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Minonk Talk introduces Tales from the Heartland which is a series of letters written by Virginia McBride to her family. Mrs. McBride writes about her life experiences in a unique and refreshing manner. We are grateful that she has given us permission to publish her letters.

Summer Kitchen

My Minonk Friends,

A Summer Kitchen! Oh to have a Summer Kitchen! What height of elegance! Not every household boasted this convience. What is a summer kitchen? Remember, this was before fans and air conditioners. It was a small building back of the house, one room, wide open windows and a sturdy screened door. There would be a strong spring attached to the door jamb and extended to the middle wood of the door. The spring was about the diameter of my little finger and 1 1/2 foot long. The door would bang shut as one slithered through quickly - "Shut the door, and don't let the flies in", Bang. Some backyard kitchens sported a regular cook stove, basket of cobs and all. Others had smelly but efficient kerosene burners. The purpose to a summer kitchen was to save the house from overheating and mess. We all know how lovely it is to come into the house and everything is neatly in its place, its cool, no sign of hot labor, its nice. Meanwhile in the summer kitchen the stove is belching heat as bread bakes, pickled whatever is being canned, flies have been attracted to the screen door. Mealtime came and hot food was delivered to cool family in a peaceful house.

The summer kitchen could also be used as a laundry room including an old type wringer washer. Water would be carried in , poured into big copper canners (boilers) and heated, sounds like work doesn't it? Rainwater was saved in a cistern and was ideal for a good washing. Can you imagine washing 7-8 batches of dirty laundry in the same water and one medium bar of home made soap? No fabric softener but one cup of vinegar worked well, still does. When all was dry the ironing board was set up and everything was ironed- except socks. I never ironed socks- never! I knew women who did that, hmm! Some innocent child blooming into charm of ironing would BEG to iron. It looked so easy, beginners took care of handkerchiefs. Mr. Farmer could contribute big red and blue ones almost as big as half a bed sheet- almost. Now that was a challenge. I guess its okay that I never had a summer kitchen, I would have so admired my clean house that I would have locked the door and never let anyone back inside. We'd have lived in the summer kitchen like campers. Pantries have come back, many new homes have a pantry but none like the old time ones.

Virginia McBride
Elma, Iowa