Could You Pass a 1953 Home Ec Class?

By: Torrance Grey

Could You Pass a 1953 Home Ec Class?
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

The more things change, the more they stay the same! That seems to be at least partly true when it comes to our ideas about domesticity and housekeeping. Most people would say that they wouldn't want to live in the 1950s, with all the pressure to keep a perfect home and rules for doing so. But some of the top-selling books and magazines in the 21st century are ones that push very similar standards. Consider, of course, domestic guru Martha Stewart and her lifestyle brand. Or think about the many women's magazines, like "O" and "Real Simple" which publish fairly time-consuming recipes for readers whom they say, in the next breath, have jam-packed lives and schedules. 

It seems people have always cared about keeping a welcome, clean and appealing home! Today, people of all genders are interested in home care, and they love seeing who can recreate grandma's famous meatballs. What might have been considered relics of the past at some point have become exciting and celebrated aspects of society! From balancing a checkbook to repairing home appliances, young people celebrate and discover the domesticity of the past every day!

Just how much have things really have changed since, say, 1953?  We went to the archives to dig up some of the lore and tips of 1950s home economics. We've turned these tips into a quiz, so if you're curious about how you'd measure up to 1950s standards of housekeeping, wonder no more!

Which of these gets sifted?
Beans
Flour
You can still buy a flour sifter at any department store, but you're unlikely to need it. Most flour you'll buy in the store is pre-sifted, so baked goods come out even-baked and not lumpy (if you've done the other parts of the recipe correctly.)
Sugar
Tea

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Which of these would get basted?
Coffee
French-fried potatoes
A roast
A baster is a simple kitchen utensil with a squeezable bulb at the end, a hollow body and an opening at the other end. You squeeze the bulb and then release it in the pan to suck cooking juices into the body of the baster, hold it over the roast, then squeeze it again to release the juices. This keeps roasts tender and moist.
A rug

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Party invitation? It's time to make your classic _____ upside-down cake!
Chocolate
Green apple
Pineapple
While pineapple upside-down cake isn't the most pretty, Instagram-ready dessert, don't be fooled. This retro cake is moist, delicate and delicious!
Strawberry

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Which of these complements a pork roast well?
Apples
Onions
Sweet potatoes
All of the above
All three of these produce items would work well. A simple way to cook them was to halve or quarter them, depending on size, and let them cook along with the roast, basting them with the pan juices.

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The length of time meat needs to roast depends on its _______.
Cost
Cut
Weight
The type of meat -- chicken, beef, pork -- will also make a difference in cook time. But no matter what kind of meat you're using, the recipe will tell you to roast it "XX minutes per pound."
None of these

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True or false? You should button shirts closed before washing them.
True
False
It's useful to tie drawstrings or sashes to keep them from tangling with other items, but shirts should stay unbuttoned, or the back-and-forth of the agitating water will stretch the holes out of shape.

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A close cousin to the cookie cutter is the cookie ____.
Roller
Press
The cookie press was a cylinder about the size of a thermos in which you'd put dough. At the bottom were the "guides" that made pretty shapes. Push the dough through the guide, and voila! Why the cookie cutter has survived and the cookie press mostly died out is a mystery of kitchen evolution.
Sieve
Tin

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Why are items like bedspreads and pillows frequently aired out rather than laundered?
To avoid exposing them to waterborne microbes
Because frequent laundering harms them
Some bedding items can't be laundered at all, like down-filled ones that would clump and lose their loft. For these items, spreading them out in the sunshine reduces moisture and kills odor-causing bacteria.
To save the cost of water
It's what grandma did

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Which of these was THE classic vacuum cleaner of the 1950s?
Dirt Devil
Dyson
Hoover
Hoovers were so big in America in the mid-20th century that "hoovering" was a synonym for "vacuuming." You might run across the term if you enjoy vintage 1950s novels.
Shark

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Which of these fancy dishes is at risk to "fall"?
Ableskivers
Duck liver pate
Coq au vin
Souffle
A souffle, made with whipped separated eggs, rises in the oven, and can fall in on itself if exposed to vibrations. This gave rise to the sitcom joke in which the wife is making a souffle and the husband comes in and cheerfully bangs the door loudly behind him, "Hi, honey! I'm home!" thereby ruining the souffle. (Note: We didn't say it was a particularly funny joke--just a joke.)

