Made from Scratch: Reclaiming the Pleasures of the American Hearth

Article excerpt

Zimmerman, J. (2003). Made from Scratch: Reclaiming the Pleasure of the American Hearth. New York: Free Press, A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 266 pp. Hardcover ISBN: 0-684-86959-4, $25.00.

Made from Scratch takes a different view of work in the home. Rather than examine housework in terms of gendered division of labor or in terms of issues related to work and life, Zimmerman reappraises "domesticity"-what it is, how it has evolved, and its enduring value. She is concerned about the conflict between the lived experience and negative rhetoric about what she terms "homeways." Her premise is that American homemaking, though a necessary part of every person's life, resides in a culture that has dismissed homemaking as unnecessary scutwork. She urges us to "reclaim the pleasures we are in danger of losing, and, along with them, the self-respect and balance and order that naturally follow" (p. 241). She believes that domesticity is about connections-with the past, with family, with community, and with the self; thus, she argues for five shifts in the current domestic paradigm. To arrive at these conclusions, Zimmerman presents arguments about what she considers key elements of domesticity: housekeeping, cooking, and work with textiles.

The book is divided into eight chapters, each with a thorough historical and literary basis. Chapter 1 is about heirlooms-how we keep material objects to remind us of our ties to the past and the hunger we seem to have today for the "quaint" and "trivial" domestic arts that link us to our personal histories. She argues that working to break down gender stereotypes within tasks in the home has resulted in lost value for homemade things, choosing instead to buy more convenient imitations. Zimmerman is clear about not wanting to "revive cookie-cutter notions of the family" (p. xiii), but she does want to "discover how to progress without abandoning the richness of our domestic past" (p. 22).

Chapter 2 is an exploration of conceptions of the hearth, especially in relation to Hestia, the classical Greek goddess. The author explores the ancient ideal of the domestic hearth and its relevance to our current rhetoric about loss of community, isolation, and rootlessness. Chapter 3 follows with a review of the history of housework and the people who have performed it, from heroic medieval housewives to Victorian parlor feminists. Zimmerman uses children's stories, famous paintings, and books to foster understanding of ordinary daily life in bygone eras. A critique of home economics and its progressive, modern approach at the turn of the twentieth century is the focus of chapter 4. …