It was the day after Thanksgiving, and I was ironing. Call me crazy, but I really don’t mind ironing. In fact, I rather like it.
|Courtesy of The Curious Quilter|
As a little girl, I used to watch Mme Mère stand at the ironing board as she gently, but firmly, smoothed away the wrinkles in my father’s shirts. There was something so satisfying and soothing about it. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, I thought, if the bumps and wrinkles in life could be smoothed away just as easily? Clearly I was a deep thinker even as a child (Insert smiley face here.).
|Courtesy of Etsy|
The first thing I was ever allowed to iron was my Grandmother’s linen hankies. I had to stand on a step stool to reach the ironing board. It made me feel oh so grown-up and oh so useful.
In short order, I went from hankies to sheets and pillow cases and to blouses. In today’s permanent press world, few young people even own an iron. While I no longer iron my sheets, I can’t resist the urge to iron my permanent-press pillow cases. I just love the look and feel of freshly pressed pillow cases and the scent of lavender linen spray on my bed.
|Courtesy of Zsa Zsa Bellaggio|
A crisp, well-made bed is so very important to me, as it was to Mme Mère. She was always very particular about her bedding. In fact, one of the things she hated most about her tiny room in St. Mary’s Catholic Home was the hospital bed in which she was forced to spend so much of the last six years of her life. I did my best to make it look and feel like the big, beautiful bed she had shared with her husband and the occasional child frightened by nightmares and things that go bump in the night; but, no matter how many pretty coverlets and decorative pillows I added, it was still a hospital bed with a top sheet underneath her that never stayed put.
As I ironed my pillow cases on the day after Thanksgiving, I began to think about those fitted sheets we now take for granted. I had a vague childhood memory of something like a fitted sheet with elastic garters that you attached to the four corners to keep them secure. And then I wondered……
When exactly were fitted sheets invented and who invented them?
It turns out that my memory of those fitted sheets with elastic garters was, indeed, accurate. In 1959, Bertha Berman, an African-American woman, was granted a patent for this very design. The American housewife would be forever grateful. Then, in 1990, a French-Canadian woman named Gisèle Jubinville created the deep corner pocket fitted sheet that we know and love today. From then on, your bottom sheet would “stay put” no matter what (ahem!) you did in bed.
And since we had just celebrated Thanksgiving, a day on which we give thanks for blessings large and small, it seems appropriate for me to give thanks for Mrs. Berman and Mme Jubinville and all the other Mothers of Invention who saw necessity and ran with it making our lives easier and more delicious.
In 1903, an Alabama housewife, Mary Anderson, patented a car window cleaning device. It had a rubber blade and a swinging arm, which allowed the driver to operate the device from inside using a lever. Then, in 1917, Charlotte Bridgwood patented the first automatic windshield wiper. The next time you drive through a pouring rain, you might take a moment to be thankful for Mrs. Anderson’s and Mrs. Bridgwood’s ingenuity.
In 1930, Ruth Wakefield, owner of the Toll House Inn, ran out of baker’s chocolate while making cookies for her guests, so she added broken pieces of Nestle’s semi-sweet chocolate to the dough thinking that the pieces would melt during baking. They didn’t.
Mrs. Wakefield’s guests were thrilled with the results, and the Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie was born. To this day the chocolate chip cookie is still the most popular cookie in America and I, for one, am most thankful that on that day in 1930 Mrs. Wakefield ran out of baker’s chocolate.
In the little town of Lamotte-Beuvron south of Paris in the 1880s, two sisters, Stéphanie and Caroline Tatin ran a small hotel. One day, Stéphanie overcooked the apples for an apple pie in butter and sugar, so she put the pastry dough on top of the caramelized apples and threw the whole thing in the oven to finish cooking.
The resulting upside-down mistake would become the world-famous Tarte Tatin, and I am most thankful to whoever or whatever caused Stéphanie Tatin that day to leave her simmering apples a little too long on the stove.