Things Well Worth Knowing


Hello everyone.  I’m coming off of a hectic week.  My local writer’s group, the NOLA STARs, held their annual conference this past weekend (had a great time!), and since I was co-chair of the event I’ve been head’s-down busy for the past several days.  (Side note – fellow filly Tracy Garrett was there so we had fun catching up with each other).

Anyway, I’m using this as an excuse to cheat a little.  Rather than drafting something original, I’m going to give you an excerpt form a 1902 cookbook titled Crumbs From Everybody’s Table.  This cookbook was compiled by Mrs. R.L.Porter and Mrs. H.S.Ball for the ladies of St. Paul’s Guild of Salinas, CA.

The dedication of this book is one I particularly love:  DEDICATED To those plucky Housekeepers who master their own work instead of letting it master them.

The excerpt I want to give you is not recipes but is instead taken from a section of household hints titled Things Well Worth Knowing.

  • To keep celery two weeks, roll it in a brown bag, then in a towel, and store n a cool place.  Before serving, place celery in a pan of ice-cool water for one hour
  • To restore curdled mayonnaise, place a tablespoon of butter in a round-bottomed pan and gradually work in the mayonnaise.
  • To prevent cracking and chipping of new enameled cooking utensils, keep the insides greased with butter.
  • To clean bottles, decanters, and glass jugs, cut a lemon into small pieces, put into the glass container with a little water, and shake vigorously.   A slice of potato may be substituted for the lemon.
  • To prevent glass from breaking when pouring hot water into glassware, first put in a silver spoon or fork, and then pour the liquid.  Allow the silver to remain in the glassware for a few minutes.
  • To ensure the best textured baked potato, leave the skin on and cut off a small piece at the end before placing in the oven.  When done, take the potato out with a cloth and pres all the sides well with hands
  • To prevent scalded milk form curdling, add a pinch of soda before cooking
  • To get rid of a fish bone stuck in the throat, immediately swallow a raw egg
  • To remove wine stains, pour boiling water on the splotch before it has time to dry, and then let it remain in boiling water for a few minutes.
  • To clean zinc, use a piece of soft flannel moistened with kerosene.  To clean badly tarnished brass, rub it  with salt and vinegar, or oxalic acid.  Wash with soap and water and then polish brass vigorously.
  • To freshen the air in a room, place half an ounce of spirits of lavender and a lump of salt of ammonia in a wide-mouthed jar and leave uncovered
  • To fix the colors in cotton goods, use salt.  Dissolve a pint of salt in 4 gallons of water and soak the garments for an hour.  The water must be kept cold.

I hope you enjoyed this little peek into the ingenuity of the housekeeper of yesteryear.

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Winnie Griggs is the author of Historical (and occasionally Contemporary) romances that focus on Small Towns, Big Hearts, Amazing Grace. She is also a list maker, a lover of dragonflies and holds an advanced degree in the art of procrastination.
Three of Winnie’s books have been nominated for the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award, and one of those nominations resulted in a win.
Winnie loves to hear from readers. You can connect with her on facebook at or email her at

22 thoughts on “Things Well Worth Knowing”

  1. Hi Winne, great post. I loved all these hints and helps! Boiling wine stains seems a bit extreme LOL. I am glad for Oxy-clean.

    I’m so happy you got to meet Tracy! Have a good week. oxoxoxoxox

  2. Great post Winnie.. I love these tips.. I like that one about how to clean bottles, etc. And thank god I never eat fish that has not been de-boned.. I would hate to have to swallow a raw egg..eeeeeh.

  3. Who knew you could restore curdled mayonaise? Not sure I’d be brave enough to try it. And the trick with the silver spoon in the hot water to keep the glass from breaking? I would love to know the science behind why that one works. Must have been very helpful in the days before Pyrex.

    Fun post, Winnie!

  4. Hi Winnie! It was wonderful to see you this weekend–boy, did you bstle around, though. It was a great conference, one I can recommend to everyone. Congratulations!

    I love the celery tip. I’m going to try it after I catch up on my grocery shopping this week.

  5. Winnie,
    Fun post. I love seeing household and cooking hints from years past. Some are valid, others…..
    Hope it doesn’t take too long to recover from the weekend.

  6. Tanya – Hi, glad you enjoyed the post. And yes, it was great fun visiting with Tracy

    Kathleen – Good morning. Isn’t it fun learning how things were done ‘back then’? I may have to use one or two of these in an upcoming book…

  7. Karen – LOL I’m with you there. If mayo curdles, I’d just as soon let it go. I’m not quite THAT thrifty.

    Patricia – Thanks. I slept for about 10 hours last night and think I’m ready to face the post-conference world now 🙂

  8. Winnie, this is fascinating. I’m going to print this out. Seems I always need to know some of these tips. Those ladies in the early days certainly saw a need for printing these. And the best way to make sure they were available was to place them in the back of recipe books. Very ingenious. I have an old cookbook and it’s such a goldmine of information. I wouldn’t part with it.

    Glad you enjoyed getting together with Tracy this past weekend. Wish I’d have been there. The NOLA conference is one of the best. I attended it one year and learned so much.

  9. Mary – LOL. Yes, sometimes the cure DOES seem worse than the affliction, doesn’t it?

    Linda – these little peeks into the everyday world of yesterday are intriguing aren’t they? Oh, and I wish you could have come this year. Maybe next time….

  10. Yuk on the curdled food lol. I wonder how a raw egg helps the fishbone? I’m guessing though that they knew what they were talking about!

  11. glad you had a good time at the conference!

    interesting tips…not sure i’ll use them…the mayonaise one made me laugh…ugh–can that be good for you?

  12. We have things so easy now – refrigeration, air freshners, detergents, etc. And if something like mayonnaise goes bad, we just throw it out and go buy more. Not like the old days.

    But the raw egg and fishbone thing…yuck!!!!

  13. Hi, Winnie! Interesting article. My mother and grandmother always put a table knife in the pitcher before pouring in the hot tea. I think the metal absorbs the heat faster than the glass and thus kept it from breaking. The pitcher I remember was something like depression glass.

    And our cure for the fishbone was light bread. Much nicer than a raw egg! 😉

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