Tuesday February 27, 2007

Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House is an almost 900 page volume covering the essentials of keeping house.  The author, Cheryl Mendelson, has included information covering the basics for those new to home keeping, as well as more advanced instruction for the more experienced home keeper.  She has divided her book into large sections covering broad areas (Food, Cloth, Cleanliness, for example), and then each of these larger sections is divided into several shorter, and quite detailed chapters.

I am reading this book through, cover to cover, the first time through; but I will be keeping it on an easily accessible shelf afterwards as a household reference.  The index is quite detailed and extensive, which will make finding information in the future effortless.  The book is written in a friendly, almost conversational, manner, and is enjoyable to read just for the entertainment value.  The author frequently adds bits of her own personal housekeeping wisdom to the carefully researched text, which I find a refreshing personal touch.   On the other hand, the text is not at all unintelligent, and I will admit that I’ve had to pull out the dictionary from time to time.  (In my opinion, it’s a good thing to stretch the vocabulary!)

My intention was to review this book in its entirety when I had finished reading it.  However, I now realize that, due to the tremendous scope of this book, that would not be possible for me.  I have decided to review each large section or two of the book at a time.  This is the first in what will be a series of reviews of this book.

Beginnings and Food

In the first section of Home Comforts, entitled Beginnings, the author shares a bit about her growing up years observing grandmothers from two very different parts of the world, with two very different ideas about keeping house.  However, from watching her grandmothers, she developed her own sense of what home making was about.  I thoroughly enjoyed reading about these two women and their very different, and yet equally legitimate methods of keeping their homes.

This section also includes chapters on developing and implementing your own home care routines.  These instructions, though basic, would certainly help the novice homemaker in setting up her house keeping routines.   The final chapter of this section, Neatening, was a short, but very important chapter.  The concepts of creating good homemaking habits, having a place for everything in your home, and why hiding things in the closet never works are all quickly and thoroughly explained.  I loved this brief chapter!

The second major section of this book, simply entitled “Food”, is a comprehensive overview of cooking, serving meals, what to make for meals, marketing techniques, pots & pans, utensils, appliances, etc.  If it happens in or around the kitchen, it’s covered in this chapter!  There are several pages devoted to making really good coffee, and a few more to making a proper cup of tea.  Instruction is given on the various methods of cleaning everything in a kitchen.  An entire chapter is devoted to refrigerators and freezers, and another to the pantry.  This section concludes with a lengthy chapter on food safety, including how to safely handle, store and prepare all types of foods, as well as covering several of the more common food-related illnesses, their causes and preventions.  After reading this last chapter, I have decided to purchase separate refrigerator/freezer thermometers  for each of my units, so that I can carefully monitor their temperatures at all times.

I have been keeping a home now for almost thirty years, but I still love learning new things, or being inspired to do something new or different.  One of the things that I was inspired to do, from the chapter “Serving Meals” was to stop putting items on the table in their store containers.  For example, instead of putting the jar of jam on the table, how much nicer would it be to scoop an appropriate amount out and to serve it in a pretty glass dish with a spoon?  I haven’t quite “arrived” yet, when it comes to this, but Home Comforts has caused me to think more about how I present meals to my family.

I also very much enjoyed the various table-settings presented in this same chapter.  There are several wonderful illustrations for setting the table for any occasion – from a simple informal family meal, to a very formal, multi-course supper, including the proper ways of filling and removing dishes and glasses!

These first two large sections of Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House have only served to whet this reader’s appetite for the sections yet to come.

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5 comments to Tuesday February 27, 2007

  • This book holds an honored spot on my bookshelf.  I have it in a spot so that it is readily available because it serves as a wonderful household reference.  I love it!

  • hppyhmker – I’ve had this book for several years, but am just now reading through it.  It is really a fabulous resource for every home!  Thanks for your encouragement and confirmation.

  • I browsed through this book several years ago, but I haven’t bought it.  I wish I had paid more attention now – I may have to borrow it from the library again! 

    On a light note – I’ve set jelly, butter, and things like that on the table in little dishes.  My family took one look and asked what was going on! LOL  It does make a nicer setting, but it’s a hard habit to establish when you know your family is going to think you’ve lost your mind! 😉

  • heeheehee……Yes, mine will definitely think I’ve lost my mind, too, but I am determined!  A few years ago, I started using cloth table cloths for every meal, breakfast, lunch & dinner.  They recovered from that shock!  About a year ago I purchased 3 dozen off white cloth napkins and stopped buying paper napkins.  They recovered quite well from that as well!  I’m guessing that my bunch will adapt to the condiments and such being served from lovely serving dishes just fine.  We’ll soon know…..I’m putting the grated parmesan cheese in a nice little dish to go with our spaghetti dinner tonight! :spinning:  In the meantime, I’ll put up with their teasing! 😉

  • Oh, I’m so glad to see that you are reviewing this book! I had forgotten about the different table settings she shares, lots of great information!