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MRS. L.-I have amused myself with observing the variety of tastes, displayed in the furniture of the different houses I have lately frequented. Many have been furnished in very good style, but in some I have noticed great errors and inconsistencies. For instance, what can betray inconsistency more, than to furnish rooms, not, perhaps, twelve feet square, in a style of splendour suited to spacious apartments? One's sight is absolutely overpowered by the effect of contrasting colours within so small a space.
MRS. B. The taste is not good which neglects to study consistency, whether in regard to furniture or to any other thing; nor can I think that that taste is to be admired, which expends itself in the furnishing of a few rooms, destined for the reception of company, and leaves the more important parts of the house, in which the comfort of the family is concerned, carelessly and insufficiently furnished. Comfort ought never to be sacrificed to appearance, unsubstantial and fruitless as it is!
MRS. L. — In furnishing a house, what are the points to which you should first attend?
MRS. B. From what I have just said, you may
suppose that I should recommend every article
to be first provided, upon which comfort depends, for it carries its influence through every day and moment of our lives, and leaves to embellishments and refinements the power of giving only a temporary and casual gratification. These embellishments, however, may always be added in such degree as prudence will permit. But while the affluent may indulge their taste in adding ornament upon ornament, in their houses, and in refitting them according to the varying fashion, those of narrow circumstances must restrain their fancies, and content themselves, if they can obtain such a portion of furniture as comfort alone requires. With them simplicity is good taste; and when we consider the advantages which attend it, how surprising is it to find it frequently sacrificed to an attempt, and often a poor attempt, to vie in splendour with the affluent. With what comparative ease may a house be kept in cleanliness, which is only simply and usefully furnished. How much less liable is such furniture to be injured by accident or carelessness; and when injured, or when, in the course of time, it requires to be renewed, how much more readily that can be effected than if the furniture were of a more costly nature?
These considerations lead me to speak to you, in the first place, of furniture which is strictly useful, and which, therefore, is but little affected by fashion.
Every article of this kind should be of a good quality; strength and durability being generally the chief points to be regarded.
Let us first enter the kitchen, and examine into some of the conveniences which every family, what
ever its size may be, ought to have. Modern cooks have great advantages over their predecessors, which we can perceive even in the first step which we take in our examination. The kitchen-range now in common use comprehends a variety of conveniences, which both expedite the business of the kitchen, and save the labour of the cook. A good kitchen-range has the oven on one side of the fire, and the boiler of hot water on the other, or behind it, so as to be entirely out of sight. This should be fed with water from a cistern with a ball-cock, in order that it may be ready for use at a minute's warning. Formerly a cook had the separate fires of her oven and boiler to attend to; but, now, one fire is sufficient to keep the whole range in use. These grates are calculated for moderate-sized families, and are to be had of different dimensions, according to the cooking any family may require.
For very large families the steam-kitchen is extremely convenient; it saves fuel, keeps the kitchen cool, and even banishes from it the appearance and smell of cooking, while the cook is enabled to prepare for the table a greater number of dishes than could be done with a single fire, without some contrivance of this kind. I have also seen a cooking apparatus which combines even more advantages than the steam-kitchen. In the centre of this apparatus is the stove, upon which is a cast-iron plate, or table. This plate supports another, in which there are seven or eight circular holes, with cast-iron covers to them. These holes are of different sizes, and into which there are saucepans to fit. When the contents of any saucepan are required to boil,
the cover is taken from the hole, and the saucepan is put into it, and thus receives the whole heat of the cast-iron plate below. If, on the contrary, only stewing or gentle simmering be needful, the cover is not removed from the hole, but the saucepan is placed upon it, and thereby receives only a moderate degree of heat. On one side of this hot plate is the boiler, heated by a flue from the fire; the same flue is carried on to the roaster, which resembles an oven, except in having valves to admit currents of air, by which contrivance the meat is made as brown as if it were roasted before a blazing fire; these currents of air also prevent the meat, thus cooked, from having the taste of the oven. When the valves are closed, the roaster may be used as
Above the roaster is a closet heated by the same flue; and in this baking may proceed when the roaster is otherwise employed. This is the description of one side of the fire; on the other there is a steam apparatus, supplied with steam from the boiler. This is admirably calculated for making soups, boiling meat, hams, and poultry. Potatoes may also be boiled well by steam; but green vegetables are better boiled in water, the colour being injured by the steam: and this is the reason why vegetables always look better when boiled in pump water. After serving this apparatus, the steam is carried on to heat another cast-iron plate, or table, upon which the cook is to dish her dinner, and which enables her to send it up with little or no diminution of heat. A dinner is spoiled, if it be sent up chilled, which evil this hot table cannot but avert:
and therefore it must excite the admiration, and even gratitude, of all the lovers of the table. Beneath this plate is another hot closet, furnished with shelves, where such dishes may be kept hot as are not to be sent, immediately, to table.*
From your description this apparatus is very complete. Do you know the expense of it?
MRS. B. One on the largest scale would, I believe, be about fifty pounds; a smaller, perhaps, would amount to twenty pounds. The common kitchen range, which comprehends only the oven and boiler, costs from twelve to fifteen guineas.
Can you give me any idea of the number of implements the kitchen department requires? MRS. B. They consist, chiefly, in various descriptions of saucepans, kettles, stewing, preserving, and frying pans. Besides these, there are gridirons, spits, ladles for basting, egg-slices, dredgers, coffee and pepper mills, Dutch ovens; tins for baking bread, cakes, and some descriptions of pastry; and a variety of other utensils, both of wood and earthenware, which it would be tedious to mention. Your cook, if she be orderly and neat, will soon inform you of any deficiency in such things as are essential; and I would recommend you to attend to her wishes on these points, if they appear to you to bespeak in her a desire to have all around her in good order. Your kitchen probably contains a sufficiency of tables, dressers, and closets. Endea
*A model of this kitchen-range may be seen at Mr. Jeakes's, ironmonger, Great Russel Street.