Thursday, July 30, 2009

Treasure Chest Thursday - Great Grandmother's Rolling Pin

Although I was never much interested in practising the domestic arts when young, I loved my Na's baking. She always seemed to have cookies or perhaps jam tarts for our afternoon treat. Among her treasures was this rolling pin which both she and her mum told me belonged to my Great Grandmother, Janet (née Carmichael) Irwin. Na also had a glass rolling pin, but I don't know what ever happened to that. (If it broke, it wasn't me, I swear!) Mum had a 1950s (?) rolling pin, but I think my brother may have that now.

I've had this rolling pin for a long time, but I've never used it myself. It appears handmade - all one piece - and it certainly has the marks of a lifetime or two of use, although it's really not in bad condition. I have it displayed on top of a cupboard in my kitchen along with some tins and old cookbooks. The cookie tins hold my cookie cutters - both old and new ones.

I once had a nice collection of vintage and antique kitchen/domestic items, but most of the non-family items have been given away now. Even rolling pins, I know, are quite collectible, but I was a bit surprised to see an article about displaying them. Perhaps I can find a better way to show it off.

Cookie cutters are very collectible. In the United States there is a Cookie Cutter Collectors Club. Is there one in Canada?

Here are a few of mine - a vintage cowboy complete with guns, a small round vintage cutter, a modern pottery Canada maple leaf heart cookie press and a handmade woman's symbol cookie cutter (bought at a woman's group sale in Vancouver in the 1980s, I think. I don't believe I ever knew who the maker was).

I do have a number of recipe books but none that I know great grandmother Irwin would have used. I always heard she was a great reader though, and so I found this simple cookie recipe in a local 1893 newspaper.

FOR THE LADIES Useful Recipes, including

Thin Cookies—One cup of butter, one cup of sugar and three eggs. Beat together to a cream, add flavoring to suit, then just enough flour to roll out very thin. Cut out with biscuit cutter, and bake in a quick oven to a very light brown. Watch them constantly as they burn very easily.

Portage La Prairie Weekly Review, 8 March, 1893, page 2.

Na and Great Grandmother would have known a quick oven should be about 375-400 degrees Fahrenheit. (I had to look it up to check.) The hard part, I think, would be keeping an wary eye on these cookies while attending to all the other usual household work, like cleaning, cooking, sewing and washing. Perhaps 'watching the cookies' was sometimes a young daughter's task.

In the same Ladies section of the paper, were other recipes, household hints and decorating ideas. Among these is a long description of the ideal kitchen floor which says that:

"A clean floor is a delight to the tidy housewife, and a soiled one an annoyance which must be removed at the first opportunity."

I'm afraid I remember still how much flour ended up on the floor when I did 'help' Na and Mum too with baking cookies.

Some of you will have noticed that this recipe was published on the 8th of March in 1893. Since 1909, that date has been International Women's Day, so when I saw this poem in the same Ladies area of the same paper, I just knew Mum and Na and Great Grandmother Irwin would have wanted me to mention it here. No author's name is given and a search through some historical newspapers didn't provide any more details, so if you know who wrote this, please contact me as soon as possible. I am reading through the 1893 issues of this paper, so may come across a name or clue.

A Hard-Working Woman

All day she hurried to get through,
The same as lots of wimmin do:
Sometimes at night her husban’ said:
"Ma, ain’t you goin’ to come to bed?”
An’ then she’d kinder give a hitch,
An’ pause half way between a stitch,
An’ sorter sigh, an’ say that she
Was ready as she’d ever be,
She reckoned.

An’ so the years went, one by one;
An’ somehow she was never done;
An’ when the angel said as how
“Mis’ Smith, it’s time you rested now,”
She sorter raised her eyes to look
A second, as a stitch she took;
“All right: I’m coming now,” says she,
“I’m ready as I’ll ever be,
I reckon.

Portage La Prairie Weekly Review, no author shown, 8 March, 1893 page 2.

Located on – a website devoted to historically significant documents and publications, including newspapers, from Manitoba, Canada’s past. Manitobia is a project of the Manitoba Library Consortium and its partners (French & English):


Greta Koehl said...

Hmm - That's interesting about about cookie cutters being collectible; I think I may have a couple of old ones.

lindalee said...

I need to get busy doing some Treasure Chest Thursdays. I think it's a great idea.

lindalee said...

Just in case you did not receive my e-mail (I am finding that sometimes they don't go through) I would very much love to have that obit for Rev. Hough Houston. I thank you for your comment and letting me know about the article.

Leslie Ann Ballou said...

This reminds me of when I used to make holiday cookies with my mom. We used the plastic rolling pin and cookie cutters from Tupperware. I see them around every now and then and it takes me back. I wonder if I should start buying them?

M. Diane Rogers said...

Maybe! Leslie Ann. I have a set of plastic alphabet cookie cutters that were given to me as a 'new grandma' present -13 years ago now!