Tea brewing thoughts

(Pictured: Mayan Chocolate Truffle from Mighty Leaf)

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Vintage Jenta left a thoughtful and interesting comment on yesterday’s post:

As a historian, I struggle with nostalgia. On the one hand, we all like to think about kinder, simpler times, even if they never really existed. On the other hand, holy crap was life in the 19th century brutal for the average person. Domestic abuse, child slave labor, all kinds of fun illnesses due to poor sanitation, rampant racism and xenophobia, 10-18 hour workdays, etc. My favorite quote about history is “The past is a foreign country.” One that I would like to visit, but dear god not to live in. I’m with you on the penicillin. And hot running water. And the internet.

Doesn’t mean we can’t sometimes do simple things by hand and get joy out of them, though. Maybe even more joy than 19th century people because we choose to do them instead of doing them out of absolute necessity…

I agree that a lot of “crafts” and “hard ways of doing things” are enjoyable to us today because we don’t have to do them. They’ve passed into the realm of “leisure”. On the other hand… they’ve become leisure activities. There’s always a little niggling doubt in my head when I do them, because I could be scrubbing the kitchen floor instead. Oh well.

What are things that I imagine I would like about a 19th century farming lifestyle? What’s the essence of what I like about it?

Being outdoors more
Working with my hands more–having more concrete satisfaction in what I do (as a SAHM I’m pretty close to that anyway)
Greater social connectedness (though Jenta and I would not be having virtual tea…)
Higher quality food (would it really be though?)
Beauty and tactile aesthetics of objects
Lower psychological weight of possessions (but I like to have stuff)

Hmmmm.

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3 thoughts on “Tea brewing thoughts

  1. I have always liked reading about the past and feeling nostalgic, but I’m fully aware that I romanticize it. I’m a voracious reader, and I always imagine what I read vividly. Still, I know it’s idealized. I think your post from a while back about Pioneer cooking was quite a wakeup call to me– I might have imagined the food sounding good when I read the descriptions of it, but in reality, most of it is pretty disgusting. I may have a horror of high fructose corn syrup, but I don’t know if food was necessarily better in an age of salt pork and hard tack. At least I have choices. Likewise, I like the idea of the reward of physical labor, but if I really wanted to feel rewarded, I would probably go outside and clean my gutters or quit paying someone to mow the lawn. In the end, I think it’s exotic and entertaining to read and imagine a different way of life, but I don’t think I would want to live in a time too far removed from the current one. It’s hard for me to admit it, but I’m a huge fan of modern convenience. Just don’t take my books from me. 😉

  2. Yes. What @Haley says. I read a lot of vintage and antique cookbooks and have studied rural women’s history and I have to tell you, a lot of people survived on beans, potatoes, cornbread, molasses, and salt pork. If you had a mom who could garden, then you also had veggies, or foraged fruit like berries, crabapples, chokecherries, ground cherries, etc. But for a lot of farm women, the everyday work load often included “men’s” farm labor as well as their own.

    That being said, I do envy the self-directed workload of 19th century farming families (imagine being able to spend the whole day with you and your spouse and kids all focusing on the home all day!), being outdoors, the focus on food and family, the downtime in the winter, seasonality of food and weather and work, etc. But the reality was that few farming families had books, women’s workloads were heavy, even in the winter, and farms didn’t work without the heavy labor of many children.

    I think if we focus on the good aspects of 19th century life – industriousness, craft, being and working outdoors, family togetherness, etc. we can capture a little of that wonderful nostalgia in real life. Of course, it’s hard to do that with a full-time job and/or kids. But even trying makes life better.

  3. It reminds me of what my mother told me when we were moving house. We got some big bookcases and wardrobes from Ikea and we were talking about how it doesn’t have the same feel as the furniture in my mother’s house. Then she told me, in her youth (she is 66 years old now), you saved up for a piece of furniture, people came over to install it for you, and it would last you about 40 years or more. But in these times, you can just drive to Ikea, get everything you need in one go and have all the furniture you want and need ready when you move in. You don’t need to save for months just for one piece of furniture.

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