Small Home Gazette, Fall 2003
by Tim Counts, editor
I have often used this space to pontificate about the beauty, integrity and, I dare say (with nose in the air), superiority of all that is historically authentic about bungalows, while at the same time railing against the depravity of vinyl windows and siding, white-painted walls and woodwork, and people who run red lights on metered freeway entrance ramps. (Okay, I haven’t got to that last one yet, but I will as soon as I find a way to link it to bungalows.)
Seriously, it’s great fun to use an old house as a jumping-off point for nostalgia-based hobbies such as collecting, gardening and decorating, but I doubt that any of us would willingly return to the daily routines led by the original bungalow dwellers. Ever notice how people are often nostalgic for eras they never had to live through?
While we want the look of an historic bungalow, most of us want today’s lifestyle. That, and more time, more money and a bigger kitchen. Though society had made great advances in domestic comforts by the early 20th century, it wasn’t all feather beds and chintz curtains. Consider some of the realities of bungalow life.
- Homeowners mowed their yards with push mowers. Actually, this isn’t a bad idea, but I’m glad I don’t have to do it.
- Housewives had to run each piece of laundry through a wringer, then hang it on a line to dry. The line-drying doesn’t sound like such a chore, but the wringer thing would get old.
- Furnaces had to be stoked with coal, which was a perpetual task, and they spewed grime everywhere.
- There was no central air conditioning. Yes, I know, some of you still live without it, but I think you’re crazy.
- Garage doors had to be opened manually.
- People had to buy a big block of ice every few days to keep food cold.
Speaking of food, that’s another area few of us would want to fully re-create with historic accuracy. While we still eat many dishes that were common in the ‘teens and ‘twenties, others now seem rather odd (see recipes below). And when it came to vegetables and salads, it was slim pickings. The “Vegetables” section of Good Things to Eat And How To Prepare Them, published in 1909, lists 20 recipes, but fewer than half of them contain what we now consider vegetables. The rest are preparations for macaroni, egg noodles, rice, griddle cakes and Yorkshire pudding, all of which contain generous portions of cream, butter or lard.
When it came to salads, mayonnaise (which consists mainly of oil and egg yolks) apparently ruled. In the same cookbook, recipes for Oyster Salad, Sardine Salad, Veal Salad, Tongue Salad, Tomato Salad, Banana Salad and Orange Salad consist primarily of the main ingredient topped with—you guessed it—mayonnaise.
Me, I’ll keep my vintage 1930s refrigerator in my vintage kitchen, even though it means that especially perishable foods must be carried to the new refrigerator in the basement, which stays more consistently cool. But I’ll keep my oranges in the old Frigidaire upstairs, and tomorrow morning I’ll eat one with breakfast—without the mayonnaise.