” She’d watch, but then he’d better have some answers.
“Fill the pot with water up to here.” He showed her a line formed from mineral deposits. “Then add a huge scoop of coffee and some egg shells.” He reached into a bowl in the cabinet of the Hoosier and gathered a small handful. “Every time you use an egg, wash the shell and put it in that bowl.” He crushed them, and then dropped them into the pot. He stoked the fire, added wood, and closed the door. “Now, when the coffee starts boiling, let it boil a couple of minutes, and then move it from the flat iron. That way the coffee won’t taste burned.”
Texanna nodded. She could do that. “Okay, I think I can do that.” Stepping back from the stove, she crossed her arms under her breasts and asked, “Now, where’s my underwear?”
The face that had been smiling sobered. “What are you talking about? Do you mean those unmentionables you left hanging on the porch for anyone to come along and see?”
“Those would be the ones.”
“I burned them. They’re indecent.”
She wanted to screech like a banshee but kept her voice down. “You’re lying. Where are they? They’re all I’ve got to put on.”
“You have a drawer full of bloomers and chemises upstairs in the wardrobe.”
“I want my underwear, not those tacky things in the drawer upstairs.”
“They’re not decent. You’re not going to wear them again.”
“Well, I’m sure as hell not going to wear those ugly things upstairs. I’ll go bare-assed first!”
“Now see here, woman. That’s no way for a lady to talk.”
“Who said I was a lady?”
Royce’s face turned red. He was ready to blow. To avoid his anger, she turned and ran upstairs to get dressed.
Enjoy those modern conveniences!
~Romance with a twist in time~
A Law of Her Own available now at The Wild Rose Press