I love the 1940s and 50s. I love them despite their problems of racism, sexism, inequality, domestic drudgery and ‘old-fashioned’ ideas.
I also love some of the old ideas, like manners, dressing up when going out, housewives, making do and living with less. The 1950s was also the beginning of everything many now perceive to be "wrong" with society. It was the beginning of truly processed packaged foods, of planned obsolescence, of ready made clothing (now made overseas by lowly paid workers), of credit cards and big mortgages, of foreign debt, of gadgets in every corner of unnecessarily enormous homes.
In some ways, vintage living is green living. I try really hard to live a simplistic, frugal, green, healthy lifestyle, and I feel that can go hand in hand with living a vintage lifestyle. Living a vintage lifestyle goes further than just wearing vintage clothing and styling our hair and makeup like they did back in the day. I love the vintage look, although I am not devoted to living completely as they did in the 40s or 50s, but there are some other good things we may not normally consider a benefit of a vintage lifestyle, such as health and saving money.
I know TV dinners and frozen meals were invented in the 50s, but I prefer home cooked meals – they are also much cheaper and healthier. I am allergic to a lot preservatives so it’s safer for me to avoid them. (Also no pre-packaged salads, supermarket bread, prawns, lots of wines!) As I work, most weekday meals are pretty simple, soups, pasta, casseroles or curries in winter, and gilled met and fish with salads in summer. It’s not always easy, and sometimes my husband will cook if he is home early enough. He does cook on the weekends, which gives me a break – he makes the best pizza, from scratch. He bakes our bread too, since he has proven to be better than me at it! It is so cheap, and no preservatives.
Here is the recipe:
Bread - Makes 2 loaves ( or 1 and 4 pizza bases)
8 cups flour (white/wholemeal, rye, whatever)
1 1/2 tablespoons powdered yeast
juice of one orange (or use 1 tablespoon ascorbic acid or bread improver )
1 tablespoon oil
pinch each salt and sugar
about 4 cups warm water
Mix the dry ingredients, add the juice and then 2 cups of the water. Add water gradually until the dough is quite moist and all the flour has attached. Cover with a damp tea-towel and let rise for a few hours in a warm place (use the oven on really low if it’s cold, or place bowl in sink of warm water.
Once it had doubled in size, tip out on a floured bench and knead, about five minutes. Cut into 4 and knead into neat balls Put 2 balls in each bread tin, or make into smaller balls for rolls if you don’t have a tin. Cut each ball into 2 for pizza bases and roll flat – prebake for 10 minutes each if you like the crust a bit crispy.
I do have a dishwasher in my kitchen, which I use often, especially when all six (or seven when the eldest is home) of us have dinner, but I do love sometimes washing things by hand, especially when my six year olds help. Dishwashers were available in the 50s, in America at least, although we didn’t have one at home in in Australia until the 1980s, same with the microwave.
A microwave in the 50s would have cost the equivalent of a small car in Australia. My youngest son managed to break our microwave by cooking a rock in it – don’t ask - we haven’t replaced it. I have always been worried about it leaking rays or something, so I am happy to see it go.
I use Pyrex glass containers for a lot of my cooking and storage, many found at thrift shops, and a few handed down from my mother in law and grandmothers. Glass doesn’t leach chemicals like plastics can. I like it to store drink in too,and have glass bottles in the fridge for cold water – if only milk still came in glass! I know some vintage life stylers transfer milk and juice into glass for the fridge, but haven’t yet, although I do put it in jugs for the table. The same with crockery. Now that my children are older, the plastic is gone, and everything is china (they do now have stainless steel plates and cups for kids too). I use the older things for picnics, and have also bought some old silver cups (like those you get for a 21st) or wedding present) for the kids to use – they love to polish them too.
I would love an old 50s fridge, but I haven’t been able to find one where we live. (Smeg have retro ones out now I think – which would probably be more energy efficient than old ones). I have a small freezer on top of the fridge part, and use it for ice, frozen fruit for ‘ice-cream’ and desserts, frozen chips and crumbed fish for emergency ‘take away’ meal. I never get to freeze left-overs, because with a big family even two batches goes fast – usually for lunch the next day. We do have a microwave at work for reheating, but at home I reheat on the stove.
In the 50s, they didn’t drink their water out of plastic bottles. They didn’t drink anything out of plastic bottles- even coke came in glass. They drank tap water, although water coolers were available in America, and I remember as a kid we always had a tin cup or two in the boot for an emergency drink.
We live in a tropical area that often floods, so to be safe we drink filtered water. We have a filter at the office and at home, the big sort that gets replaced every six months or so – you just put tap water in the top and it comes out filtered, hot or cold. The more I read about the horrors of plastic water bottles, the more I try never to buy them. Lots of chemical go into the making of those thin plastic disposable water bottles, and by drinking the water inside, you are ingesting those chemicals, especially if the bottle has warmed up during transport or sat in the sun in the car, and who knows what sort of water it really is, especially if it’s imported. There is an urban legend that bottled water is linked to breast cancer, and while this may not necessarily be true, the Environmental Working Group published its study of bottled water in the US in 2008, and among ten major brands nationwide, EWG found thirty-eight different contaminants. They recommended drinking filtered tap water, ideally from a glass or stainless steel water bottles. Why take the risk with plastic or bottled water?
Stainless steel is also a good option for children’s lunch boxes, and there are many brands available. As a treat I sometimes but the kids spring valley juice, which comes in a little glass bottle. These are great to refill for school. Sometimes you can find a set of vintage stainless steel or aluminium cups at thrift shops.
An while stainless steel may not sound very 50s, let’s not forget the old milkshake machines with their stainless steel cups. If you were somewhere whish they got served in glass, but I remember as a child sharing a milkshake in a big silver cup with my sister.
And let’s not forget furniture. Every time one of my modern prices breaks I replace it with a vintage piece, (usually from the thrift shop very cheaply). My next purchase will be a lounge suite, as the bonded leather corner unit we bought not quite two years ago is peeling. Is nothing made to last anymore?! Good news is I think I have found one .
Have a happy vintage day!
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