A Sparkling Vintage Life

Housekeeping

K is for kaffeeklatsch

Yesterday’s Sparkling Vintage moment was a French concept, joie de vivre. Today we’re thanking the Germans for kaffeeklatsch, a term that dates back to 1888, from kaffee (coffee) and klatsch (gossip or chitchat).

The website etymonline.com quotes Mary Alden Hopkins from a 1905 cooking magazine: “The living-room in a German household always contains a large sofa at one side of the room, which is the seat of honor accorded a guest. At a Kaffeeklatsch (literally, coffee gossip) the guests of honor are seated on this sofa, and the large round table is wheeled up before them. The other guests seat themselves in chairs about the table.” Although any beverage, coffee or tea, can be consumed, a kaffeeklatsch carries a less formal connotation than a tea party.

Here in North America throughout much of the 20th century, kaffeeklatsches were enjoyed by homemakers, who might take a break from household chores mid-morning or midafternoon to gather with neighbors around one of their kitchen tables for coffee and chitchat. Now, with many women working full-time and those at home too busy to sit and chat for an hour, the kaffeeklatsch tradition has pretty much fallen by the wayside (although there’s a loose workplace approximation–the coffee break). Perhaps the modern equivalent is the playdate, where parents chat while their children play together. It doesn’t seem like quite the same thing, though.

Perhaps we need a kaffeeklatsch revival–well, maybe not the gossip part, but certainly the caffeine and conviviality. And the coffee cake. Here’s a recipe from a 1950s church cookbook to inspire you.

CINNAMON COFFEE CAKE

1 c. flour
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
3 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 Tb. butter, melted
1/2 c. milk
1 well beaten egg

Sift all dry ingredients together, then add the melted butter, milk and egg. Put in wide shallow pan and sprinkle with granulated sugar and cinnamon. Bake 20 minutes in moderate oven (350 degrees F.).

The recipe writer notes with brutal honesty, “This is good with morning coffee but should be made just before eating. It isn’t good after it stands.”

Do you think the kaffeeklatsch is a tradition worthy of reviving? Why or why not?

If I had a hammer . . .

feminine tool kitOn this snowy Saturday morning, I’ve been enjoying an old (1909) copy of a ladies’ magazine. In particular, I’m noticing how often the writers encourage homemakers to create something, do-it-yourself style, instead of encouraging them to go out and buy something.

For example, one tip says, “Floor cleaning is made much easier if one will take a piece of a two-inch board about twelve inches square or large enough to set a pail on; bore holes about one and one-half inches from each corner and insert casters. The pail may then be pushed from place to place with the foot, and saves much lifting. Such a device may also be used for many purposes, such as moving heavy jars of meat and barrels of apples in the cellar or kitchen.”

Today, the advice would certainly be to purchase a brand-new rolling bucket or cart.

Another hint says, “For a cheap and serviceable wash-stand in the kitchen, take two orange or lemon boxes with partitions and nail them together lengthwise. A curtain of dark silkoline [fabric] and a piece of oilcloth on top complete it. In this way, one has four handy little shelves in which to keep small articles necessary in the kitchen.”

What? No enticement to go out and purchase a new piece of furniture?

To be sure, the magazine does contain ads for many products. But I found it interesting how the editors also kept in mind the homemaker on a budget, and also assumed she possessed some degree of skill with a tool kit. Refreshing! And makes me think I should start brushing up on my own next-to-nonexistent carpentry skills.

Fall Housecleaning (31 Days of a Sparkling Vintage Fall, Day 2)

cleaning mirrorYou thought spring cleaning was over? Welcome to fall cleaning! According to Mrs. Dunwoody’s Excellent Instructions for Housekeeping by Miriam Lukken, here’s what the diligent housekeeper takes care of in the fall:

Clean and clear out cellar and attic.
Wash all blankets and sun the heavy quilts.Clean, mend, and put by furs, thick clothes, winter hats, and winter bedding.
Replace summer curtains with winter drapes.
Remove, clean, and store summer slipcovers.
Wax the furniture.
Clean lamps and shades.
Hang carpets for a good beating and then sun them for a day.
Sun and air mattresses and pillows.
Turn mattresses.

Cheryl Mendelson, in her housekeeping tome Home Comforts, adds these tasks:

Wash mirrors.
Clean the oven.
Wax floors.
Wash or wax woodwork.
Organize used drawers, cabinets, closets.
Dust blinds and shades, door tops, and other hard-to-reach areas where dust may collect.
Wash windows, storm windows, and screens.
Clean blades of ceiling fans.
Remove out-of-season clothing from closet, clean and store it, replace with seasonal clothing.
Clean and polish gems, jewelry, silver, brass, copper.
Have the piano tuned.
Vacuum books.
Move and clean underneath heavy appliances and furniture.

Mendelson writes, “Fall cleaning is an excellent way to usher in the holiday season with its extra entertaining. You can do a fall cleaning instead of or in addition to a spring cleaning. Or you can do an additional fall cleaning in some years and not in others. . . . Fall cleaning should be done . . . typically in September and, at least in the cooler climates, no later than mid-October.” She adds that, during a full seasonal cleaning, “you should plan on having no guests and doing only light cooking.”

 

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