Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Cooking and Cleaning — Could It Improve Your Life?

I was reading about the lack of education in both the home and school on the “domestic arts and sciences” the other day. Read this quote, because it certainly makes a point. (Then, check out the source for these thoughts, immediately following the quote.)

“Many household duties are becoming lost arts. Young women are not trained in the home or at school and have no time or inclination for such things, and in many cases their mothers have no more interest than they do. Besides, conditions have changed so that such home education is considered unimportant.

Everything can be bought and nothing needs to be sewn, cooked, baked or prepared at home. Even the good taste to furnish a home can be purchased from someone else. When she marries, most young women will marry men who know little more than she does about housekeeping and cooking, because his mother did not do it either. This can continue for awhile, until one day when guests arrive, both husband and wife will wish their home was tidier and the food had not been purchased ready-cooked, at twice the cost and half the taste, of food cooked at home. Or, both husband and wife will one day realize they do not have the clean, orderly home that is best for a family or for their own peace of mind and enjoyment.

If a teacher had before him a class of fifty students and knew that almost all of them were to be carpenters, he would certainly find his teaching to be modified by that fact. In every classroom it is known for certainty that almost every student will need to engage in some kind of housecleaning, cooking and homemaking. Should not some recognition of this fact be made in teaching?

Few of us would disagree with those thoughts. With only a bit of editing, they were taken directly from The New Practical Reference Library, VOL. VI, published in 1904. (You can see why I love old books!)

Over the next few weeks I am going to write some articles on this general concept of changes and sameness in our views about education and training. I also will devote a bit of time to discussing the domestic sciences, as they used to be taught. No, not to produce Household Tips From Tina, but just because I think it is interesting. If you have any information to pass along, I would love to have it. In the meantime, I will leave you with this further quote from the 1904 book:

“We need look no further than our newspapers and periodicals to realize that the subject of food, cooking and household care is a vital and generally interesting one. Nearly every newspaper has an article on some phase of the subject–perhaps to the safety and healthfulness of certain foods or how the food is grown, perhaps to the economy of preparing food compared to purchasing it, perhaps merely to recipes or to methods for removing stains or making a room more attractive.

There are whole magazines devoted to such questions as diet and vegetarianism. You may pick up a magazine that says foods should be eaten raw or only juiced or mashed, to be most healthy. The next day you may read equally convincing articles to the effect that a food considered healthy yesterday is now considered to be poisonous to the human body. One article will tell us how to eat to gain muscles and fat for health. Another will tell us to eat more fruits and vegetables and less meat. References to these articles are not intended to be argumentative of any particular view, but to show that the question of food, cooking and domestic sciences is a live one that interests all of us.”

Every expert cook seems to have a catch phrase, “Kick it up a notch!”, “Bam!”,  “Yum-O!”,  “Bon Apetit!”.  A friend of mine from a lot of years ago used to say something much less classy to her family, right before she served dinner on paper plates in front of the TV: “OK guys! Chow down, then clean up!”

August 12th, 2008 Posted by | Life and Work | 6 comments


  1. I can’t believe that is from a 1904 book! My mom and I were just talking the other day about the fact that people don’t cook and clean like they did when she was young. But she was young in the 1960s! She took a Homemaking class in high school and she still has the apron she made for it. I tried to put it on the other day and couldn’t even get it to tie around my waist. So, I guess I’m eating more than she did! 🙂

    This was so funny! D.

    Comment by denisek | August 14, 2008

  2. My mother is not very classy. She says, “Come and get it or I’m tossing it to the dogs!” We have never had dogs, but she has said that as long as I remember. This was a very interesting and funny article. I hope you put some more in from the book you were using. Nothing changes I guess! S.T.

    Comment by S. T. | August 14, 2008

  3. I was reading along and nodding in agreement and was shocked to see the date of the book! I guess that shows that some things never change, because my grandmother said women had lost the art of baking and my mother said people had lost the art of home cooking.

    I was just thinking the other day that most of my friends think I’m strange for cooking and cleaning so much. Friday night is a cleaning orgy and Saturday morning I buy groceries and come home and cook ahead. I like to do it and I cherish a clean house. My only concession is having a slow cooker that I use a lot.

    Good post and looking forward to more about this, even though its not your usual topic.

    Comment by TheTwoDaniels | August 14, 2008

  4. Hi Tina! Cute post. I saw a old Ladies Home Journal from the 1920s that had articles that sounded just like today! Zelda M.

    Comment by Zelda | August 14, 2008

  5. Tina says hi to all! And thanks for your comments! I’ve received a lot of email about this one too, including two that warned me not to get off on non-business topics very much or I’d lose my niche. They’re friends (you know who you are, if you’re reading this) but I really don’t think that’s a problem. For one thing, I don’t have a niche!

    I think it’s important to be part of the larger world around us. And, I’m interested in the views of writers from a hundred years ago–and it is fun to compare then and now and see that then and now are not so different!

    Comment by Tina | August 14, 2008

  6. I have just created a blog for a graduate program research project on this very subject. My theory was that we lost our appreciation for the domestic arts in the feminist wave of the 6os and 70s. This is a fantastic perspective to add to my thinking on this topic. Thanks for sharing such an interesting piece of history!

    Comment by Tyler Ritter | October 1, 2008

Leave a comment