Thursday, November 01, 2007

An Examination in Domestic Economy.

November 1 …

Candidates wishing to apply for a Queen’s Scholarship to a training college in London in the mid-nineteenth century were required to sit for an examination to determine their eligibility. A student hoping for a scholarship to study Domestic Economy had to perform very successfully on a three hour paper which covered laundry work, health, needlework, and cookery.

Those of you who rather fancy yourselves as good housekeepers – how would you fare with this exam paper from 1859? You have three hours. Remember to only answer one question from each section.

Note: A First-Class Scholarship for male was worth ₤23 for the year, with a personal allowance of ₤4 (but as a mid-Victorian male it is unlikely that you would be sitting a Domestic Economy examination). For a female, a First-Class Scholarship was worth ₤17, with a personal allowance of ₤3.

Puzzle: if you can already answer these questions, why do you need to go to College?


Three hours allowed for this Paper.
N.B. Do not answer more than one question in each Section.


1. Describe, step by step, the processes of washing – ironing - drying. Mention common faults, and give practical rules.
2. What is starch ? and what is the use of it ?
3. What is the difference between calico, flannel, and linen? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each for clothing ? What is the price per yard of a good sort of each ?


1. Describe the component parts of air, and shew the necessity for ventilation.
2. Describe the component parts of water, and name some simple methods of purifying water.
3. How does a fire act upon the ventilation of a room ? What would be the effect of a fire-place, and door-place, opposite each other ?

3. Explain the methods you would adopt for teaching needlework to 30 girls, aged from 7 to 14 years, and explain the meaning and use of the following : - hemming,
sewing, felling, running, gathering, whipping, stitching, back-stitching, and herring-boning (add, as often as you can, illustrations by drawing to the several parts of your

1. Write out plain directions for making bread, for brewing, and for curing bacon.
2. Write out recipes for pea soup, gravy soup, Irish stew, potato pie, and boiled apple pudding. What are the advantages and disadvantages of salted provisions ?
3. Write out recipes for making barley water, beef tea, gruel, and toast-and-water.

1. How would you treat burns, scalds, sprains, colds, chilblains, stings of wasps and bees ?
2. Name the most common vegetable and mineral poisons, and state what course you would adopt in the case of a person who had taken poison.
3. What is to be said for and against the mother of a family going out to work ? Illustrate your answer by money reckonings.

1. Describe each of the following articles, explaining how it acts - an oven, a spit, a frying-pan, a saucepan. What do you mean by stewing? Is it an advisable mode of cookery ? Why ?
2. What do you mean by a drain ? Why is a house unhealthy if it has no drains, or is near to open ones ? In what situations are houses most likely to be ill drained ? Why ?
3. What is vaccination? What is the object of it? How is it commonly performed ?

To help you with Section IV Question 2, who better to help you than the wonderful Eliza Acton? From her book Modern Cookery, in All its Branches … (1858), here is one of her recipes for Gravy Soup.

Rub a deep stewpan or soup-pot with butter, and lay into it three quarters of a pound of ham freed entirely from fat, skin, and rust, four pounds of leg or neck of veal, and the same weight of lean beef, all cut into thick slices; set it over a clear and rather brisk fire, until the meat is of a fine amber-colour: it must be often moved, and closely watched, that it may not stick to the pan, nor burn. When it is equally browned, lay the bones upon it, and pour in gradually four quarts of boiling water. Take off the scum carefully as it rises, and throw in a pint of cold water at intervals, to bring it quickly to the surface. When no more appears, add two ounces of salt, two onions, two large carrots, two turnips, one head of celery, a two-ounce faggot of savoury herbs, a dozen cloves, half a tea-spoonful of whole white pepper, and two large
blades of mace. Let the soup boil gently from five hours and a half, to six hours and a half; then strain it through a very clean, fine cloth, laid in a hair sieve. When it is perfectly cold, remove every particle of fat from the top; and, in taking out the soup, leave the sediment untouched ; heat in a clean pan the quantity required for table, add salt to it if needed, and a few drops of Chili or of cayenne vinegar. Harvey's sauce, or very fine mushroom catsup, may be substituted for these.
When thus prepared, the soup is ready to serve: it should be accompanied by pale sippets of fried bread, or sippets a la reine. Rice, maccaroni in lengths or rings, vermicelli, or nouilles, may in turn be used, to vary it; but they must always be boiled apart till tender, in broth, or water, and well drained before they are slipped into it. The addition of young vegetables, too, and especially of asparagus, will convert it into an elegant spring-soup; but they, likewise, must be separately cooked.

Tomorrow’s Story …

A Poetic Tea.

Quotation for the Day …

The true cook is the perfect blend, the only perfect blend, of artist and philosopher. He knows his worth: he holds in his palm the happiness of mankind, the welfare of generations yet unborn. Norman Douglas (1868-1952)

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