Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Well Appointed Kitchen in Old Texas

In my Western Historical, KATIE AND THE IRISH TEXAN, A Brides of Texas Code Series Novella, Book One, my heroine, Katie, worked in the kitchen of The Eatery. Between researching for this and watching Mrs. Patmore at Downton Abbey, I've become interested in how women in Old Texas would've put their kitchens together.

"A Southern kitchen and pantry are a study for a Northerner. In the first place you notice three or four cabinets with doors of wire net. These doors are to keep out the flying cockroaches and the clouds of innumerable gnats and flies of 20 different species, which are blown heedlessly about by every breeze into all corners, or which deliberately follow their noses - if they have noses - in quest of bread, meat, pastry, sugar or anything good to eat or drink. And if you look lower, you'll see that every cupboard and every table there and in the dining room has a shallow tin dish set under each of its feet, and that each dish is full of water. That is to keep the ants which swarm over the floor from mounting higher."   Excerpt from "Among the Insects in a Southern City" July 1885

A well appointed kitchen began with the proper furniture.

One of the first things a cook needed in her kitchen was a good stove or range.It was best to place a piece of hard, asbestos board under the stove or range because of its durability and easiness to keep clean.
Possible kitchen set up in Old Texas

Next on the list for the cook would've been ovens. Separate ovens were necessary for meats and pastries because  delicate cakes and pastries would take on the flavor of meat cooked in a hotter oven.

A sink and a sink-side work table as large as the room would accept was indispensable. The table's edge would've overlapped the sink and would've been covered with zinc. This material was durable, easily kept clean and not burned by hot pans. When scrubbed clean, this could also be used as a molding board and dough could be scraped off with a knife. If covered with oilcloth, the kitchen table could've been used as additional work space.

The well appointed kitchen would've also had a tableware cabinet sitting just above the sink-side worktable to save time and steps lost in walking from the sink to the table. The kitchen cabinet would've had metal bins for flour, meal and other foods that entice mice. It was an investment that was a money saver in the long run.

Other items of importance were a stool, footstool, a washboard hung by the sink to keep dishcloths and towels clean and sweet smelling, a slate to write down needed supplies, dinner mats lined with asbestos to protect the table's surface from hot pots and dishes, pot holders, and stove mats made of asbestos. Match safes to protect matches, ash receptacles, sleeve protectors and dishcloths made from cloth sugar, flour and cornmeal sacks rounded out the necessities.

I'll be posting more about homes in Old Texas from time to time. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.

Hugs, Carra

 Carra Copelin WebsiteCarra's Blog , Carra's FB page , Carra's Twitter Page


  1. I love those old cookstoves and I'm fascinated with how functioning kitchen's were run back then. Great article, Carra! Thanks for sharing.

  2. Reading this article about an old west kitchen reminded me of my maternal grandmother's farm house and her old coal burning stove (could've used wood, but coal was more available in PA). She live in a huge Victorian farmhouse, but the only room that was heated was the kitchen. The wood/coal burning stove served as heat and for cooking. I was only four then, so I don't remember the details you included in your post, but I do remember that the food cooked on that stove was the best. She had a huge wooden table in the middle that she used to prepare food and for eating. It's also where the family gathered to talk and play board games. Great memories. No one had their face stuck in a cell phone, computer, or IPad--just each other.
    I liked all the things they did to keep insects and vermin out of the kitchen.
    All the very best to you.

  3. Very interesting post, loved the old stove and braded rugs. Reminds me of older times in my life. Thanks for sharing.

  4. I love learning about old homes, especially in Texas. I never miss a chance to tour pioneer parks or old homes. I had wondered about insects and mice. I knew about the water-filled containers under furniture legs, but not the other. Lovely to learn about, but I prefer living in my home, don't you?

  5. I've been to this page three times to read and comment and was interrupted some way that I lost my comment.
    So....I remember my Granny's kitchen--the one I used in Wish for the Moon--and she finally got a better stove that looked more like this one. And this was in the 1940's, you see. In remote rural Texas, some people still used a stove like this.
    It's truly amazing that this kind of stove was available in the middle of the Nineteenth Century. Now I have an idea for my next post on Sweethearts. I'll write about how early Texans lived out on the plains in dugouts--and how the woman of the "house" cooked. It's pretty ingenious.
    I read Sarah's comment and I would say Ditto to much of what she said. The kitchen was the center of many homes--big table not only for meals, but also for food preparation.
    Thanks for this piece of history. It helps to read this kind of research.


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