September 7, 1852

Cucumber

Tuesday Sept 7th

1852  I have not sewed much again to day

I was at work on pickles  swept the parlour

washed the windows &c &c and did not sit down

to work untill after dinner.  This afternoon 

Mrs Seba Howard  Miss M J Alger called

& Abby passed the afternoon.  We called 

to see Augusta.  Julia Pool is there taking

care of her she is not able to sit up much

 

“Pickles are very indigestible things, and ought rarely to be eaten,”* declared Sarah Josepha Hale, editor** of Godey’s Lady’s Book, and author of many poems, novels, cookbooks, and household guides. Respectful as Mrs. Hale invariably was of women’s domestic virtues and products, she clearly had no love for pickles, a kitchen staple. Their only value “in cookery,” according to her, was the flavor they added to vinegar.

Evelina and most other housewives and cookbook writers disagreed with Mrs. Hale. Pickles were standard fare, and this time of year many a housewife in many a kitchen was busy turning a cucumber harvest into pickles for the winter ahead. Lydia Maria Child, another popular 19th century writer, offered a detailed recipe in The American Frugal Housewife:

Cucumbers should be in weak brine three or four days after they are picked; then they should be put in a tin or wooden pail of clean water, and kept slightly warm in the kitchen corner for two or three days.  Then take as much vinegar as you think your pickle jar will hold’; scald it with pepper, allspice, mustard-seed, flag-root, horseradish, &c., if you happen to have them; half of them will spice the pickles very well.  Throw in a bit of alum [ammonium aluminum sulfate] as big as a walnut; this serves to make pickles hard. Skim the vinegar clean, and pour it scalding hot upon the cucumbers. ***

The last step in the process was to store the pickles in glass jars. as opposed to ceramic containers. Most 19th century pantries and cellars held tall, slightly blue or green glass pickle jars on their shelves. So it was at the Ames’s.

After the morning’s work and midday dinner, Evelina welcomed Eleutheria Howard, Miss Alger and niece Abby Torrey into the parlor. How strong the smell of pickles in the house must have been! The ladies then left to call on poor Augusta Pool Gilmore, who was still ailing from an intestinal disorder. Her sister Julia was staying with her.

 

*Sarah Josepha Hale, The Good Househkeeper, 1841, p. 71

**Mrs. Hale actually preferred the term “editoress.”

***Lydia Maria Child, The American Frugal Housewife,” pp. 61-62

August 13, 1851

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Wednesday 13th  Went to Mrs Holmes early this morning to

make her bed & tie her hair and was there most

of the forenoon.  Passed the afternoon at Major

Seba Howards with Mrs S Ames.  Met a Mr & Miss

Howard from Philadelphia two Miss Tolmans from

New Bedford & Henrietta & Mrs Lewis Keith.  Mr & Miss

Howard are very pleasant.  Had an introduction

to Mr Brett

First thing after breakfast, Evelina went to see Harriet Holmes, a neighbor who was seriously ill.  As she had done on other days, she made Harriet’s bed and tied up her hair. She spent the morning there, probably giving others in the household – specifically Harriet’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Holmes – some time off.  Presumably Mrs. Holmes or her son, Bradford, had kept watch the night before.

Everyone’s vigilance was rewarded, as Harriet Holmes began to improve. Whatever it was that had made her sick began to abate. This would be the last visit that Evelina made to the house or, at least, the last one she made note of. Harriet would recover.

Evelina must have been relieved. She was certainly optimistic enough to set aside her care-giving and dedicate the afternoon to socializing.  She and her sister-in-law, Sarah Lothrop Ames, called on Major Seba Howard and his wife, Eleutheria. There they were introduced to several guests, some of whom were “very pleasant.”  The afternoon was a much needed change of pace after the worry of the past several days.

 

June 21, 1851

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21 June Saturday  Early this morning Mrs. Seba Howard

brought Orinthia up and found me in the

garden weeding. We worked there an hour or two

and then went to sewing.  Orinthia on her dress

and I on the hair cloth.  Harriet came and sat

with us awhile in the afternoon and while she

was in I worked on the sleeves to my plaid stone

colour borage  Orinthia called on Abby   Pleasant

Weeding continued to be the dominant occupation of Evelina’s early morning hours. On this Saturday morning her young friend, Orinthia Foss, arrived for the day and immediately stepped to the garden to help weed. Orinthia was carried up from the southern part of town by a contemporary of Evelina named Eleutheria Howard, wife of Major Seba Howard.

Today was summer solstice, the official start of summer and the high water mark of daylight; the women probably would have enjoyed being outside in the garden all day long, but sewing and other duties called. Each woman had a dress she was working on, and Evelina was still piecing together a horsehair cover for her new lounge. Just as they had sat on so many days during the late winter, so the two sat today, on chairs near the windows for light, with folds of cloth in their laps. Harriett Ames Mitchell, Evelina’s sister-in-law, joined them in the afternoon.

Later in the day Orinthia went to call on Abby Torrey, Evelina’s niece who lived right in the village of North Easton.