Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Women Spent Much Time Preparing Food

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Women Spent Much Time Preparing Food

Article excerpt

Byline: Mary Jo McTammany, County Line correspondent

What was once considered women's work has changed in fits and starts throughout the decades since the Civil War.

In the late 1800s, rural Clay County women spent most of their time fussing with food all day, every day. Involved from field to table, their work included growing, tending, harvesting, slaughtering, preparing, preserving, cooking and washing. In their spare time they washed clothes in the yard by hand, ironed, cleaned and bore and raised children.

Summertime was the worst. In the warmest months several crops reach peak production at once. What the family didn't sell or eat had to be canned for the winter. We are talking washtubs full of beans, peas, okra, corn and tomatoes. Those old wood-burning iron stoves worked so hard some said they danced.

It was not unusual in late afternoon to see generations of women and children seemingly resting in the shade of the front porch. But even the youngest was busily shelling field peas or butter beans accompanied by the ebb and flow of conversation.

As the century changed, transportation into towns improved and more and more store-bought items such as bread and butter appeared in rural pantries.

Electrical service came first to population clusters in Orange Park, Green Cove Springs, Penney Farms and Keystone Heights, and then began to stretch out into the country.

Still, for economic reasons women's work focused on the production and preparation of food.

Motivated by very real health concerns even families in town kept chickens, hogs and some had a cow for milk. The only way to guarantee sanitary and disease-free food was to raise, preserve and cook it. Church and fund-raising events for community needs always involved women and food.

But, these affairs were successful only if the cooks were known and trusted for their meticulously clean kitchens. …

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