There’s a new genre of self-help–books with tips on everyday tasks that everyone used to know. I’m thinking of How to Sew a Button: and Other Nifty Things Your Grandmother Knew, by Erin Bried. Some of you still possess this sort of knowledge, and will be surprised to hear that there are people who must be told that chicken stock is made with leftover chicken bones….just the other day I was making a shrimp marinade in the kitchen and heard “Gross! What’s wrong with those shrimp? Aren’t they supposed to be pink?” To which I replied, “Not when they’re raw. Have you been in this room of the house before? Do you know what it’s for?”
How to Sew a Button is for people like my young friend in the kitchen. The author, Erin Bried, lives in New York City, and we know this because in the foreword, we find this line: “It’s been so long since I’ve done my own laundry that I can no longer remember if you wash clothes in hot or cold.” For reference, she uses a cadre of grandmas. No offense, gents, but your grandma probably took care of your grandpa in a way you won’t be getting from the mail order bride of your dreams. They just don’t make housewives like they used to. My mom ironed Dad’s hankies into perfect little squares, and wore a dress to do it, too. These days she’s hoofing it to Vegas and buying rotisserie chicken to go…
The book covers most of adult life–there are chapters on Cooking, Gardening, Cleaning, Fitness, Budgeting, and Relationships, romantic and otherwise. It may sound mostly housekeeping related, but there are sections entitled How to Sing in Harmony, and How to Get a Good Night’s Sleep. Can any book cover this much ground thoroughly in any given area? Probably not. But it’s a fun read. Whether the people who need this information will know to look it up is another story. Some of it is clearly for entertainment purposes only–I offer a free darning egg from my collection to the first person to show me evidence that they’ve read and put to use the steps in “How to Darn a Wool Sock”.
I think Martha Stewart’s method for folding a fitted sheet beats the one in this book. Here’s a link to her website, with helpful photos. You just can’t beat the Martha….