Sunday, 4 May 2014

The last generation of Home Ec.

Reading: Ina May's Guide to Childbirth (a brief - if not unlikely - detour from J. K. Rowling. My baby came before I got a chance to read Ina May's treatise on female empowerment - but hey, better late than never!)
Listening to: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros "Home"
Outside: Overcast but happily humid

In my house, I am the dishwasher. So is my beloved. We are two of the many Britons who don't own a dishwasher, mainly due to space. And cost. And so let's suffice it to say I wash a lot of dishes.



Every time I wash the dishes after dinner (and breakfast, lunch and bottle feeds), I am reminded of my Home Ec teacher from Middle School.

My fellow Mt. Vernon alumni will remember that charming sixties-something woman who graced the biggest and most home-like classroom in Fortville, Indiana. We'll call her Mrs. Warrington. She had tall order ahead of her every single day: she needed to show us thirteen-year-olds how to make and manage a home.

Past all of the brownie batter dripping off the ceiling, and vast array of kitchen injury close-calls (third-degree burn near-misses and all), she had a syllabus to get through. Assignments. She needed to grade us on the very basics of home life. She expected results. I'll tell you something. That woman had a lot of patience.



We learned such things as how to:
- Make homemade macaroni and cheese
- Iron
- Make apple crumble from scratch
- Whip-stitch
- Sew an apron (extra credit for a pocket on the front - score!)
- Take anything seriously
- Not take a hot tray out of the oven using a wet oven mitt

(and, last but not least)

- Hand wash dishes

She inspired me to take a stab at peanut butter cookies (they won Reserve Champion in our end-of-semester Bake-Off - score!).

Now, know this. I am no Suzie Homemaker. Yes, I like clean sheets, the smell of a spring-fresh room and the sight of steaming dishes drying in the dishrack as much as the next gal, but I don't truly eat, sleep and breathe home. Even now that I'm well into my maternity leave - and my home-time has ramped up 2,000% compared to the usual 12-hour workday of Pre-Pregnancy Me - I still have other things to do than sew and bake. In fact, I don't sew and bake.

But I do wash dishes.

And like many Americans, I grew up with a dishwasher the size of a small car. It lived in our kitchen under the countertop right next to the sink, and my sister and I constantly squabbled over who had to rinse, and who had to load, and who had to put away. Really, kids fight over the stupidest things. But anyway. Yes, even at thirteen I never saw myself handwashing dishes at any point in my life.

Why would I ever have to do that?

Who has time for that?

Well, here I am. Check out these badass Marigold gloves - my daily savior. I practically live in these gloves.

So thank you, Mrs. Warrington, for your never-ending lesson. You will have retired by now, and I do hope you are enjoying some well-earned time to yourself.

You may not have known how to pronounce Worcestershire Sauce (it's actually pronounced "Worster" - eight years in England have cleared up a thing or two), but you did teach me a skill I use every single day. Always wash the cutlery first in the hottest water. Everything else comes after. Prioritize.

Picture from here - a great blog about things like home-cooking in a small space.

I hope the youth of today still has Home Ec. Yes, it might seem old-fashioned. Yes, on the surface it might (even a teensy tiny little bit) smack of anti-feminism, but the boys were graded on this stuff just as hard as the girls, and we all got into it, cake batter blobs and wet oven mitts and all.

Do they even offer Home Ec. in schools anymore? Has it become a thing of the past? Am I truly a grown child of the last generation of Home Economics, learning things that only people in England still do?

Ah, well. Time to tie on that apron and squeeze into those high heels - it's time for chocolate brownies. Betty Crocker style.

Happy Sunday, everybody!

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