Prelude to the First Edition
1. Flight from the City
II. Domestic Production
III. Food, Pure Food, and Fresh
IV. The Loom and the Sewing-machine
VI. Water, Hot Water, and Waste
VII. Education--The School
IX. Security versus Insecurity
X. Independence versus Dependence
FOOD, PURE FOOD, AND FRESH FOOD
IT IS a mistake, however, to think
of our experiments in domestic production purely in terms of economics. Particularly
is this true of food. For ours was not only a revolt against the high cost of food.
It was a revolt against the kind of food with which mass production and mass distribution
provides the American consumer.
In common with the overwhelming majority
of people, we suffered the usual run of digestive and catarrhal ailments. We all
had colds several times each year; constipation was something every member of the
family had to fight; between periods of biliousness, headaches, fevers, and similar
visitations, we enjoyed only what might at best be described as tolerable health.
I would not give the impression that we were a sickly family. On the contrary, so
far as health was concerned we were probably better rather than worse than the average
family. Our ailments were almost never severe enough to keep us in bed. None of us
had ever been confined in a hospital. But saying that our health was slightly better
than average is not saying much.
Partly as a result of an accumulation
of accidents and coincidents, and partly because of our own efforts to find the answer
to the riddle of good health, we finally arrived at the conviction that most of our
ailments, and probably most of the ailments of mankind, were caused by wrong foods
and incorrect eating habits. I remember how amusing this idea sounded the first time
it was propounded to me. Mrs. Borsodi and I, happening to meet Hereward Carrington,
just as we were on our way to lunch in the city, asked him to join us.
"I'm sorry," he said, "but
I seem to be catching cold, so I am eating nothing at all today."
I looked at him with astonishment.
The old adage about feeding a cold and starving a fever came into my mind. What in
the world, I thought, could eating have to do with a cold? "Join us, anyway,"
I said. "You can watch us eat, and the sight of food may tempt you to order
something yourself. And besides, I'm curious to know upon what theory you cut out
eating when you have a cold."
Carrington accepted the invitation
and in the course of that luncheon Mrs. Borsodi and I listened for the first time
to a disinterested exponent of the theory that improper eating is the cause of most
disease. Up to that time I had always dismissed the idea as the vaporing of vegetarian
and physical culture faddists. But I was by no means convinced by what Carrington
said. I still argued valiantly for the orthodox medical explanation of disease in
terms of germs. The luncheon failed to convert us to the extreme position which he
maintained and which we have since come to accept. But the incident prepared us for
real conversion shortly thereafter.
Among the books published by the corporation
by which I was then employed were a number of volumes by a Dr. R. L. Alsaker. I had
never read them, principally because they had seemed to me the works of a dietetic
crank. But I brought some of them home after the Carrington argument and Mrs. Borsodi
and I both read them. Alsaker's arguments seemed to us quite reasonable. We saw no
reason why we should hesitate about experimenting with diet as a means of maintaining
health, the medical profession having signally failed to keep us healthy. But we
did not find this as easy as might be imagined. Indeed, it was only after a period
of years and after we had moved to the country that we completely changed our diet
from the conventional pattern to our present one. During this period Mrs. Borsodi
made quite a study of the chemistry of food; we dug up what we could about the fight
for pure and unadulterated foods which Dr. Harvey W. Wiley had waged back in President
Theodore Roosevelt's administration, and as a result developed a thoroughgoing distaste
for the commercialized footstuffs which up to that time we had eaten.
One after another we gave up predigested
breakfast foods, white bread, factory-made biscuits and crackers and cakes, polished
rice, white sugar. But it wasn't easy to secure suitable substitutes for all the
foods which we believed unfit for human consumption. What should we do in order to
secure clean, raw milk, fresh vegetables, and decent chickens? The pasteurized milk
which we had been drinking for years was a crime against the human stomach even though
the germs which got into the milk in the course of its progress from the cow-stable
to our back doors were all embalmed and thus rendered harmless. The fresh vegetables
and fruits in the city markets were of necessity of inferior qualities; they had
to be picked green, before they ripened naturally, in order to make it possible to
transport them without too much spoilage. In addition, they withered and dried out
while being shipped, stored and displayed for sale. Meat came to us from a spick
and span butcher shop, but we could never forget that it had first passed through
the packing-houses which Upton Sinclair had called "the jungle." After
we moved to the country and acquired the habit of eating fresh-killed chicken, we
could hardly force ourselves to eat chicken in the city. Nothing which a cook can
do to a chicken in the kitchen can disguise for us the flavor which develops in a
chicken after it has been kept for weeks and possibly for many months in cold storage
with all its intestines intact inside. In the course of our studies of diet we became
conscious for the first time of the fact that all these things were part and parcel
of city living and of the factory packing of foodstuffs to which industrialism seemed
to have irretrievably condemned the consuming public.
