Jan 21 Tuesday. This morning commenced working on
Susans sack but had some things to do about house so
that I could not accomplish much. Mrs. Holmes called
to get some potatoes for Miss Eaton says she (Miss E) is
failing and the Dr had told her that he could not help
her Mr Robinson came this afternoon to varnish the
chimney pieces & spilled the varnish over my carpet
which prevented me from going to have Susans doll
Harriet Holmes, a neighbor, came to the Ames house to fetch potatoes for the ailing Miss Eaton, the same Miss Eaton on whom Evelina and Sarah Ames called during the cold spell earlier in the month. The spinster lived with Harriet and Bradford Holmes, their children, Harriet’s mother and a shovel worker named Oliver Eaton – a relative, possibly. Mr. Holmes was a teamster who probably worked with Old Oliver’s oxen. Many folks who lived in North Easton were connected to the shovel works in some way.
The potatoes that Evelina gave away would have been grown either by Old Oliver or by Alson Gilmore, Evelina’s brother, who owned the Gilmore family farm. Potatoes were common fare at the dinner table, and particularly a favorite for winter use. The Irish called them “pratties.” The challenge for a housewife lay in how to serve potatoes: mashed, roasted, and boiled were familiar variations, then and today. Sarah Josepha Hale underscored the dietary importance of potatoes in her book, The Good Housekeeper. “To boil Potatoes in the best manner, is a very great perfection in cookery,” she said.
In the Ames sitting room, hapless Mr. Robinson had to contend with a displeased housewife after he spilled varnish on the carpet. He was already in Evelina’s bad graces from having taken too long to paint around the fireplaces. How do you suppose Evelina got the varnish cleaned up?