A dear old friend once commented that we “have a lot of crappy old stuff.” True. Our Big Life is filled with
crappy old stuff– especially books. From one old cookbook:
The Meal Planner’s Creed from The Modern Family Cookbook by Meta Given
(J. G. Ferguson Publishing Company, Chicago. 1958. p2)
Question. Why do authors continue to include the word “modern” in book titles– especially cookbooks, books on decorating, fashion, and so forth? I know here “modern” modifies “family” but what family isn’t modern? Oh. Those that have a lot of crappy old stuff.
So there’s no need to click to enlarge:
The Meal Planner’s Creed
The health of my family is in my care, therefore–
I will spare no effort in planning the right kinds of food in the right amounts.
Spending the food dollar for maximum value is my job, therefore–
I will choose from variously priced foods to save money without sacrificing health.
My family’s enjoyment of food is my responsibility, therefore–
I will increase their pleasure by planning for variety, for flavorful dishes, for attractive color, for appetizing combinations.
My family’s health, security, and pleasure depend on my skill in planning meals, therefore–
I will treat my job with the respect that is due it.
The first thing I wonder is, why a creed? The Modern Family Cookbook also has creeds for Shoppers and Cooks. What is a creed? According to Webster’s New School and Office Dictionary (1962), a creed is a “brief statement of belief.”
ASIDE: I have several old dictionaries– I think if you’re going to wonder what I’m wondering, you should make some effort to be in the same time frame. I should have referred to a dictionary older than 1958, but unfortunately, my dictionary collection has gaps. I’ll look for a crappy old dictionary from the ’40s and ’50s next time I’m out. Note that this is not the #1 definition given at dictionary.com. It is decidedly different.
A meal planner believes four things about herself. (I’ll not go PC here. It was 1958. Women did the meal planning. End of story.) She believes she is responsible for her family’s health, her portion of the family budget, her family’s food experiences, and their security and pleasure! That is a lot of responsibility. But it’s her job and she’s going to respect it. And what’s more, when she finishes planning and shopping and gets down to the business of cooking, she’s going to
… take pride in doing an outstanding job of cooking.
IMHO, the our county and culture would be a lot better off if we had more “modern” families.*
Next, I wonder why there aren’t more modern families? It isn’t hard to think ahead seven days. It’s certainly more efficient to go to the grocery store once a week rather than stopping in nearly every evening after work. And why not take pride in something as fundamental as food preparation? But how many folks do this? Honestly, these days, who actually plans a week’s worth of meals, shops for the menu, and takes pride in cooking?
But we like crappy old stuff!
Finally, I wonder about drudgery. Over the past few weeks I’ve noticed several references to the drudgery of housework… how liberating it was to be released from said drudgery… etc. And I wonder about this. It’s not just this particular cookbook, or cookbooks in general, or books dealing with other household/housewife issues. I have books on farm, machine, car, gun maintenance, repair and so forth– clearly written for men– that have the same tone. This is what you do. Do it right. Take pride in it. From Mack M. Jones’ Shopwork on the Farm (1945):
With the increased mechanization of farms, it has become necessary for the successful modern farmer to be proficient in the use, repair, and maintenance of mechanical equipment of various kinds. … Although the farmer needs to be an unspecialized mechanic, rather than specialized mechanic, he should nevertheless be a good one. He should be thorough and systematic. Slovenly or slipshod methods have no more place on the farm than in other business or occupations. Machinery that works well, gates that open and shut easily, and buildings and fences that are orderly and in good repair not only save time and money for the farmer, but contribute to morale and the pride of ownership.
(My emphases. There’s that word again, modern.) Same themes as the creeds. I can only think of two things that explain drudgery and the absence of any sense of drudgery in the quotes I’ve posted. It is possible that meal planning and tending to fences is drudge work, and that everyone knew it back in the ’40s and 50s. Talk of care, responsibility, morale, pride– all directed at individuals, no less!– is just talk intended to make the poor drudge worker feel better about him or herself. Trash collection is vital– vital!– to a healthy community. Be the best you can be!!
Or, it could be wives and mothers, husbands and fathers, actually did work to become better at some aspects of home life they enjoyed less, or didn’t do as well, as others. As a practical issue, who buys a cookbook or is given one as a gift? I’m not referring to coffee table cookbooks, but rather to those like The Modern Family Cookbook which is replete with nutritional requirements and information in addition to menus and recipes. Who buys a book loaded with diagrams detailing how to do everything from roof construction to knot tying? People who want to do something better. People who take pride in what they produce and do– whatever it may be.
When did doing things you want to take pride in become drudgery?
*Are the families in Modern Family modern?