Thursday, July 3, 2008

A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, Part I

Recently, I enjoyed a visit with my father, who brought me a small collection of old books which had belonged to his family. I couldn’t have been more excited and happy that he picked me to receive them. There were several story and school books which had belonged to my grandfather, and then there was this one: “A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband (with Bettina’s Best Recipes)” by Louise Bennett Weaver and Helen Cowles LeCron. Obviously, it must have belonged to my grandmother (grandpa’s first wife – he managed to go through three of ‘em due to divorce and death). Although it doesn’t have a copyright page, I’ve found out through research it was published in 1917.

The book is really a compilation of recipes (sure to reach your man’s heart through his stomach) with each chapter beginning with a short little story about what to expect from married life. It’s a real hoot! Here are some particularly enlightening excerpts:

Chapter 1: Home at Last (the newlyweds, Bob and Bettina, arrive home after their honeymoon)

Bettina: “You think you love me now, Bobby, but just wait till you sit down to a real strawberry shortcake made by a real cook in a real home!” (Yeah, I’m sure that’s what Bob is thinking, not about getting Bettina into bed, but about strawberry shortcake)

Bob: “Lots of girls can cook, but mighty few know how to be economical at the same time! It’s great to be your – ” (One can only imagine what Bob was about to say. Sex machine? Sugar daddy?)

Chapter 3: Bettina’s First Guest

Bettina, on the telephone with Bob: “Is he a real woman-hater? No, I’ve never met any, but I’ll just invite Alice, too, and tomorrow you won’t be calling him that.” (She’s never met a woman-hater but she wants to set up her poor friend Alice with one for sh*ts and giggles. That Bettina, she sure is a little matchmaker, isn’t she?)

Chapter VIII: Celebrating the Fourth (Bettina’s friend, Miss Alice, has found out that Bob’s curmudgeon friend is quite admiring of her)

Alice: “Honest, Betty, I do get tired of society as a single interest. But what else is there for me to do? Go into settlement work? I’d be a joke at that! Learn to design jewelry? Take singing lessons?”

Bettina: “Try the good old profession of matrimony. Why are you so fickle, Alice, my dear?”

Alice: “I’m not; it’s the men! Every sensible one I meet is – well disagreeable to me!” (Hmm, what is Alice trying to say here? I mean, really trying to say? And when did getting married become a profession – I thought she was going to suggest prostitution, honestly)

Chapter 10: Ruth Inspects Bettina’s Kitchen (Bettina’s engaged friend, Ruth, asks for advice in planning the building of her new home)

Bettina (speaking about the kitchen sink): “The plumbers have a way of making them all alike – thirty-two inches from the floor, I think. They were scandalized because I asked them to change the regulation height…” (Obviously this was a standalone sink, not integrated into the counter like nowadays. And I can only imagine how sexy little Betty really scandalized the plumbers.)

Ruth: “Do you use your fireless cooker often?” (Fireless cooker? An electric skillet, perhaps?)

Bettina (speaking of the stove): “The oven is at the side, high up so that one need not stoop to use it.” (Remember in those days the stove was usually still powered by fire. But how convenient to have the oven up on the side – why don’t they do that these days???)

I found it quite interesting to go through this book and be transported back to a simpler time. I can just picture Bob and Bettina in their cozy little home eating Bettina’s frugal, yet elegant meals in their breakfast nook with a centerpiece which changed daily (flowers, clover leaves, cherries). That Betty - she sure was one heck of a woman.

We’ll be coming back to “A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband” in future posts.


  1. I just sold this book in my book store to a very excited woman who finally found a recipe titled "boiled salad dressing" or something similar. She had been looking for this for a long time as she had learned to make it from her mother but wanted it in writing!....JB

  2. JB - the book is such a hoot. It really gives an insight into the way things were in the early decades of the 20th century. I feel lucky to have gotten it, though I'm not sure about making some of the recipes! Glad you were able to help out your customer.

  3. Candace - you are so funny. I read a lot of old books but never found one so funny. The closest I found was "If you are too robust for your husband, take your corset strings in - it will guarantee you'll have the right palor and fainting spells to be deemed a fine lady." :) not nearly as funny

  4. Take your corset strings in? Wow, that's an oldie. I don't think Grandma had to wear a corset, although apparently the ability to cook a meal on a budget was a highly rated attribute! Thanks for your comment, Suz.