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Which of these alcoholic drinks should be kept in the kitchen for cooking purposes?
Amaretto
Gin
Ouzo
Sherry
While you can use all of the above in cooking and baking, sherry is the correct answer. Fun fact: Despite its usefulness in recipes, most high schools wouldn't allow cooking sherry on the grounds (outside the staff room, that is) because it was an alcoholic beverage. However, sherry is a staple in traditional European cooking.

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A mixture of lemon juice and water is good for removing what kind of stains?
Blood
Grass
Sweat
This mild solution won't help with blood, wine, tomato sauce, or things like that, but it's good for getting out that dark stains on the armpit areas of our shirts. Soak the affected area with the lemon/water concoction and hang or lay out the shirt in the sun. Then, wash as usual.
Wine

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Which of these is a good way to clean a burned pan?
Rub it with vinegar
Simmer a bit of lemon and water in it
Simmer a bit of water and dish soap in it
Make sure the soapy water simmers, not a rolling boil. Afterward, scrubbing with a Brillo pad will remove the last of the dark stains.
Rub sand vigorously on it

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Vegetables cut into long, thin strips are said to be _____.
Espaliered
Julienned
Technically, french fries (in their most common shape) are julienned. However, you can also julienne carrots, zucchini and many other vegetables.
Narrowed
Parabolized

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Which of these dishes is literally set afire?
Cherries jubilee
"Cherries jubilee" is sometimes called "cherries flambe." Pro tip: Tilt the pan so that the fruit mixture slides toward you, then pour the brandy into the top/far half, to keep the flames away from you.
Cassoulet
Flan
Gazpacho

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A tool with a wooden handle and a grid or squiggle of inflexible metal below is probably a ______.
Berry macerator
Ice breaker
Potato masher
These days, people mash potatoes with everything from oversize forks to immersion blenders (which gives you more of a whipped-potato effect.) However, you'll still see these old-fashioned utensils in some kitchens because they're quite effective.
All of the above

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Which of these vegetables would be served creamed?
Corn
Peas
Spinach
All of the above
The 1950s were prime time for creamed vegetables, with recipes including butter, cream and/or whole milk. So it was a lot easier to "get your veggies," but today's clean-eating gurus would shudder!

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What is a food mill used for?
Cooling
Decorating
Pureeing
You'll still see food mills in kitchen stores -- in fact, you can pay quite a lot for one at shops like Williams-Sonoma. The comfort-food craze revived interest in this instrument used for pureeing creamy soups and smooth mashed potatoes.
Re-heating

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Which of these would a 1950s housewife mostly likely use to make coffee?
An espresso maker
A French press
A percolator
A percolator has a heating element at the bottom, and forces boiling water repeatedly up through the grounds. It fell out of favor in the 1970s, when the gentler drip coffeemaker was introduced.
A stovetop caffetiere

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What's the best order in which to iron clothes?
Largest garments to smallest
Smallest garments to largest
Lowest-heat garments to highest
Ironing in this order limits the chances of scorching something with excessive heat. Frankly, though, if you're a novice at ironing, it might not hurt to do large items first, getting warmed up before doing the trickier small items. Just make sure the iron has time to cool to the proper temperature for delicate items.
Highest-heat garments to lowest

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Which of these can restore copper to its original brightness?
Baking soda and water
Ketchup and salt
The 1950s were a peak time for ketchup -- people put it on all kinds of meat, including steak. We're not sure, though, who decided to rub it on Grandma's copper pots, but it works!
Apple cider vinegar
Play-Doh

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For what is a trivet used?
Keeping a hot pot or pan off the surface of the table
Think of it like a coaster, but bigger and heavier. This probably came in very handy with the advent of easy-wipe vinyl tablecloths, which wouldn't hold up to heat very well.
Balancing out a table's legs
Holding a cookbook open
Mixing pastry dough

