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Evolutions

I'm fascinated by history, at least the type that clues you in to what life must have been like in the far-gone days. That's why I'm so fascinated with the reprint I have of the original "Fannie Farmer" cookbook. I also have a reproduction of a Sears catalog from 1895.

I live in an old home, built around that time. It's an elegant and sturdy house, with charming little nooks and crannies and a gorgeous old staircase winding all the way to the third floor. The house needs a face life, but wouldn't it look amazing if it got one! I got the Sears catalog to see what kind of furniture would have been in the house at first: draperies, furniture, items for the kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms as well. We still have the original claw-foot bathtub and, in the basement, an old toilet that's been disconnected for years now. It's got a wooden seat (now splintered – I sure wouldn't sit on it!) with lathe-turned legs and a flush compartment above. There's also a round toilet paper holder that's formed like a cast iron half-circle. Elegant and beautiful. We have cast iron duct covers with scroll work, and some original drawer handles and door knobs. Our dining room has an old, built-in china cabinet with leaded glass doors. There's also a closed off "pass-through" from the ledge beneath the cabinet to the kitchen pantry on the other side.

The basement floor still has the "footprint" of the old, coal-burning furnace. When we moved in the old coal chutes were still there too, although my husband took them down. We still have a few stray pieces of coal in an old coffee can. There's a second pantry leading into the house from outside. At one time it obviously had an ice box in it. There's a recessed place right there for it.

It's a mystery, really, reconstructing the day to day experiences of people and eras long since gone. What did their clothing feel like? How heavy were the pots and pans they handled on top of a coal-burning stove?

And what the devil is a "Dover egg beater?"

Going back to Fannie Farmer again, the Dover egg beater (made by the Dover company) seemed to be the ancestor to modern day hand-held beaters, the kind you use to whip up eggs if you don't feel like fork-blending them or dragging out the mixer. I saw a very faded picture of it in the book and decided to go online to see if I could learn more about them. Well, you can certainly see the family resemblance:

Evidently there are several types of these hand-cranked work-horses. The picture above, which was the only one I could snag from the internet (those antiques websites definitely have a thing about copying and pasting their photos!) has a rather small beater at the bottom. Other models have a wider base. In fact, I saw three separate types of them, differentiated by beater size.

Don't you just love that fancy gear wheel? I have to imagine, though, that it was probably pretty awkward to hold, given the position of the handle.

"And tonight, class, we shall learn of the properties of albumen" *raps stick on back of chair. Class shuts up immediately and turns to the blackboard with hands folded in front of them.*

"One may prepare a mixture of albumenized milk for the sick and serve where solid foods cannot be taken, thus:

1/2 cup milk
White one egg

Put white of egg in a tumbler, add milk, cover tightly, and shake thoroughly until well mixed.

There now! Have you any questions?"

*class responds* "No, m'am."

Fast forward to the 21st century. My, that was tasty! And with a raw egg, too. Very healthy. You've got to try the oatmeal water. I guarantee you'll never forget it!

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