Actually our moving to the country
was inspired less by the notion that we could reduce the cost of living than by the
conviction that we could live better than we had in the city. So far as food was
concerned, better health was more in our minds than saving money. We sought pure
food and fresh food rather than cheap food. The discovery that home production made
it possible for us to enjoy better food at a lower cost than we had in the city,
We landed in the country on April 1st,
a little late in the season, we have since learned for starting chickens. But since
raising chickens was almost the first item in our food raising program, we went ahead,
anyway. Eggs had always been an important factor in our dietary, we wanted to have
plenty of them, and the supply of fresh chicken which would accompany egg production
would, we felt, cut down what we had been in the habit of spending for meat of all
We knew nothing about chickens. For
instructions we turned to the bulletins of the Department of Agriculture in Washington
and of the state agricultural university. We pored over bulletins dealing with incubation,
with raising chicks, with feeding hens for egg production and fattening poultry for
the table. We followed in a general way the instructions in the bulletins about equipment
and housing them. But we nevertheless decided to feel our way and to try out our
book-taught knowledge before venturing on any considerable investment in our poultry-yard.
Unless experienced personal guidance is available, no amount of mere reading can
prevent the beginner from making mistakes. If the initial venture is a large one,
the mistake may prove financially disastrous. Some years after we moved to the country,
a small, completely equipped farm near us was purchased by another city migrant.
Ill-health and inability to keep up his work in the city (he was a newspaper man)
had forced this move upon him. It was his idea to raise chickens for a living. He,
too, started out knowing nothing about chickens and having to rely upon book knowledge
for information. But unlike the Borsodi family, he started out on a large scale,
buying 100 day-old chicks from commercial hatcheries to begin. The poultry books
told him that the chicks were to be fed grit and water before they received their
first regular feed. To a countryman, the word grit would have been self-explanatory.
No doubt the author of the bulletin upon which this man relied did not feel it necessary
to explain what grit was, or, if there was such an explanation in the book, its significance
did not register on our neighbor. At any rate, what he did do was to go to his barns
and look for a sack of grit. Having found what he thought was grit, he proceeded
to feed it to his chickens as instructed. Within a short time the chickens began
to die right and left. He began to lose chicks in batches of fifty in a single day.
And he had hardly any of his original loo chicks left when he discovered that what
he had thought grit, in reality was linseed meal. Here was the first of what proved
a series of catastrophic losses for this family. Precious money and even more precious
time was lost, owing to this mistake. Before this man learned enough about living
in the country to produce with any degree of efficiency (though I believe nothing
could have enabled him to produce profitably for the market), his losses were so
great that he had to abandon the place he had purchased and to return to the city,
broken in pocket and even more broken in spirit. I cannot, therefore, make this point
too strongly--the only alternative to experienced guidance is experimenting on a
small scale. Mistakes then can be considered part of one's education.
It is difficult today, when the care
of our poultry-yard takes so little original thinking on our part, to realize how
bewildered we were when we first began with chickens. There was, to begin with, the
problem of breeds. Roughly, all the various breeds of chickens fall into three categories:
egg-laying machines, like the Leghorns; meat-making chickens, like the Jersey Giants;
and all-purpose breeds, like the Plymouth Rocks and the Rhode Island Reds. The Leghorns
do lay more eggs than the other types, but they are small and wiry birds, hardly
fit for the table. As we wanted plenty of eggs, we decided against the Jersey Giants.
