In an article that appeared in an 1871 edition of Southern Farm and Home, Mrs. A.T. Conyers of Georgia gives housewives newly come down in the world tips and tricks for dealing with the trials and tribulations of poverty. She encourages these beleaguered women to take over the work of the household in order to save on servants’ wages. “By doing her work she would feel an interest in saving,” she writes, “and would prevent that useless waste that so often occurs with servants.”
Mrs. Conyers adamantly opposes waste of all kinds. “However wealthy she [the housewife] may be, the poor are too numerous, food for them too scarce to scarce to suffer anything to be wasted. This is frequently done by carelessly allowing cold dishes to accumulate until they are ruined by mould. This is altogether unnecessary, as many dishes can be redressed to advantage.” She then offers the following advice:
Cold meat, for instance, by sprinkling a little salt over it, warming gradually, and serving with gravy, can be made almost as palatable as when fresh cooked. Any kind of bread by keeping it in a tight place from the air, when wanted, placing it in a cold oven or stove, and heating it slowly, will be as good and far healthier than new. Cold bread can also be used in making puddings, etc.
This recipe for old-fashioned loaf cake from the 1883 Dixie Cook-Book, which one reviewer claimed as “the very best and most economical of all cook books,” would likely please Mrs. A.T. Conyers. (Just make sure to do justice to the leftovers.)
Old-Fashioned Loaf Cake
Three pounds (three quarts sifted and well heaped) flour, one and a fourth pounds (a rounded pint of soft) butter, one and three-fourths pounds (one quart) sugar, five gills new milk, half pint yeast, three eggs, two pounds raisins, tea-spoon soda, gill of brandy or wine, or a fourth pint of molasses, two tea-spoons cinnamon and two of nutmeg, scald the milk, cool to blood warm, add the yeast, then the flour, to which all the butter and half the sugar have been added; then mix together, and let rise until light. It is better to set this sponge over night, and in the morning add the other ingredients (flouring raisins), and let rise again. When light, fill baking pans and let rise again. Bake in a moderate oven. This recipe makes three large loaves, and is a standard, economical loaf-cake.