Ah, Meal Planning the Old Fashioned Way, and a Give Away!

I could not “think out” a dinner my husband could eat without a cookery book, nor could I apportion out the righteous need of rations to each individual member of my household without having some indisputable precedent to go by, and this latter I found in Mrs. Beeton’s admirable ‘Book of Household Management.’ Or so says Mrs. Pender Cudlip, writing in the 1880s magazine, The Modern Housewife.
In other words, if she didn’t have a cookbook she was up a creek when it came to meal planning.
Hi! Kit Morgan here. As folks are doing a lot more cooking nowadays, I thought it would be fun to take a look back and see how things were done in the late 1800s.

If you happen to be a woman married to a man of means and could afford a cook, your culinary knowledge gained by reading and observing other people’s dinner tables came in handy when you had to discuss with your cook the meals of the day. This ceremony was done usually fifteen minutes after breakfast in either your morning room or library or whichever room you happen to be and summoned the cook to you. If your cook happened to be less experienced or new, this was your chance to comment on the previous day’s meals, give your advice on upcoming meals and otherwise impress your new employee with your culinary prowess. Even you couldn’t boil water. A lot of women read cookbooks back then. We’re not talking women the likes of Downton Abbey. Lady Grantham was married to an earl, remember. Our lady of means might be married to a prominent businessman or banker. At any rate, she aimed to know her stuff and one of those things was cooking, even though she wasn’t the one doing it.

In fact, many mistresses of their domains who couldn’t boil an egg to save their life, were very good at teaching their cooks what to do. They knew the correct food to have, the sauces that went with them, and how everything should taste. It wasn’t until after WW1 and the subsequent shortage of servants that they had to put their money where their mouths were and actually start cooking themselves. If they were really lucky, their daughters would have had a few cooking lessons at school.

In houses of far lesser means where there was no meeting with a cook, (namely, because there wasn’t one) the mistress of her humble abode went to the kitchen after breakfast in the dining room and got to work. She had to look in the larder and check what cold meat and pastry was uneaten, and, based on her meal planning, order what was needed to complete her meals for the next few days. She just had to make sure she got her foodstuffs back to the house in time to receive morning visitors. She might not have a cook but by golly, she had the manners of the day and adhered to them. She might even have a maid!

In smaller houses that did have a cook, the mistress came down to the kitchen to see her. The cook, therefore, had to make sure that the kitchen was spotless, with a white cloth placed at the end of the table and a slate or a menu book and pencil placed on the cloth. if you were a kitchenmaid, you were banished from the kitchen during these meetings.

A cook’s morning work int he kitchen consisted of making pastries, jellies, creams, or the more fancy dishes. After dishing up the dining room luncheon, she had the afternoon to herself. That is if there was no large dinner party to prepare for. Her busiest time was about five minutes to nine in the evening when she was dishing up dinner. This was always a tense atmosphere, trying to get everything just so, and it was worse if there were guests. Everything had to be organized and act as a finely oiled machine. Heaven forbid she burn something!

And to think we’re ecstatic when we get to order a pizza!

Have you done a lot of cooking over the last month? Not much has changed for me and my routine, but I know for quite a few, they are cooking more than ever. I’ll pick a random comment to receive a free e-copy of Dear Mr. White, one of the finest cooks in my story world!

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Kit Morgan is the author of over 100 books of historical and contemporary western romance! Her stories are fun, sweet stories full of love, laughter, and just a little bit of mayhem! Kit creates her stories in her little log cabin in the woods in the Pacific Northwest. An avid reader and knitter, when not writing, she can be found with either a book or a pair of knitting needles in her hands! Oh, and the occasional smidge of chocolate!

42 thoughts on “Ah, Meal Planning the Old Fashioned Way, and a Give Away!”

  1. Good morning Kit- Yes I’ve been cooking quite a bit more now that I’m homebound. I love to cook, but I love working outside the house more. I’m so ready to go back to work and have my normal routine back.

    • I must admit, nothing much has changed for me. But then I live in an isolated area here in the woods so can get outside as much as I want. I never went to town but a couple of times a week, and I write my socks off the rest of the time. But I do feel for everyone not used to such a routine!

  2. Good Morning. I cook most evey night even with out the quarantine. Thats my routine. Love your post have a great day.

  3. Yes I’m still cooking but I haven’t pulled out a cookbook in years . I try to just order out on the weekend and cook on Sunday. I have my mothers old cookbook. I laughed as a recipe for Chicken Salad actually tells me how to kill the chicken in great detail!! Needless to say we don’t make Chicken Salad at our house .

    • I’ve tried a few new things just because everyone else is and the internet is a buzz with recipes! But ordering out is nice, too! And man, I’d love to see that cookbook of your mom’s! I wonder what else is in it?

  4. Hello Kit,
    I enjoyed reading your post and learning things. No, since I’m a stay at home mom I don’t cook any more than I have before since I cook every night anyway. I have made some new recipes and done more baking than usual though.

    • That’s nice that you’re supporting your local restaurants. We try to support ours too. One little place came up with the idea of making just one dinner on Friday nights. You order throughout the week so they know how much to make, then just pick it up on Friday evening. Last Friday half the town had bagel dogs for dinner!

  5. Good morning. I have MS and I’m on disability so my routine has not changed much at all. I’m not cooking much more than I usually would be. I do miss eating out a time or two a month with both my daughters and going to second hand stores and antique stores with them. I also miss just strolling through Walmart picking out my own groceries and having access to everything that is normally available to purchase. I love to cook but I often wonder what is going on in households that normally rarely eat a homecooked meal at home. I also wonder if the ladies that always say that can’t cook if they’ve found that they really can or if cook after all or their families are truly suffering right now. Prayers for the families that are struggling to feed their families right now because they’re unemployed and haven’t received any benefits as of yet. Stay safe!