To secure both eggs and decent meat, we finally decided on one of the all-purpose
breeds, Rhode Island Reds, a decision we have never regretted. The Reds are probably
no better than others of the same general type; there was no special reason for selecting
them unless it was that it was easier for us to get hens and eggs of this breed in
our neighborhood than the others.
We started operations that first spring
with a broody hen and a setting of eggs which we purchased from a neighbor. Later,
we repeated this purchase three or four times. But the first hen had not finished
hatching out her setting (it takes three weeks) when we decided that hatching eggs
out nature's way wouldn't give us enough chicks for our needs. We purchased a sixty-egg
incubator, heated by a kerosene-lamp. While we still set hens, perhaps because "breaking
up" broody hens each year is almost as much trouble as setting them, we believe
a good, small incubator an essential part of an ideal homestead. We purchased eggs
enough to fill the incubator twice that year from farmers who had flocks of Reds.
And we managed to hatch out an exceptionally large proportion of them. My recollection
is that we started our poultry-yard that first year with about 150 chicks.
This number dwindled down, as is to
be expected, to about 100 chickens--half of them pullets and half of them cockerels.
The first year we killed a good many of the cockerels for fries in the course of
the summer. But the second year we came to the conclusion that this was a most wasteful
proceeding, and ordered a set of instruments for caponizing. Eventually every member
of the family learned how to caponize the cockerels. The operation is rather interesting;
it need never be bloody; and by fattening the capons for six or eight months, we
had eight- and nine-pound capons to eat--a luxury which we had never enjoyed at home
in the city. Indeed, when I came across Philadelphia capons on restaurant menus,
I hadn't the least notion what a capon really was; vaguely I thought them some particularly
choice breed of chicken.
The annual food contribution of our
poultry-yard, after it was once established, usually averages twenty or twenty-five
capons, an equal number of old hens, and all the eggs we can eat. There is always
a surplus of eggs in the spring. Sometimes we sell them or turn them in to our grocer,
but usually we prefer to put them down and preserve them in water glass, which keeps
them fit for cooking purposes for the fall and winter when the production of fresh
eggs falls short of our needs. However, if the chicken-house is of warm construction
and especially if it is electrically lighted in the winter so as to give the hens
a full day at the feed-boxes, a plentiful supply of fresh eggs can be secured the
A small flock of chickens, kept up
each year by raising about seventy-five chicks, is all that the average family needs.
The dividends per dollar of investment are really enormous, even if all the feed
for them has to be purchased. Owing to the fact that land in our section is not adapted
to grain farming and the fact that we have had to clear every bit of land for garden
purposes, we have purchased nearly all of our chicken feed. There is no reason, however,
why the feed should not be produced on the homestead if the soil is suitable. This
simply increases the dividends earned and proportionately reduces the family's dependence
upon income and purchases from the outside. The labor of feeding and caring for such
a flock of chickens is not great, especially if good equipment and housing is provided.
A large poultry project, from which money is to be made, is an altogether different
affair. The poultry business seems to have a universal popularity. It looks like
an easy way to make a living. But it takes much more experience and much more ability
than the average man possesses to make money at it. We tried it one year and, while
we lost no money on the project (on the contrary, by ordinary standards it might
have been considered a success), it was one of the experiences which made us decide
against the home production of anything for sale.
A few years after we moved to the country
a brother of mine was ordered to the country by his doctor. We invited him to come
to "Sevenacres" and suggested that he make his expenses by raising eggs
and chickens for the market. So that year we had the opportunity of watching what
happened when the flock grew in size to something like commercial proportions. The
eggs raised sold well and at high prices. The cockerels were all caponized and in
the fall sold to a restaurant in the city. Yet when we were all through with the
year there was precious little to show for the labor which had been put into them.
By the time that feed and supplies
were paid for, pocket money was all that my brother had to show for his summer's
work. The experiment was well worth while, however, because it proved one of the
things which helped us to decide that any extra time which we could put into production
could be more profitably used raising other things for our own use than by raising
a surplus of one thing, such as eggs and chickens, for sale.
We have applied this principle to the
poultry-yard itself, keeping the number of chickens down and raising other fowls.
