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The Real Housewives of 1837

By JulieVR |

TV audiences are enamoured with housewives these days – of getting a peek into the real, everyday lives of the rich (and now famous) in Beverly Hills, Orange County, and Vancouver. The stars of these reality shows are typically wealthy, botoxed beauties, zipping around in stylish cars and shopping in upscale boutiques. But did you wonder how the upper class lived a hundred or so years ago? It’s a shame TV cameras can’t jump back in time to allow a peek into the real lives of our great great grandparents, but I recently came across the next best thing – a copy of Housewifery 1837, a how-to book for 19th century home keepers published by Sheetz Tavern and Gun Shop in Shepherdstown, West Virginia. In it, a wealth of simple recipes, health and cleaning tips; while technological advances and modern conveniences have rendered much of it outdated, it’s surprising how much is still good advice today. These snippets of household advice provide an interesting look at the way housewives of two centuries ago lived. (Minus the spa treatments and relationship drama.)

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The real housewives

How to Make Cheap Cake for Tea

Two cups sugar, two cups sweet milk, one large spoonful of melted butter, three cups of flour, three teaspoons of baking powder, spice to taste. (I stirred the ingredients together in this order as I might bake a cake, and baked the batter in two 9" pans at 350F for 30 minutes. They were pretty good!)

All tips adapted/excerpted from Housewifery 1837 except #8, 10 & 11, which come from The Household Cyclopedia of General Information, published in 1881.

Top image: La préparation pour le bal, 1833 (York Art Gallery)
This work is in the public domain, and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license via Wikimedia Commons.

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About JulieVR



Julie Van Rosendaal is the author of five best-selling cookbooks, food editor of Parents Canada magazine, a CBC Radio columnist and a freelance writer. Her award-winning blog, Dinner with Julie documents life in her home kitchen in Canada with her husband and 7-year-old son. Read bio and latest posts → Read Julie's latest posts →

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