Saturday, August 25, 2007

Silver Patterns and Hope Chests

One of the high school classes that likely has long since gone by the wayside is home economics. While I don’t recall much from the class, I clearly recall at least one project—which is eventually the subject of this blog.

Home ec, as we called it, was a girls only subject way back when. . .Girls went to home ec; boys went to shop. By the time our children went to high school, these classes were cross-fertilizing—guys in home ec, girls in shop. Frankly, I don’t know if these classes are still offered to the general high school population, particularly given how many so called non essential courses are being shed for schools to concentrate on core curriculum (thanks in part to No Child Left Behind demands).

I recall the home ec teacher’s name was Miss Mary Moser (a wonderfully alliterative name)—she especially liked me as I was not the usual student. When she asked us to bring in recipes, I brought in one for peanut gravy.

Growing up, as I had, in Northern and Southern Rhodesia, I had seen local people eating porridge. Made from mealies (corn) this porridge was thick, and people ate it by scooping out a handful from the communal pot, molding it into a ball which was then dipped in some savory gravy—for example peanut gravy.

But the project I most recall strikes me now as sweet and utterly useless. We had to design our ideal table settings for a formal meal. We poured over magazines to find photos of silver patterns, china, and crystal. The goal was to artfully match these three elements so that we would create a lovely dinner setting.

I don’t recall what patterns I chose. But I decided I wanted china with a blue design, something which when I got married came to fruition. I never got true silver—having lived happily with stainless steel ware!

I suppose these items were to go in our
hope chests—another tradition long past. Now we have gift registries as the most practical way to gather gifts for couples intending to get married. But, in ye olde tyme days (an expression my daughter uses!), young women had hope chests. They collected linens and things for setting up future house-holds.

Ahh—the long gone days of old and the quaint habits we had! But, from home ec, I did learn something absolutely useful. I know how to sew and mend. And every time our children come to visit us, at least one will ask – Mom, can you mend this for me? Of course—happily.

12 comments:

Anvilcloud said...

They still do it or a version of it in Ontario, except it's now called Family Studies.

Jean said...

What a post - brought back so many memories for me. We had Home Ec, also.My teacher, Mrs. Casselman, was so tiny that in heels, I still looked down on her and I'm 5'4" My memory is of beating egg whites and then my partner and I ate them while the teacher was out!I was going to blog about that cause I felt so guilty at the time:)PS Chef took "Cooking" and Computer son took "Shop" in high school in the 80's thanks for the lovely memories.

NatureWoman said...

Cool post! I also was req'd to take Home Ec which was boring to me because my Mom taught me how to sew and cook. At that time I was wishing I could take shop to learn something new. I'm glad young girls have more choices nowadays - but wish one of them was Home Ec for busy Moms who don't have time to teach their daughters how to do these things.

Cathy said...

Lovely, Donna. It brought back memories of so long ago. But, there they are - stitching that little apron with the old-fashioned stove and lounging-cat print. I remember picking out the fabric with my mother. Thanks for that. Truly.

Mary said...

"When she asked us to bring in recipes, I brought in one for peanut gravy." That would be you, Donna! LOL!

I had home-ec in high school with nuns who tormented us. Home-ec wasn't offered in the high school I worked in, but my daughter had required home-ec and shop in middle school during the mid-nineties.

My cedar hope chest is in the attic. It contains my size "2" wedding dress...

mon@rch said...

These are very cool!! My mother would just love to see all these!

RuthieJ said...

Home Ec...now that brings back some interesting memories. It was the one and only time in my life that I made "Baked Alaska."
Thanks for a fun post, Donna.

Tossing Pebbles in the Stream said...

As a single Dad, I learned the fine art of mending. I think I did a credible job. I did remember watching my mother do it. To this day I regret not taking the Singer Sewing classes with the other "moms". It might have been a good place to discover a little romance. I will never know!

cat59 said...

We had segregated home ec and shop when I was in Junior High. This would have been around 1973. The two things I remember most from home ec were how to set the table (fork on left on top of folded napkin, knife and spoon on right. Salad bowl or bread plate on left, drinking glass on right). I sometimes feel guilty now when I only put out the stainless (never had silver, either. Who wants to clean it!) that we will need for the meal we are having. This usually means a knife and a fork that I place on the left on top of an unfolded napkin. I also remember the order in which you were supposed to wash dishes, back when washing dishes meant filling a sink full of hot, soapy water. First any items that touched people's mouths--glasses and silverware (also the ones likely to have the least food on them), then the plates, next the serving dishes, and last the pots and pans. By the time you got to the end, the water was disgusting with bits of wet food. Thank goodness for dishwashers!

Cathy said...

Just left Laura's blog and saw your comment. Bet you're a little low tonight, Donna. I sure know that feeling after watching my son disappear through an airport's door.

{{ Hugs }}

Femail doc said...

I wonder if every woman who took home ec can remember their teacher's name. Miss Galloway for me--tall, beautiful, she seemed exotic somehow.

And Singer Sewing Classes! Been there, sewed that.

Susan Gets Native said...

As I am one to constantly push boundaries and generally get under everyone's skin, I fought and won the right to take Home Ec AND Shop in high school. (We were supposed to choose one or the other, but I wasn't happy about that. I was one of only two girls in Shop)
I can bake a flawless muffin and I can also run a jigsaw. I sewed a stuffed animal that my kids are now playing with, and I have a clock that is still perfect and runs after 17 years.
I am rather proud of that.
*shameless ego-party is now over. You don't have to go home, but you gotta get outta here!*