We have raised Peking ducks and found that the Peking duck furnishes almost as many
eggs as do many breeds of chickens, and in addition furnishes a welcome variation
in the diet. We also raise turkeys; we plan to raise at least one bird for each month
for the table, and a flock to be used as Christmas presents. This particular experiment
in the home production of gifts has been among our most successful; the sentiment
surrounding the turkeys savors of Christmas much more than factory-made gadgets usually
bought in crowded stores. We have also raised pigeons, principally because they were
decorative, and have hatched pheasants principally for the sake of romance. It is
part of our yearly spring thrill to watch for the first appearance of the cock pheasants
and to see them in all their finery as they begin their courting dances.
A few words must be added on the subject
of fresh eggs. We used to buy so-called fresh eggs in the city, but in the very nature
of things it was impossible for them to be really fresh. Even near-by eggs rarely
get to the city before they are two weeks old. True, the palate of the city man is
so little cultivated that the finer flavors of all sorts of foods have lost their
importance to him. Industrialism and urbanism have combined to blunt his taste. As
to fresh eggs, the Borsodi family consists of gourmets. The fact that the humble
egg has developed a new value for us is typical of the transvaluations which have
come to us from our return to nature.
Milk, cream, buttermilk, butter, cheese,
ice-cream--all the various milk products--constituted one of the large items in our
food budget when we lived in the city. Our fluid milk supply consisted of grade A
milk, delivered daily in glass bottles. This milk was pasteurized. We used creamery
butter which at that time was made from raw cream. Since then efforts have been made
to compel creameries to use only pasteurized milk. Buttermilk we drank only occasionally.
After we moved to the country it became a part of our regular diet; it proved a most
healthful and nourishing foodstuff. Ice-cream we ate in much greater moderation in
the city than we do today, perhaps because of some Puritanical inhibition about eating
too much dessert. But probably the notion was actually correct, at least with regard
to commercial ice-cream, which is what we used to eat. Certainly the bulk of commercial
ice-cream, often made from rancid cream, artificial coloring, and synthetic flavoring,
is not a desirable food. But even the best commercial ice-cream cannot be compared
with home-made ice-cream and frozen desserts made from clean, sweet cream, fresh
eggs, and real fruit juices. Much of the cheese now consumed in the city is synthetic,
made from something which the breweries invented and which ought not to be called
cheese at all. We ate little cheese before we left the city; after we went to the
country we began to eat all the pot cheese we could enjoy, and when we learned how
useful a part of the diet cheese can be, we began to buy the kinds of cheese which
we could not make at home.
Our revolt against commercial milk
products was helped by one of those fortuitous incidents which shape all of our lives,
though we are seldom conscious of their importance at the time. Mrs. Borsodi, before
she gave up business, had occasion to visit one of the largest creameries in the
country to secure information for an advertising campaign. Her disillusionment about
the dairy industry and creamery butter was complete. Modern science, she found, was
being used to produce a tasty and attractive-looking butter from raw materials which
often came into the creamery only fit for slopping to hogs. Of superficial cleanliness
there was plenty, but underneath the scrupulous surface was the fact that the system
was so perfect that no matter what sort of cream was used, a product which had the
appearance of quality was produced. No doubt in a perfectly organized industrial
state, in which the profit motive has in some way been legislated out of existence,
the technicians who will operate the creameries will eliminate some of the worst
of present-day mass-production evils. We, however, were not only somewhat cynical
about the benefits of unlimited government supervision, but saw no good reason why
we should postpone the eating of pure and fresh foods until the distant day when
a social revolution would wipe out all the blots on present-day industrial production.
Besides, contacts with state institutions--hospitals, for instance--prevented us
from sharing the sanguine hopes of socialist friends about the quality of foodstuffs
which would be produced in a socialist heaven.
As soon as we were well settled in
the country we bought a cow--too good a cow, I am afraid. When fresh she gave us
as much as twenty quarts of milk a day. Most of the time we had so much milk that
it seemed as if we could bathe in it. But what milk it was! In spite of the fact
that we drank all we desired, made our own butter and pot cheese, there was still
a surplus of milk to be disposed of. A few neighbors begged us to sell them milk,
but this experience, just like our experience in selling eggs and chickens, only
confirmed our determination not to produce for the market. We were producing a quality
of milk far superior to that in the market; what we received for it hardly paid for
the labor of cleaning bottles and delivering it. We wondered what we could buy with
the money half so precious as the milk. We needed two or three quarts of milk daily.
