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Antonina de Gerando – Domestic Science

It was completely natural for domestic science to be an important subject in the schools of the 19th century. However, there were no textbooks for the practical subject so Antonina de Gerando set about writing one for her students in the work Domestic Science (Háztartástan) in 1883.
The book examined the topics of the care and cleanliness of the house and surroundings, the order of meals, keeping domesticated animals and looking after the garden, and she also gave useful tips on ways of reducing household expenses. Antonina’s suggestions drew attention to the importance of moderation, common sense and creative solutions.

The following are excerpts from her work on housekeeping practicalities of the age:
Always keep a record of expenditures!
“The expenses ledger is in effect the conscience of the home. It shows us which are those wasted expenditures that, with a little care and attention, it would have been possible to avoid, and which offered no pleasure, nor increased welfare or even helped others... the expenses ledger is the housewife’s diary, too, from which she can continuously learn as regards the future… She will see whether she equipped the household properly and with common sense, and if not, where the error lay.”
Never get yourself into debt!
“To achieve this, as a yardstick the good housewife never buys on credit, however much she may be tempted, if she knows that she does not have sufficient funds. In this respect, the housewife should be unyielding. Money is a tool. There is no need to love it overly, nor despise it excessively, nor be pettily mean with it, nor squander it prodigally, but use it rationally to promote financial, intellectual, moral wellbeing and progress.”
Variation and moderation are the secrets to health!
“Primarily one should endeavour to have a diet as healthy, varied and flavoursome, yet as simple as possible, so that it contains as much nutrition as possible in smaller portions, and that it is easily digestible... The healthiest foodstuffs are roast meats, vegetables and fruits. Of pasta dishes only the lightest are recommended, and as infrequently as possible…”
Cooking is simple in the ideally laid out kitchen!
“The kitchen should be spacious, light and easily aired if possible, built of brick to be able to keep it as clean as possible. The new system oven that can be heated with wood, coal or coke is the most suitable and economical as regards cooking.”
Kitchen items of an appropriate quality are the essential accessories of the housewife!

“As far as kitchen utensils go, the most essential are the enamelled casserole dishes, which should always be well enamelled, furthermore, cast iron cook pots for soups, and other cast iron and sheet metal pots lined with porcelain for the vegetables, and a few earthenware dishes. Plates and fireproof porcelain pots. Besides these, copper cauldron with a flat or rounded base for preserves, long-handled frying pan. Perforated, double-bottomed fish steamer, which should always be carefully enamelled.

“Roast meat rotary machine which can be simply fitted to the side of an iron oven... Coffee percolator and coffee machines. This latter is the best quality when it is lined with white porcelain. Strainers, mortar, sieves, funnel, various size axes, small cleaver, carving knife, skewers, spoons, forks, scissors, measuring pan, lamp and candlestick, coal shovel with and without lid, salt cellar, flour box, clothes horse for drying tea towels, hand washing basin with towel, broom, scrubber, brushes, sponges, all these are the most important.
“The housewife who cannot obtain all these items at once for herself should buy them slowly, but only in the best quality, because although more expensive they are longer lasting and therefore more economical.”
Don’t be a slave to the kitchen!

“To do all this requires enquiry, attention and care. (...) However, if the household demands great trouble then one should not live only for that. Housekeeping is a tool, not a goal in life…”
Antonina de Gerando: Domestic Science (Háztartástan) (Cluj-Napoca /Kolozsvár/, 1883)
Dr. Katalin Kéri Ambrus Attiláné – On Modern Education – Antonina de Gerando (A modern nevelés útjain – De Gerando Antonina) (1996)