A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband

Weaver, Louise Bennett and Helen Cowles LeCron. A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband with Bettina’s Best Recipes: a Romance of Cookery and Housekeeping. New York: A L Burt Company, 1917.

How to describe this book? I want to avoid calling it a how-to for newly married women who want to keep their husbands satisfied because, given the date of publication, this would not fly in the 21st century. Hell, it shouldn’t have flown in any century, but there’s no getting around historical inequality!

But, anyway…in this book you will find there is only one way to please a husband – through his stomach. Bettina is a newlywed, eager to feed her husband, Bob. Every chapter focuses on an opportunity for Betty to take care of Bob and it usually includes food and the preparation there of. The recipes and preparation instructions are included in detail. But, to be fair, A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband… isn’t just about feeding hubby Bob. Bettina is teaching the local neighborhood wives how to feed their men and keep house as well. It could be a luncheon where Betty teaches the attending ladies how to prepare the meal and how to serve it properly as well. Betty is very proud of her meal plans (and seems to have an obsession with white sauce). She also likes to display her frugality and creativity. She is forever mentioning how she had to plan a meal with very little funds or advanced notice. Each chapter is a variation of the same theme of showcasing Betty’s ingenuity so, be prepared, it gets a little repetitious. Even though housekeeping is in the title, there is very little said about cleaning, doing laundry, or the like at 1107 Carberry Avenue. Bettina does mention getting out a stain or two.
Please note this book was published in 1917 and everything about it screams turn of the century. Even some of the ingredients are head scratchers (Like, what is a chocolate cream? One recipe calls for a dozen of them). What’s funny is that I read a review somewhere describing this book as “creepy and kitschy.” I would have to agree. Some of the language is a little strange. I was taken aback when Betty tells her husband and his adult male friend to “run and play” while she prepares the picnic. At one point her friends made reference to a man as a well known “woman-hater.” Come again?

I keep thinking about how interesting this book  could have been. Take Bob, for example. At Christmas he struggles over what kind of gift to get for Betty. He decides on giving her a kitten but the actual delivery is skipped over entirely. One minute Bob is discussing picking up the kitten and the next minute “Fluff” is quietly sleeping in an armchair. The reader never gets to see Betty’s reaction to the gift. This is just one example of where the plot could have been developed more.

Quotes to make you think, “Love at first sight? Bob introduced us…and I thought – well – I thought Harry was the most disagreeably serious man I’d ever had the misfortune to meet! And he thought me the most disagreeably frivolous girl he has ever seen. So our feud began, and of course we had to see each other to fight it out” (p 195), “Feeling, it must be admitted, a little out of harmony with a world that allowed weary and hungry husbands to come home to dark and empty houses when the clock said plainly that it was a quarter after six, Bob made his way to the kitchen” (p 238) and “Goodness gracious sakes alive, but thinking is hot work” (p 296).

Reason read: Oddly enough, I thought this would be a great book to read in honor of my tenth wedding anniversary on September 18th. I am happy to say my husband comes home each night and not just because of a home cooked meal! *wink*wink*

Author(s) fact: Weaver and LeCron have also written other “Bettina books” such as Bettina’s Best Salads, Bettina’s Best Desserts, and even When Sue Began to Cook with Bettina’s Best Recipes.

Book trivia: Charming illustrations (or decorations as they were called back then) were done by Elizabeth Colbourne. Another detail – this book is available as an E-book through the Gutenberg Project (Release date: 6/4/13 EBook #42865).

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Dewey Deconstructed: 600s” (p 73).

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