Twenty was too much of a good thing. We had no intention of living on milk alone,
nor of going into the dairy business. For a family of four, the cow was evidently
not the best solution of the milk problem. With a family of six or more persons,
it would perhaps have been different. But for us, using a cow to produce milk was
like using a sledge hammer to drive carpet tacks. We sold the cow and decided to
try Swiss milch goats.
The milch goat is still somewhat of
a novelty, handicapped by the fact that the goat is supposed to be funny. In our
judgment it is an ideal solution of the problem of producing milk for use within
the family. Its milk is richer than cow's milk in butter fat, and easier to digest.
When the goats are properly fed, it is hard to distinguish its taste from cow's milk.
We have repeatedly fooled friends of ours who were prejudiced against it. We bought
one pure-blooded Toggenburg doe, and one grade doe. The grade doe was probably a
half-blood; there is no reason why one should go to the expense of buying pure bloods
unless one intends to go into goat-breeding. Properly selected grade goats will give
practically as much milk and are much less expensive. Two does, however, should be
purchased. Goats are evidently very gregarious; they fret and hold back their milk
if they are without companionship. The buck is a smelly and obnoxious animal, and
the does should be taken to a buck when ready for breeding. Unlike a cow, which is
a perfect nuisance when in heat, bellowing and carrying on in a most disgraceful
manner, the does are so small that they can be put into any automobile and quickly
taken to a buck for breeding. By breeding one doe so that it kids in the spring and
the other in the fall, two does will furnish a supply of milk the year round. When
fresh, our does gave us about three quarts of milk daily.
Among the great advantages of the goats
was the great reduction in the labor of milking and caring for them. To milk a quart
or two morning and evening proved a trifling job in comparison with having to fill
a ten-quart pail twice a day. And the goats, unlike the cow, kept themselves clean.
As a matter of fact, they are rather fastidious in their habits. They will not eat
grain or hay which has been trampled under foot, though they will eat almost any
kind of vegetation and are fond of eating the bark off of trees. This partiality
for bark probably explains their fondness for paper, most of which is made of wood
pulp. They will probably eat the paper off of a tin can, but the notion that they
will eat the tin itself seems to me a silly superstition.
One disadvantage of goats has to do
with butter. The fat globule in goat's milk does not separate or rise as readily
as that in cow's milk. If butter is to be made, a cream separator has to be used.
With this piece of apparatus to overcome this disadvantage, it seems to me that for
the small family all the advantages lie on the side of the goat. We found butter-making,
using an efficient rotary churn, a most profitable activity.
There is simply no comparison between
fresh, homemade butter and creamery butter. With a good refrigerator to get the cream
to the proper temperature, the butter forms very quickly. Most of the operations
in butter-making can be done mechanically with an efficient kitchen mixer.
When we purchased "Sevenacres,"
we found ourselves in possession of a small "farm" little of which was
really suitable for farming. There was plenty of room for garden, though no vegetables
and berries had been raised on the place for many years; there was an old orchard
containing some apple, plum, and cherry trees; there was a hay-field, and a piece
of woodland suitable for a wood-lot. Actual farming operations for us, when we began
to develop our theory of self- sufficiency, seemed to fall into two divisions--one
having to do with the growing of vegetables, berries, fruit, and foodstuffs for our
own consumption, and the other with the growing of feed for the chickens, the goats,
and other livestock. We have had considerable success with the first; with the second
we have tried to do relatively little as yet.
During the four years we were on "Sevenacres"
we did not get around to grain-farming at all, though there was room enough for raising
grain enough for both feed and for our own table. On the "Dogwoods" we
have not as yet cleared enough ground. We have always managed to produce some hay,
and on our new place have usually managed to put away a load of oats each year which
we fed to the Toggenbergs. Eventually we hope to produce all our own feed, as we
believe it thoroughly practicable and extremely profitable for homesteaders to do
so. An acre devoted to corn and wheat, and a half acre devoted to alfalfa, soy-beans,
or clover, would take care of the feed for all the livestock needed by the average
family, especially if the fields are well fertilized and properly cultivated. Commercial
feed has cost us consistently two or three times as much as farmers in the grain-growing
sections of the country receive for corn and other grain. Sometimes it has been four
times as high. By the time freight, storage, and handling charges are added to the
price the farmer has received, the price has no resemblance to that in the primary
markets. Even though it costs the homesteader much more to raise feed than it does
the farmer who operates a grain "factory" in the West, it would cost him
less to do so than to buy feed.
