What was the last thing you took the time to really enjoy? It can be anything – food, beverage, film, etc.
I was reading a very interesting Polish book that I just finished today. Perhaps it may not sound interesting for most people, and would likely even be infinitely boring for many, especially if you’re one for quick pace and a lot of action, and don’t like non-fiction, but it was interesting for me, mostly because I’d never come across anything similar before, and always sort of wanted to. It was a book from (I believe) 1843, called Dwór Wiejski (Rural Manor House) by Karolina Nakwaska. It’s essentially a retro self-help book for women – women who were mistresses of rural manors. – Why would I even want to read something like this when I’m not even a housewife or a mother or anything that the potential reader of such book would be, except a woman? Well, language, mostly. 😀 Have I ever said before how delicious, interesting, full of character, or just funny, archaic/obsolete polish words and sentence structure can be? I absolutely love reading old Polish books, but I rarely get a chance, because such stuff is usually only sold as physical books, or not easily available at all, unless some second-hand bookshops, forget ebooks. And I really don’t like scanning and usually can’t achieve satisfying enough results by myself. I wasn’t hunting for this particular book or anything like that, it just happened that someone added it to the section in our blind library where people can add their scanned books, and I was interested by the excerpt. I like learning about how people used to live before, I like books about what people used to eat, what they used to wear etc. etc. about specific groups of people and their situation. I’m also quite into women’s history as well. Here, it’s not some historian’s book or a historical novel, but pretty much a first-hand account. I love love love reading old recipes! I love etnography. So this was, essentially, the perfect book for me, and I relished it properly. Well, the scan was pretty bad, so I would have relished it more if not the abundant spelling errors and unreadable fragments, but still it was great. The first volume is about all sorts of different things from how to serve and go about meals as well as good manners relating to that, to how to raise children, charitable activity and giving a good example to people, taking care of the ill and treating in the absence of a doctor, treatment of servants etc. The second was all recipes, and the third was an alphabetical glossary of all things possible that, according to the author, women should be knowledgeable in and on which she had some advice to give them. It’s from a very strongly Christian perspective. The author emigrated from Poland as far as I know during or after the November uprising and lived in several different countries – Switzerland, Germany, England and France – the book was written in Switzerland I guess, so she also had a good idea not only about manor life and a manor mistress’s life in Poland but in other European countries and had quite a modern perspective for her times. She often makes comparisons between how all these different countries she’s lived handle specific things like toilet training of children or cleanliness in the house. Apparently, she was quite ostracised by people before the publishing of her book as they thought she simply wants to promote and imitate foreign ways of life, but I think she really just wanted to introduce the good things from other countries that could be adopted in her motherland. And it seemed to be successful because eventually her book became quite popular with women.
In the third volume, there’s a mini section about language mistakes and how it isn’t appropriate for a lady to make them, and she mentions a lot of particular mistakes that apparently were common at the time. Interesting to see what was considered a language mistake over 100 years ago, especially that some things that were considered appropriate or some words or phrases that she uses in the book are now considered incorrect and some of the things that she says are incorrect are now normal, but most of those mistakes I’ve never ever heard in today’s speech so it was quite funny. Or when talking about table manners, she writes in such an indignant tone how it’s absolutely hideous to eat more than one dish with the same fork, and even proceeds this comment with the warning that she’s about to say something extremely hideous. Or she says things like how it’s not appropriate to make balls from bread and throw them around, or spit or eat from someone else’s plate. You’d think she writes for kindergarten children or some barbarian vikings, not the gentle women in the age of romanticism. But my Mum has a pre-Vatican Council II book for lay people about the Mass to help them understand it better, and there is also a fragment about how one should behave, what to wear etc. and spitting in church, (or rather, not spitting) is mentioned, which she found rather hilarious.
My Mum also loves old books like that, and old recipes, and as I read it I thought that she would be interested in it even more than myself. I mentioned it to her and she said she’d love to read it. So, tomorrow is Mother’s Day, and I decided to buy a physical version for her, which is exactly what I did yesterday.