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Times have changed, but apron still handy

August 14, 2011
By ANITA HANABURGH , For The Leader Herald

I am going to make a pie - blueberry this time. I have a ton of blueberries picked yesterday at Timberlane Blueberry Farm. Yum.

Make the crust first so it has time to chill. Let's see - flour, salt, shortening and water. Measure the flour, shake to fill, then I level it. Some of the fluffy white powder flies off the counter. I brush it off my denim bluejeans. I cut the shortening into the flour and salt. I use my finger to scrape excess shortening off the flour cutter. I clean my fingers on my denim blues. I sprinkle flour on the cool granite counter then dust the surplus that landed on the front of my pants. I gather the dough together with my hands. I then wipe my hands on the back of my pants. I gently roll out the dough fitting the crust into the pan. I then wipe my hands on the side of my pants. Finishing the crust, I gather the crumbs on the counter with my hands. I dispose of the crumbs and then wipe the spilled flour from my white knit shirt.

Merrily, I continue to make the filling. I boogie around the kitchen, mixing, measuring, stirring, fitting and finishing my masterpiece. I clean up, washing, wiping and loading the dishwasher. Just as I complete the last wipedown, the grandfather of my grandchildren arrives saying, "The Wrights are on their way."

"Great," I respond. "I'll change my clothes."

He looks at me, a question in his eyes. I follow these eyes to my white jersey, now speckled with blueberry juice and sticky pie dough, my jeans now coated in layers of white dust.

He remarks, "Why don't you ever wear an apron?"

Say what? An apron? Why don't I ever wear an apron? I had to honestly respond, "I don't know."

When I taught the Hospitality Program at Fulton-Montgomery Community College, I required all my students to wear an apron in the kitchen, no exceptions. The rules of hygiene required the use of an apron in a commercial kitchen. It is not to keep clothes clean, but to keep the food safe from the possible contamination from the workers clothes.

At home, I haven't worried about that. I guess, because they're my clothes and my food.

My mom wore an apron every day, all day. Oh busboy, why did women wear aprons all the time and today we don't (when it makes so much sense to wear aprons)? I came up with several reasons why we usually don't. wear them.

The female "image" of the '50s was to be a housewife and a good mother, a Mrs. Cleaver. Today's liberated woman shuns that image of the neat little dress with the lacey apron.

We have a lot of clothes. My mom wore her clothes more than one day. Her generation didn't have as many things as we do today. They took care of what they had and kept them clean and reused them (sounds like a sound ecological ideas for today). I have too many clothes and can easily replace them between washings.

Wash was more work then. My mom had a wringer washer, it took time. Today, we pop dirty (and sometimes clean) clothes in the washer and forget it, so we wash more. Fabrics also were harder to clean and care for. My mom wore a plaid wool skirt every day. If it got dirty, it took care to clean it. It had to be washed by hand (who could afford dry cleaning?) and ironed.

Preparing food and maintaining a household was a full-time activity. With few processed foods, my mom spent hours in the kitchen. Housekeeping was her main activity. The apron was put on and stayed on. Housekeeping and cooking are only a part of the myriad of activities of today's woman. Would an apron be in the way?

Years ago, the apron was needed. Stories of carrying eggs in from the hen house to polishing the silverware are attributed to the apron.

Are these good reasons not to wear an apron? No, it's just impractical to cook without an apron unless you are extraordinarily neat. I am not (my husband is). I should wear one.

I do have a few aprons! They all are full aprons with the classic kitchen style - a loop over the head and a tie in the back. I remember one that is bright blue with "Mama Mia" spread across the center, a gift from my grandchildren, purchased discretely during the intermission at the Broadway show. I have another that is purple with dancing kokopelli batik across the front, a gift from my daughter when she returned from New Mexico some 20 years ago. And I might have a few commercial plain whites.

Oh, I have an apron hanging on the hook on the way to the cellar. Oh busboy, it has Christmas trees on it. Well, it has been a while.




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