Tag Archives: home economics

Home Sweet Home

“Why does everyone want to go away? I love being home.” Claire Danes as Beth March in Little Women

I’ve always been the kind of person who enjoys staying home instead of traveling or going out a lot. This is why I’ve taken especially great care to make my home as vacation-like and comfortable as possible (slip-covered sofa, linen sheets, fluffy towels, etc.) with minimal possessions and clutter. I enjoy cooking, listening to music, reading, and writing–all activities conducive to a quiet, home environment. That is not to say I don’t enjoy being outside, I just think you don’t need to travel as far as you think you do to enjoy it.

The theme of home and enjoying the home in history is the prevalent theme in the following books, the fifth in my on-going series of highly recommended historical non-fiction.

  At Home: a Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson. The American author of the hilarious A Walk in the Woods and In a Sunburned Country has made his home in England for many years now and finds himself living in a charming historic parsonage built in 1851. With that, he launches into researching his humble little abode as well as the history of each room in the modern house. He writes with wry (British?) humor about the beginnings of the home kitchen, dining room, cellar, and attic to name but a few of the chapters. Insightful, calming, and informative as always, this is Bryson at his best.

Finding Betty Crocker: the Secret Life of America’s First Lady of Food by Susan Marks. Marks explores the history of the fictional home icon, from her original history as a helpful advice columnist penned by the women of the Home Service Department of the Washburn Crosby Company of Minneapolis in the 1920s to her soaring popularity on radio and television in the 1950s where she popularized fast dinners on the table for modern housewives. A fascinating look at both the history of home economics as well as the beginnings of the convenience food industry.

 Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950s America by Laura Shapiro. This book is very similar in topic to the above title but broader, spotlighting some famous women in culinary as well as home economics history–like chef Julia Child,  food editor and author Poppy Cannon, and feminist Betty Friedan–and how they shaped the ideas of the family dinner, so-called convenience foods, and housework. Did you know that women were initially very skeptical of them, feeling they were “cheating” and, thus, not really truly cooking?  It’s also an interesting history of the food production and preservation industry and how World War II shaped its future.

Inside the Victorian Home: a Portrait of Domestic Life in Victorian England by Judith Flanders. What a  fascinating book! Everything you ever wanted to know about the daily home life and culture of the Victorian period in England. Similar to Bryson’s book, this goes into much more detail and describes the rooms in tandem with the lives and customs of middle-class Victorians. Never flinching on real life dirt and hard work, Flanders book is a treasure trove of information.

~Maria, who is a huge fan of staycations

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Collection Highlight du jour

I’m thinking of a nonfiction category at CLP—Main that contains more than 6000 books. Gardening? A catalog keyword search turns up 1839 titles. World War II? 2234 titles.

Maybe by now you’ve sniffed out my subject area du jour—cookbooks. The 6,303 titles in the stacks on the First Floor don’t even include new cookbooks. Those less than a year old are shelved with other new non-fiction in the main room of the First Floor.

Each month patrons check out between 800 and 1200 of these cookbooks. Individual books borrowed more than 100 times include Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni (1980), Sundays at Moosewood Restaurant (1980), New Chinese Vegetarian Cooking by Kenneth Lo (1986), and The Greens Cookbook: Extraordinary Vegetarian Cuisine from the Celebrated Restaurant by Deborah Madison (1987).

Last week I attended a staff presentation given by our librarians who tend the TXs (that’s Library of Congress classification-speak for home economics books). Joanne and Karen work diligently to select, organize, and promote this grand collection.

Here are highlights of Joanne and Karen’s talk, in no particular order.

Library Journal reported that cookbooks overtook medicine and health for the top spot in nonfiction circulation in public libraries last year. I’m not surprised that cookbooks circulate so frequently. Cookbooks provide welcome inspiration for breaking out of the dinner doldrums. And if your home library has a TX shelf, you know that cookbooks are expensive. Borrowing a cookbook to try a recipe before investing in the volume is smart.

—Julie

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