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From Barnes & NobleThe Joy of Housekeeping...Really!
Cheryl Mendelson paints an amusing picture of the beginnings of her passion for housekeeping: "My domestic education was a battlefield in a subtle war between my two grandmothers." Indeed, her Italian grandmother kept rooms airy and light with flowers sprouting in porcelain pots on windowsills. Her Anglo-American grandmother, on the other hand, kept rooms shaded almost to darkness against real and fancied harmful effects of light and air. Mendelson's own housekeeping habits fall somewhere in between the two. The result is a contemporary interpretation of the art of housekeeping. From germ consciousness to the finer points of cleaning and laundering, Mendelson warmly and expertly shares her knowledge of how to keep house.
In Mendelson's first selection, "Food," she begins with a discussion about "The Whys and Wherefores of Home Cooking," because "good meals at home satisfy emotional hungers as real as hunger in the belly." Mendelson claims that most people eat out not because they lack the time to cook but because they don't know how to cook well enough to make good quick meals. She then teaches us how. From "Kitchen Culture" to "Safe Food," Mendelson covers topics such as stocking and organizing a kitchen, washing and preparing food, cooking and storing food safely, and cleaning and protecting kitchens against bacteria. An extensive chart on food storage provides specific guidelines for the proper shelf life of dry, refrigerated, and frozen foods, as well as fresh produce.
Mendelson's second section, "Cloth," is based on her philosophy that "the emotional warmth and security of a home depends...on cool sheets, soft carpets...and thick towels." Unfortunately, she claims, while most people today know what they like once they feel a particular type of cloth, they don't know how to look or ask for these fabrics or how to care for them once they bring them home. With this in mind, she provides a comprehensive discussion of the fabrics found in homes today, from clothing and linens to carpet and upholstery. In addition to her descriptions, she uses black-and-white line drawings to illustrate the construction of different fabrics and includes chapters on natural fabrics (linen, cotton, wool, silk) and man-made fabrics (rayon, nylon, polyester, spandex, and blends). Other chapters cover laundering tricky items, sanitizing the laundry, and removing stains from fabrics.
Mendelson's section on "Cleanliness" begins with "The Air in Your Castle," a chapter on the importance of keeping your home ventilated, as well as monitoring temperature, humidity, and air pollution. In "Dust and Dust Mites" she specifically attacks the problem of dust, since "dust under the sofa becomes dust in the nose, the eye, the soup," and provides directions for vacuuming, sweeping, and dusting the home. Mendelson also takes up, rather heatedly, the problem of germs and bacteria: what they are and how to get rid of them. She provides a glossary of sanitizers and disinfectants and provides guidelines for the use of each one, and she offers alternatives such as recipes for homemade cleaners and includes helpful suggestions for how to gather the appropriate clothes, rags, and tools for each cleaning project.
And finally, just in case you've run out of things to clean, she gives instructions for how to properly care for bathrooms, windows, pipes and drains, woodwork, textiles, walls, ceilings, floors even china, crystal, metals, and jewelry -- anything and everything in a home that might need cleaning.
The final sections of Home Comforts are shorter but just as thorough. In "Sleep," she provides an intimate portrait of the bedroom, a place for "sleeping, lovemaking, dressing, and undressing," and claims that "keeping dust down in the bedroom does more to promote health and comfort than any other cleaning in your home (with the exception of the kitchen)." She provides detailed instructions for how to make a bed, stock comfortable sheets and blankets, keep closets aired and cleaned, and even includes some "housecraftly helps for insomnia."
Mendelson's interest in keeping house is certainly a passion. But lucky for us, it's one she's willing to share. Home Comforts is available for anyone and everyone with an interest in the home and the comforts we find there.