    • There are a lot of women nowadays that don’t cook or know how. But they’re definitely learning through this! And yes, we want to be praying for those families struggling at this time. I wish someone could come up with an idea to get the food the farmers are having to get rid of to food banks instead. That would help a lot!

      • I wish people could get that needed food too! I hope the farmers are at least letting it be known in their area that people can come get some of their crops that can’t be shipped out. The fact that food is being dumped when there are people that are struggling to eat is just heart breaking!

  6. Due to morning sickness, my sweet husband is the one cooking most of our meals. I so appreciate that he can follow a recipe, and is willing to do something he doesn’t enjoy to help me out.

  7. I live in the kitchen. When spring finally comes to Minnesota, I begin cooking over a campfire or on a charcoal grill. This year, since we can’t travel to Campground’s around our USA, I make campfires at home to enjoy the sunshine after a long winter. Plus, of course, to read a good book. I’ve even learned to make desserts over a campfire, and I’m not talking about s’mores either. Thanks Kit for such an interesting blog today. Loved reading it!

    • Ohhh, you must use a dutch oven for your desserts? My brother is our dessert person when the whole family goes camping. He can make all sorts of things in that dutch oven!

  8. I have always cook a lot but I am cooking more now.We have ordered pizza a couple of times but other then that I cook. I have even been cooking some breakfast which is something I hardly ever done.

    • Yeah, the only time we cook breakfast is on Sunday, and then it’s my sister doing the cooking. But nothings changed in our routine, other than the occasional pizza!

  9. Good morning. We are doing our usual routine. Nothing special going on here. We did however rearrange the house in the kitchen and livingroom. My husband opened up the entranceway for the front door and made it easier to come in by removing the closet. Thank you for sharing.

    • Makes me wonder how many other people have re-arranged furniture in their house, Charlene. It’s nice to do so now and then. I bet it feels nice to have the extra room in your entranceway!

  10. Good morning Kit.

    We have been doing a lot more cooking. And since hubby and I are both home, that now includes breakfast, lunch and dinner. And that leads to dishes, dishes, dishes.

    Another challenge is that when grocery shopping, I typically have a list for the week’s menus. But, I find I often have to alter that due to lack of availability of items I used to take for granted … like eggs, ground beef and many other items.

    • Thankfully we haven’t run short of too many thing in my little town. Well, other than TP! The rice disappeared one week and some soups were low but that’s about it. And I hear you on the dishes!

  11. Good morning Kit. Nice to have you here. This is a great post. Not much has changed in the way of cooking for my husband and I. Other than not finding everything in the stores so changing the recipes a bit. All the changed ones so far have turned out wonderful. For many years I would make double/triple batches of things and freeze one batch with the Food Saver. Both my husband and I love left overs. And pulling things out of the freezer for the next weeks lunches/dinners has been wonderful.

    • Freezing left overs is always so handy! My sister will make extra big batches of spaghetti sauce and freeze it so its ready to go when we’re in the mood for pasta. Makes life easier at meal time for sure!

  12. I’m cooking just as much as I was before! I have ordered pizza once, and will do so again next month. I’m also ordering take out from a local restaurant once a week, about every other week, so I don’t blow my budget and yet can do my little part to help them stay open!

    • Glad to hear you’re helping out the local restaurants. We had a wonderful little deli in town, but she closed it up early as her husband has some health issues, and has now closed it for good. Its sad so many are having to do the same thing.

  13. No much has changed at my house we cook a lot anyway very rarely do we eat out. Especially the last two years we have really ate at home a lot. My head car wreck put me out of commission somewhat in the kitchen so my husband decided I should teach him to cook so it made my convalescence period interesting to say the least. It came in handy his learning to cook since I been going they this mess with my hip

    • Ah, nothing like a man who can cook! Sounds like you’ve taught him well, Glenda! I hope your hip gets better soon! I know you’ve had a heck of a time with it.

  14. Those days aren’t like now, are they? When I have a seemingly endless number of cookbooks and clipped recipes to browse and the internet for last minute ideas. I love to cook and not much has changed while staying home. We are very lucky that being retired our routine hasn’t changed much. We are able to do grocery pickup orders and our granddaughter who lives with us ventures out when necessary. This gives me the chance to use up things in the freezer and pantry we’ve been passing by because they’re not our favorites! Stay safe.

  15. I bet there’s quite a few freezers being emptied of the less favored items, Sally! If anything just so one doesn’t have to venture to the store as much! You stay safe too!

  16. I have done so much cooking–I feel like a short order cook. My 21yo is eating me out of house and home. I want to know who was feeding him at college.

  17. I’m not really cooking that much more since we self-isolated. We might think about it a bit earlier than usual, but meals have been the same. We are working out in the yard getting vegetable and flower gardens weeded. My flower beds were taken over by grass and weeds last summer so it has been a major undertaking to get them cleared out. I have lots of flower beds. Our asparagus has come in beautifully. We have given quite a bit away to family and friends, but are still eating it almost every night. Our kale wintered over, so we have that. Our rhubarb grew early this year. I made a strawberry rhubarb pie in March and baked two last night, We both like to have fruit pie for breakfast, so these will serve us for a few days as well as giving some to our children’s families. I haven’t tried many new recipes, but hopefully once the gardens are done I might try some. I have a great cookie recipe I haven’t made in years that I will likely break down and make in a week or so. I will have to hide them from my husband. He has turned into a snaking monster since this all started.

    • Oh, yum, Patricia! Nothing like fruit pies for breakfast! Sounds like you have quite the garden! We have some flowers planted but that’s it. Out here we have lots of wild flowers so no need to plant much.

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