Next time you are tempted to hanker for older, simpler, times, think on this story, and be grateful for your automatic washing machine and your steam iron.
On this day in 1799, our old friend Parson James Woodforde noted some details of washing day(s) in his household.
1799 June 10, Monday. We breakfasted, dined &c. again at home. Mr. Maynard called on us this Morning. To a Man of Shearingham by name Hull for six small Crabs paid him 0. 1. 0. Dinner to day, a small Leg of Mutton roasted and remarkably fine flavoured - Scotch Mutton. Mr. Custance called on us in his Evenings Walk around 7. o'clock & spent an Hour with us…... Washing Week with us this Week. We wash every five Weeks. Our present Washerwomen are Anne Downing and Anne Richmond. Washing and Ironing generally take us four Days. The Washerwomen breakfast and dine the Monday and Tuesday, and have each one Shilling on their going away in the Evening of Tuesday.
In honour of Anne D. and Anne R., and other washerwomen everywhere, I give you a recipe from a book published in the good Parson’s time.
Fillet of Mutton with Cucumbers.
Take a neck of mutton of what size you please, and cut off the greater part of the scrag, and the cine and spay-bones close to the ribs. Take off the fat from the great end, and flat it with your cleaver, so that it may lie neatly in the dish. Soak it in a marinade, and roast it wrapped up in paper well-buttered. For your spring and summer sauce, nicely quarter some cucumbers, and fry them in a piece of butter, after laying in the same marinade. Stew them in a ladle or two of your cullis, a bit of shallot of green onion, pepper and salt, a little minced parsley, the juice of a lemon, and then serve it up. The only difference between this and the celery sauce is, that instead of frying your celery, boil it in a little water till it be tender, or you may stew it for a quarter of an hour in broth.
The Universal Cook, and City and Country Housekeeper, (1797) by Francis Collingwood,