If you watch a food show on the food network you never see one person wearing an apron. Okay, perhaps on Iron Chef, but that would be the only exception. When did aprons become a symbol of cooking weakness?
I have always worn an apron in the kitchen. When I was a small child wearing an apron meant that I was being like my mother. Before helping to bake cookies my mother would tell me to go get an apron. My mom kept her aprons in a drawer in the china cabinet in our dining room. Opening that drawer you would find a colorful menagerie of assorted gingham aprons. All of them had either been made by my mother or my grandmother during my mother’s engagement. Those aprons had been pressed and folded neatly and placed in the drawer. Yes, they had each been starched and ironed.
Those were the days of having two separate laundry days. One was for washing and one was for ironing. Monday was wash day and Tuesday was ironing day. My mother would start to teach us to iron when I was around 10 years old. We started out with pillowcases, tea towels and sheets. Yes, can you believe we did that? You would rarely do that now if ever. I am considering resurrecting ironing sheets in my household because they do make them softer and when a sheet is ironed it is easier to fold and keep in a linen closet.
My mother would slowly work us up to ironing the aprons. She had a special way to iron the aprons that she would teach us and we had to do it her way. After doing the initial ironing of the apron you had to iron the apron strings. Then you had to fold the apron in half lengthwise and run an iron over the fold to make a crease, fold it again lengthwise and run the iron over that fold. Then you folded the apron strings neatly and then folded the rest of the apron so the end result was one nicely folded, starched and ironed apron. My mother always started each day with a cleaned, starched and pressed apron.
There was an immense amount of pride taken in doing laundry and ironing back then. My mom would be mortified if we wore anything that had a stain on it. She had a special basket of stain removal concoctions and she always managed to get the stains out. She would have also been equally disapproving of wearing something that had not been ironed and free of all wrinkles. We did not have a lot of money when I was growing up but our clothes were always clean and pressed.
The last time I visited my mother she handed me a sack. I opened it up and there were her aprons. She no longer used them. She is living in a very small apartment and she has one apron that she keeps on hand.
The aprons that she gave me are the ones I used along with her when I was a child. They are made from different bright colored gingham. On each apron she cross stitched or “chicken scratched” a different design. I recognized each and every apron and I was filled with nostalgia. One apron I did not recognize and my mother told me that it was an apron my grandmother had made for “special” as grandma would have referred to it. Special meant when company came for a special Sunday dinner. It was never used as an everyday apron.
My Mother's Aprons
More of my mother's aprons
Grandma's Special Apron
I will not use these aprons in my kitchen but I will display them one at a time around my kitchen. They help me remember happy days of childhood when I couldn’t wait to grow up and be a wife and mommy and cook in the kitchen using aprons of my own.
I was so delighted – really I was – to receive the book “The Apron Book” by EllynAnne Geisel. It is a nostalgic look at aprons, complete with pictures of some very old aprons. I am obviously not alone in how I feel about aprons from days gone by. The book also includes some patterns. It is a beautiful book of pictures and stories – wonderfully written that will conjure up great memories of days gone by.
One of my aprons
I have plans to make aprons and I have purchased some patterns. I love the retro designs as they make me thank of grandma’s kitchen. Grandma wore an apron that was more like a smock over her dress. She wore that apron from the moment she got up until she went to bed. It was her uniform and it protected her clothing. Grandma didn’t have a lot of dresses to wear and she took great care of what she did have.
Aprons can be stylish and pretty and they are very practical. So when did aprons become a thing of the past? Not by me. I love history and the past and that is why I am drawn to aprons and what they represent to me: home, family, good times, homemade goodies and a time when life was simpler. Yes it was simpler. Okay, I know that grandma also lived without refrigeration and used a wringer washer that made chores harder and the chores took longer. But grandma didn’t have to worry about the battery on her lap top draining, about power going out (she didn’t have any), she didn’t have to worry about what her kids were looking at on the internet nor what was on t.v. Grandma lived peacefully with a day filled with chores and the satisfaction of having a home, family, putting on an apron and preparing a simple meal, cleaning up afterward and hand washing the dishes. While she was cleaning up from a supper meal the family would be in the kitchen chatting and talking about their day and the life on their small farm. There was none of the present day “electronic” distractions. It was simply conversation centered around daily chores and housework. It was a simpler way and to me an apron is an example of that life.