SOLILOQUY OF A MAN WHO KEEPS HOUSE WHILE HIS WIFE IS GONE - For Mother’s Day I shared an article about Women’s Work in the 1860s. It’s only fair that or Father’s Day, June 19, a husband proves to his wife that he CAN survive without her in this article from 1878. The question is, does he succeed?

“I’m thankful they are all gone. It will do my wife and children a world of good and what a delightful time I will have! Nothing to bother me all day long. Let me see, I was to skim the milk and when there was cream enough I was to churn it and cook what I wanted. I think I shall want a good many things to eat, seeing I can cook them myself. But that won’t take an hour in the whole day.

I’ll improve some of my spare time by reading history. While I have such a splendid chance, I’ll read Bancroft’s History of the United States, Layton’s History of Ireland, Ferguson’s History of the Roman Republic, History of Arabia and Russel’s Nubra and Abyssinia. That will take me nearly around the world. I guess that will do with some light reading thrown in.

But I’ll have to clean up this house and after I get it clean once, I’ll keep it neater than any woman would. I’ll hang my hat and coat, let me see, on the floor there won’t be anyone to step on them. Here is my boots and bootjack. Well, I’ll lay them on the sofa that I may know where to find them. I’ll just pick up everything else and put them into the baby crib and shove it behind the door. And if they won’t fit in here, I’ll put the rest under the table and pull down the spread. There! That looks pretty well. But seems to me my wife always has flowers or something that makes it look prettier. I’ll get some sunflowers and make a bouquet. They will be showy and just set things off.

I think I’ll eat my dinner in here and let the rest of the rooms go. By the way, it is time I was getting my dinner. Well, I’ll have potatoes, beefsteak and green corn with a kind of sauce on it. I wonder how they make that? But then I know, of course, I do. They cut the corn off of the cob and boil it and I don’t know what other folks put on it, but I think pepper, mustard and vinegar with some flour to thicken it would be good. Then I’ll have squash, tomatoes, and they say eggs and fish are good for the brain. I guess I’ll have some. And for dessert I like mince pie and tapioca pudding. The hardest part is over; to think what I’ll have. Women make so much fuss over everything. I’ll have my dinner on time and a sumptuous one at that.

Now for the corn, it takes longer to cook than the rest. There, you are on at last after taking an hour and a half to get you ready and cutting my hands all to pieces. While it’s boiling, I’ll read history until its time to get the rest of the things that are on my bill of fare.

Eh hum! I read 10 pages and fell asleep. Bless me! One o’clock, my dinner and the fire is dead out. But the corn must be cooked so I’ll put in the ingredients to make it taste good. I won’t mind its being a little cold and I’ll let the rest of the things go for this time.

Good thing my wife left me some bread. Oh dear! What bad tasting stuff. I don’t believe vinegar, mustard and flour were the things after all or else I got in too much mustard. Some molasses might improve it. I’ll put some in. Bah! That’s worse and worse. Well, there was some cold hash left from breakfast, I’ll eat that and go and take a walk. Perhaps I can forget about the dinner. Seems to me there is a good many dishes to wash with nothing for dinner but hash. But I’ll pile them all in the wood box and cover them up. I would not like to have anyone think I did not wash the dishes.

Who would have thought I stayed so long. I was going to be home in time to get an elegant supper. But I am too near starved to wait and build a fire and cook any more. And if I did, like as not, it would act like that horrid corn. So I’ll eat some cucumbers, they don’t have to be cooked, and send for my wife. It might be good for her to stay two weeks, but I don’t think it would be good for me to live on cold hash and cucumbers.”

 By Leslie Korenko from the book
Kelleys Island 1877-1884, The fire, the Great Grooves & a mysterious disappearance.

Author: Leslie Korenko