Since we have raised so little of our
feed, what we have actually done with our livestock operations has been to substitute
a feed bill monthly for the milk and butter bill, and the egg and poultry bill, which
we used to receive in the city. The feed bills, however, have not only been much
smaller, but have enabled us to enjoy a quality of dairy and poultry products much
higher than we were able to secure in the city. Some day we shall clear away enough
stumps and roots on our new place so that we can cut out the feed bill as well. When
that time comes, it will be hard for the industrial system to starve us out, no matter
how badly business goes to pot.
A completely vegetarian family could
live entirely out of a kitchen garden and orchard occupying no more than an acre
of land. But we never subscribed to the tenets of this dietetic cult, though we are
convinced that the average American family consumes much more meat than good health
requires. Most of us, so to speak, are digging our graves with our teeth. Over- eating
meat is one of the ways in which the public generally practices this form of suicide.
For this reason we have tried to increase our consumption of fruits and vegetables
and to decrease correspondingly our consumption of meat. This has made the vegetable
garden and the orchard acquire a place of much greater economic importance on our
homestead than is usual on the average farm, and to correspondingly decrease the
importance of the livestock. For instance, we have never gone in for hog-raising,
even though we are fond of pork. Between chickens, ducks, and turkeys, and an occasional
"bull" calf or "buck" kid which we did not wish to raise and
therefore slaughtered, we have had plenty of meat. When particularly hungry for ham
and pork, we patronized the local meat market. Families hungrier for meat than the
Borsodi family should raise a couple of pigs each year, buying the young pigs and
fattening them for the fall and winter. This would also furnish a plentiful supply
of lard, a natural food, instead of the chemical fats which people now use. Butter
and chicken fat, however, have enabled us to get along without purchasing any fats
except olive oil.
The vegetable garden should be large
enough to supply the family with fresh vegetables during the growing season and with
enough for canning and dehydrating for the winter. In our garden we go in heavily
for staples such as peas, beans, radishes, carrots, lettuce, cabbages, turnips, asparagus,
rhubarb, potatoes, and sweet corn, but we have always selected the more toothsome
varieties of even these old standbys. The varieties developed for commercial purposes
are notable usually for size and color rather than flavor. Sweet corn is an instance
of this. For many years we have raised nothing but yellow bantam corn, which we believe
far superior in quality to the large, white ears which we used to get in the city
markets. Incidentally, sweet corn fresh from the garden, before the sugar in the
corn has had a chance to turn into starch, is a very different foodstuff from sweet
corn after it has been shipped to the city and more or less dried out in the process.
Even a dull palate has no difficulty in noticing the difference.
Such a garden is a much larger undertaking
than the usual suburban backyard project. Unless one is content to devote oneself
to back-breaking drudgery, the garden cannot be taken care of with a spade for "plowing''
and an old-fashioned hoe for "cultivation." We turned to the wheel hoe,
one of the simplest of agricultural implements, for help in reducing the labor to
manageable proportions. This relatively inexpensive piece of machinery reduced the
labor to a point where it demanded no more of my time and strength than should be
given to some form of exercise regularly every day. The investment of $3.50 to $5,
in this implement with its set of attachments of plows, weeders, cultivators and
rakes, pays for itself over and over again in a single year. Except when plowing
and planting, it makes it possible to use our "man" power without abusing
it. In the spring and the fall, when planting or harvesting is under way, the whole
family goes to the garden and the heavier labor at that time is turned into a sort
of family game. It is an amusing fact that the garden has furnished me exercise for
which we had to pay money in the city. There, to keep oneself fit, one has to turn
to gymnasiums or to golf.
We have experimented with the use of
power in farming. But power is really unnecessary on the scale we have operated.
