Sunday, May 2, 2010

Honing Homemaking Skills

For this writer stands in awe of the real housewife: an accomplished housewife must be far more knowledgeable than the so-called professional man or woman and much of the knowledge, as she will tell you, is difficult to achieve.--John Seymour, Forgotten Household Crafts

For a long time now Emma and I have been talking about her taking over the menu planning, shopping, and cooking. Now that she is driving by herself and can find her way back home from the grocery store (if she exits the same side of the parking lot that she came in), we are ready to start.

She wants to try using the gasto system.

We learned about it when we read My Heart Lies South by Elizabeth Borton de Trevino, the true story of an American young woman who weds a Mexican, Luis de Trevino, and how she adapts to the Catholic culture of Monterrey, Mexico. She says, "Gasto means 'expense' and is generally used to indicate exactly the sum set aside for the daily purchase of food and household necessities. . .With my gasto I was supposed to buy meat, milk, vegetables and fruit, bread and such staples as sugar, rice, beans, and coffee. Luis had fixed the gasto after long worried discussions with Adela's husband, and they had calculated in a certain amount of slack because of my inexperience with Mexican ways."

We see many advantages to this method, but the top two reasons are: we expect that as a young housewife Emma will be working within a limited budget, and being given a gasto helps reinforce the husband's role as head of the family, which in America needs all the reinforcing it can get. I just wish I had Luis here to help me figure out how much to give her. At least she doesn't have to bargain with vendors. That was Mrs. Trevino's undoing, and I am sure that it would be Emma's too.

Starting tomorrow, I will give her $10 a day. She then has to plan menus for that day, determine what miscellaneous household items must be bought and then go shop for them. I never shop daily, but it would seem a good way to start this project until she and I get the hang of it. I figure we're going to be eating a lot of rice and beans. But at least she doesn't have to waste any of her gasto on dairy products or eggs. I expect that I will be adjusting the gasto before the end of the week. That's OK, because I'm really choosing ten dollars at random.

I would like for her to keep a notebook with her shopping lists, menus, and expenditures, but I won't push it. She's already pretty busy with the twice-a-day milking, chickens, rabbits, a batch of new chicks, and s sewing project and is going to start working one afternoon a week as a mother's helper for a lady from our parish. She is from Puerto Rico and has read and loved My Heart Lies South, too. So I'm hoping Emma will learn a lot.

Seeing this all written down makes me a little worried. It's probably too much. Herb wants her to take college classes in the fall. Once you throw that in there, I don't know when she would get a chance to do anything. And I didn't even put weaving on the list! We both got so excited at her District Check workshop because several of the weavers there weave their own linen sheets. They said nothing you can buy in a store can compare to them. Talk about an outstanding hope chest project! Plus, Emma sat next to the lady who wove her daughter's wedding dress fabric. She brought it to show, and it was gorgeous! Emma and I talked about her weaving her own wedding dress fabric and enough for the groom's shirt as well. Now I'm thinking it would be really wonderful if she wove enough to make an heirloom christening gown. She could have it done and waiting in the hope chest. . .the wedding dress, groom's shirt, and christening gown all from the same fabric--so symbolic, so romantic. . .

Then there's reality. Darn.

In the photo above, Emma is posing with the ten half-pints of strawberry jam she made on Friday.


hebiew said...

certainly there is a gasto for chocolate!?! and maybe another for black licorice? both are medicinal....

Wendy Haught said...

Hey, don't complicate things more! I'm already thinking of sending her to the Mexican meat market. She knows a little Latin, no Spanish. What could go wrong?