Tuesday, July 29, 2008

An old-fashioned remedy

In the course of my research for a history-oriented feature (for Hallmark Magazine) called "Signature Dish," I spent a lot of time looking through really old cookbooks (you can get almost anything these days from the used booksellers at Amazon and Barnes & Noble) as well as websites that specialize in food history. (If you're interested, a particularly good one is called Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project.)

Once you spend any time checking out food history, you'll discover that many of the books from earlier generations were more than just cookbooks. They also dealt with the topic of household management. There was advice on everything from how to make stucco to removing ink stains from a mahogany desk to getting rid of crickets.

One of my favorite tips comes from a book called The House Servant's Directory. This landmark book was written in 1827 by Robert Roberts, a professional manservant and a prominent figure in the African-American community in 19th-century Boston. Along with advice for those wishing to enter into "gentlemen's service," Roberts also included such practical advice as this:

"To remove flies from rooms. Take half a teaspoonful of black pepper, in powder, one teaspoonful of brown sugar, and one tablespoonful of cream; mix them well together, and place them in the room, on a plate, where the flies are troublesome, and they will soon disappear."

It sounds oddly tasty, doesn't it? I'm very curious to know if it actually works. If any of you has a problem with houseflies, give this remedy a try and let me know how it goes.

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