We have a Fordson tractor on our place, but it was purchased only because we had
to clear the land on which we built our new home. It more than paid for itself in
excavating, in road-making, and in hauling timbers and stones at the "Dogwoods."
Even the small garden tractor, which represents an investment of around $200 today,
is of doubtful utility unless the homestead goes in for field corn, wheat, and other
grains. Then, of course, either a horse or small tractor becomes a paying investment,
with the horse perhaps the better of the two under present conditions. It takes money
to buy gasoline and oil; the fuel for the horse can be produced on the farm. The
horse, too, makes it possible to reduce expenditures for fertilizer. No wonder that
since the depression there has been a decided increase in the use of horses for farming
and a corresponding decline in the use of tractors.
Both on economic and on nutritional
grounds we have revolted against the commercial cereals and ordinary white flour.
A small grist-mill, to which we attached a motor from a discarded dishwasher, has
made it possible for us to grind our own flour, and to crack cereals for breakfast
foods. We have even managed to cut down the cost of the mash we feed to our chickens
by buying whole grains and grinding them ourselves. That this simple piece of machinery
should be in every homestead can certainly be demonstrated on the basis of what it
saves on the cost of whole-wheat flour, which is the only kind we use.
We, of course, have had to buy our
wheat. The wheat is, therefore, our first cost. If wheat and oats and corn are grown
on the homestead, this would no longer be the first cost. First cost would be whatever
we had to spend in labor and money to raise the wheat. After paying for the wheat,
and adding the value of the labor and the cost of current and similar expenses of
operating our mill, our whole-wheat flour costs us about 1-1/2 cents per pound. Whole-wheat
flour of the same quality now sells in the grocery store for 6- 1/2 cents per pound.
The difference between the two is alone sufficient to make the investment in the
flourmill pay us handsome dividends. But the saving on white flour is, I believe,
much greater, and consists of other savings than those calculable in terms of money.
We use no white flour, except occasionally
for pastry. White flour, I believe, along with white sugar and white rice, is one
of the most harmful products for which we are indebted to the factory system. All
these bleached and whitened foodstuffs are made white by the mills which produce
them not only for the sake of their appearance, but in order to preserve them during
the long period of time which elapses between the time when they are ground in the
mill and the time they are consumed by the public. Dentists will tell you that these
white foods soften the teeth; dietitians and doctors that they cause constipation.
Personally, I hold them suspect for the great white plague of tuberculosis.
White flour is only one of the three
products into which wheat is converted by our mills. The white flour we consume in
bread and pastry; the middlings are bleached and sold to us for breakfast food as
Wheatena of Cream of Wheat, and the bran is sold to us in neat packages to cure us
of the constipation which the white flour causes. Dr. Kellogg, of the Battle Creek
Sanitarium, who first hit on the bright idea of marketing bran for this purpose,
has made a fortune out of selling this by-product of modern milling to the deluded
American public. Yet as long as they insist upon consuming white flour, the bran
is an almost essential purchase. All three of these products are present in the whole-wheat
flour we use, and which costs us about 1-1/2 cents a pound. When we buy wheat after
it has been split into three parts by our milling industry, we pay about 2 cents
per pound for the white flour; about 13 cents per pound for the middlings in the
form of breakfast food, and 20 cents per pound for the bran.
What is true of wheat is also true
of corn. The home grist-mill makes it possible for us to grind our own corn meal
at a cost of about 1-1/4 cents per pound. But this is whole corn meal and not the
pale ghost of the old-fashioned corn meal of our grandmothers. Yet the desiccated
starchy substance which is now sold in our stores as corn meal costs 9 cents per
pound. This corn meal is made from the dregs of whole corn after the best part, the
germ, has been cut out of it to be chemically treated and turned into glucose and
corn syrup. These chemical substances in turn have replaced the honey, the maple
sugar, the molasses, and the brown sugar which were consumed in their places years
ago, and which it is still possible for each individual family to produce for itself.
Industrial production of these foodstuffs, instead of representing progress, has
resulted in furnishing us inferior food and at a much higher price.