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Which of these might be kept in a box?
Bread
Why did bread need its own box? Well, if you got it from a bakery or baked it yourself, it didn't come in plastic wrap. A breadbox reduced airflow and exposure to moisture, keeping it fresh longer. It also kept pests from getting in -- not a theoretical concern in many rural homes!
Chops
Flour
Zucchini

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What are clothespins used for?
Hanging clothes in closets
Hanging laundry on a line to dry
Some homemakers had electric laundry machines by the 1950s. However, it wouldn't be uncommon for a housewife to pin clothes out on a line to dry. Some people still swear by this method for saving electricity and for the freshness of the scent.
Mending holes in clothes
In place of a belt

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How often should the toilet be cleaned?
Once per day
Um, would you excuse us? There's something we really ought to get to. By the cleaning the toilet once per day, it's less likely to stain or get a grimy build-up of...stuff.
Every other day
Twice a week
Once a week

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For what would you most likely use a mallet?
Flattening pie dough
Tenderizing meat
We had to put "most likely" in this question because honestly, we can't be sure a burglar hasn't ever been chased off of a property by a housewife with a mallet, or that someone eager to get their drink on wouldn't use one to crush ice. That would be a messy process, though, and not to mention unsanitary, if the mallet had​ recently been used on raw meat and not properly cleaned.
Crushing ice
Chasing a burglar out of the house

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What is important when sewing a button on?
Keeping the knots on the correct side of the fabric
Why is this important? This practice keeps the knot protected while washing and ironing the garment, so it's less likely to come undone.
Making an 'x' pattern
Using only the finest of threads
Making sure your needle is actually silver

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One tablespoon of cornstarch mixed with two cups water makes a good ______.
Hair gel
Salad dressing
Spray starch for ironing
Cornstarch has a variety of household uses. This one's a way to get around spending money on canned spray starch at the supermarket. You can also use it for preparing fabric for quilting.
Stain remover

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Cutting and serving an angel food cake? You'll need a _______.
Cake breaker
This comb-shaped item was used for cutting soft and delicate cakes. If you tried to use a regular knife, you risked squishing the cake.
Cookie press
Mandoline
Serrated knife

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Need a little ice for your drink? You'll need an ice ___.
Pet
Pick
Sieve
Either "pet" or "pick"
The "ice pet" shaved ice, while the ice pick just bashed it off the edge of a block of ice. There was also the ice crusher, which looked like a box with a crank handle. Today, most people settle for the plastic trays that you twist by hand to loosen ice cubes.

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When is it appropriate to cook using a microwave?
Breakfast and lunch only
Any family meal without guests
Only late-night snacks
Microwaves hadn't yet been invented
The household microwave arrived on the scene in 1967, along with "microwave recipe" books that foresaw us making just about everything in a microwave. With the invention of the microwave, instant microwaveable foods sprang up, from whole dinners in a tray to popcorn. That's progress!

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What kind of food might have a "lattice"?
Iced tea
Bread
A pie
Certain kinds of pies, especially cherry, often have a "lattice crust." This means when the dough was rolled out, it was cut into strips and placed across the top of the pie horizontally and vertically. This leaves plenty of space for steam to vent.
A steak

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If you are trying to "reduce," what are you doing?
De-cluttering
Losing weight
"Reducing" was mid-20th-century-speak for losing weight. You might also hear about a woman's desire to be "trim." Part of a homemaker's job in the 1950s was to look good for her husband.
Composting
Saving income

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Which of these does NOT belong in a Key lime pie?
Egg yolks
Graham cracker crumbs
Lemon zest
While lemon zest is a common ingredient in baking (and probably couldn't hurt anything) traditional Key Lime pie recipes do not call for it. Also, make sure you only use the egg yolks for the curd--not the entire egg.
Lime juice

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How many times should you flip meat while pan-frying it?
Once
Meat only needs to be flipped once. Turning it only once also limits the chances that a shaped patty of ground meat, like a hamburger, will fall apart from excessive handling.
Twice
Three times
Never

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You Got:
/35

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