Cheryl Mendelson was born in a time warp. The product of both Italian and Anglo-Irish heritage, she was raised in Appalachian Pennsylvania in the 1950s among women who still did things the old-fashioned way. She learned to sew, cook, raise kids, garden, clean, and appreciate good music—all as part of a domestic education to rival those of past centuries.
Not to rival, but built on those past centuries of perfected methodology and theory, the product rather than the antithesis. Mendelson is also that rare breed who achieved what many only dream about and still decided to manage her home. A graduate of Harvard Law School, lawyer and professor of philosophy, she nonetheless chooses to stay primarily at home, a proud member of the noble and historical union of Housewives.
All these elements are present in Home Comforts: The Art & Science of Keeping House. There is more information here than you could shake a duster at, but it's not useless tidbits of the Martha Stewart variety or uninteresting drudgery of the "how to" variety. Mendelson presents a whole philosophy of home, showing by example how to discern between what matters and what doesn't, when to pay attention to the label directions and when not to.
There's a whole chapter on stain removal, a glossary of laundry products and additives, a glossary of fabric terms, information on where to store flammable and combustible gases (and what to use them for), advice for keeping the air in your house fresh, tips for making the best food and drink and not spending too much on either....all this followed by seventeen etceteras.
But it's not just all work, either. Mendelson investigates the culture of the bedroom, talks about counteracting insomnia and getting enough sleep, encourages the keeping of scrapbooks and photo albums, discusses laws regarding the hire of domestic help, and offers insight into the collection and care of books. And on and on and on. The amount of knowledge and practical skill the author demonstrates is almost irritating.
It would be irritating if this volume wasn't so helpful and just plain fun to read. It's the kind of book you can pick up and read cover to cover (though at 845 pages it would take awhile), or flip to a passage that interests you and peruse at your own leisure. A lot of books pretend to have this virtue, this one actually does. This really isn't the kind of volume your home can afford to be without. Already hailed as a modern classic, this is The Best Book About the Home and Its Care for a contemporary audience, and likely for generations of audiences to come.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he is a husband and father, teaches adult Sunday school in his Presbyterian congregation, and likes weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here.
Review by C. Hollis Crossman
C. Hollis Crossman used to be a child. Now he's a husband and father who loves church, good food, and weird stuff. He might be a mythical creature, but he's definitely not a centaur. Read more of his reviews here
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