The American housewife tends constantly
to buy more prepared or partly prepared food, and to cook and preserve less and less
in her kitchen. After we moved to the country, the Borsodi kitchen showed an exact
reversal of the general trend. It was not only the room in which we cooked or heated
prepared foods for the table--it became the family cannery and packing-house and
creamery. And in such a kitchen, we have found that the average woman could earn
much more than most of them were earning in the factories, stores and offices for
which so many millions of women have abandoned home-making.
One of our first extravagances when
we began to reequip and redesign our kitchen for production was the purchase of a
steam pressure cooker--price in 1920, $25. We justified this seeming extravagance
with the hope that it could be made into a profitable investment. Today pressure
cookers of the same size with many improvements over the type we installed can be
purchased for $8.50. This piece of domestic machinery enabled the family to cut the
labor of canning to from one-quarter to one-third of that necessary with old-fashioned
methods. Its sterilization proved as reliable as any job of processing in the largest
canneries of the country. Without the pressure cooker, canning a sufficient supply
for winter would have been as great a labor for us as trying to garden with a spade
and hoe. With the pressure cooker it became quite practical to put up four-hundred
quarts of vegetables and fruits--an ample supply for a family of our size for the
whole winter. In addition to the staples usually canned, the pressure cooker enabled
us to can veal, chicken, mushrooms, and gelatine. It made it possible for us to go
into the winter with jar after jar of delicacies such as chicken breasts, veal gelatine,
and genuine mint jelly. These cost us so little, aside from labor, which the pressure
cooker and the kitchen mixer reduced to a minimum, that we soon abandoned the task
of making detailed comparisons between the cost of the home-made product and the
high-priced and inferior canned goods we formerly consumed.
Canning-time in the Kitchen at "Dogwoods House."
Note the Pressure Cooker and the Electric Mixer, Which Is Being Used to Shred Vegetables
As time went on we kept adding to the kitchen
a good many appliances which are usually considered luxuries. I have mentioned that
we purchased an electric range for use in the country. There was no gas available
on "Sevenacres"; to cook with oil seemed out of question, while the old-fashioned
kitchen range, however desirable in the winter, made kitchens an inferno in summer.
Our old electric range, which cost us $75 ten years ago, was finally replaced by
a $250 range a few years ago--a range equipped with all the modern controls developed
during that period of time. But even here we refused to concede that we were going
in for luxuries; we were merely bringing our productive kitchen machinery up to date.
A test made at the time the new range was installed confirmed us in our belief that
the new range, the $200 kitchen mixer with all sorts of attachments, and the electric
refrigerator were all dividend-paying investments. Two complete meals consisting
of chicken, string beans, diced carrots, prunes, and chocolate cakes were prepared
by Mrs. Borsodi and a demonstrator sent up by the General Electric Company, and served
to a group of friends. One of the meals was completely factory made from "boughten"
products, with nothing added in the kitchen except heat to the product as they came
from the packers, canners, and bakers. The total cost of this meal was $3.46. The
other was exactly the same as to menu but completely home-made. After figuring the
cost of materials at market prices, electric current, investment on machinery and
equipment, and making allowance for the difference in the weight of the two meals,
the total cost of the home-made meal was $1.59--a saving of $1.87 on a single meal.
This proved a saving of $1.40 cents per hour for the time used in cooking the meal--pretty
good earnings in comparison with what most women received in industry. Multiply such
savings by the more than one thousand meals which are eaten every year by the average
family and it is easy to see why we feel that a well-equipped kitchen is no luxury
but an absolute essential to the productive home.
It is, however, possible to stress
the economic argument unduly. The kitchen is not only a place in which the average
woman can earn money. It is even more one of the places in a home in which she can
exercise her creative and artistic faculties. Cookery is an art. It is one of those
arts much neglected today because we have so generally subscribed to the fallacy
that only that is art which has no utility.
But cookery is even more than art.
It is science as well. The chemistry of food is a fascinating subject. And if women
but knew it, health is more apt to be maintained by what is done by them in the kitchen
than by what all the doctors and druggists can do for their families.
Prelude to the First Edition
1. Flight from the City
II. Domestic Production
III. Food, Pure Food, and Fresh
IV. The Loom and the Sewing-machine
VI. Water, Hot Water, and Waste
VII. Education--The School
IX. Security versus Insecurity
X. Independence versus Dependence