In my family, we all bring different dishes for holiday meals so nobody has to do the entire meal plus get their house and table ready. That’s one of the nice things about having grown children. It’s also one of the nice things about cooking in the 21st Century where people seem to be busier and don’t have the time. But, are we busier than earlier times? Are we?

I recently picked up a book at an estate sale. It’s a big book, very big.

First published in 1887, this edition is from 1913 and has instructions for everything you can imagine with tributes to all the first ladies who have lived in the White House to date.

It truly does have instructions for preparing every kind of food you have heard or never heard of, plus instructions for homemade cleaning solutions, home remedies for every ailment, and tips on entertaining. Very comprehensive. Since we are in holiday season, I’m going to share the menus suggested for Christmas Day. Yikes!

The numbers are page numbers for the recipes. Can you even imagine having this much food on the table? Granted, the White House probably had a crew of cooks and servers, but here are a couple of the pictures they show of preparations

How early do you think they started cooking, even in everyday homes? Where did they get all their ingredients? They didn’t have supermarkets or online ordering. How long did all of this take? How hot was that kitchen? So many questions that basically are only asked because I feel such gratitude for my everyday luxuries today.

You’re probably saying that the White House is a little different from normal households. In the chapter on hosting dinners, I found this little suggestion for home dinners. What would your family think if you served this tonight?

Women in the old days spent a great deal of their time in the kitchen – all day long – from one meal to the next. It’s amazing they got anything else done, but they did. I say the women because that’s who did the majority of this work.

As you head into the final holidays of the year, keep remembering those who went before you. We have created our own hectic holidays, but be thankful for the advances that make our lives easier – at least in the kitchen!

Happy Holidays!