Try Your Best to Pass This Home Ec Quiz From the Fifties



By: Elisabeth Henderson

7 Min Quiz

Image: John Eder/Stone/GettyImages

About This Quiz

The study of home economics has a rich and complex history, beyond just teaching kids in high school how to cook. While home economics classes certainly have taught generations of students — mostly women — to cook and clean and sew, the formal study of the management of the home created research opportunities and careers for many women outside the home. The formalization of the domestic arts as a vocation also gave dignity to the work of women in the home and gave an air of professionalism to the domestic sphere. 

The term “home economics” didn’t become common until the early 20th century, but the study of homemaking skills and strategies can be traced to the mid-19th century. Catherine Beecher, the half-sister of famous novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe, wrote a “Treatise on Domestic Economy for the Use of Young Ladies at Home.” This treatise, like so many that would follow it, took a scientific approach to cooking, raising children, cleaning and keeping a budget. The focus on domestic work rose out of a sense that the work of the home had a central role in the development of a good citizen, crucial for a working democracy. 

Do you have a clear understanding of how vital the work of the home is to the health of the country? Are you confident in entertaining large groups of people and serving them healthy food in a celebratory environment? Do you understand the complex reasons behind the rules of table manners? Read on to find out if you could keep house in the '50s! 

What is a good rule of thumb for remembering which utensil to use first when dining at a traditionally set table?

A proper table setting will have different utensils available for each course of the meal. The person who sets the table will have planned the arrangement of the silverware so that diners can easily work through the meal. Generally, work from the outside in to use the utensils in the correct order.


What is a handy use for old newspapers in vegetable preparation?

One trick for gathering the peels and juices from vegetables is to peel them over an old newspaper. Afterwards the newspaper can just be tossed out, taking the peels and stray juices with it.


What is a formal reason why you would not place silverware on top of a napkin?

In a formal table setting, guests should not have to handle anything until the moment that they need it in the course of the meal. For this reason, the utensils should not be placed on the napkin. The napkin can rest on the side or in some artful design over or above the utensils.


How might a homemaker amplify the sound of a phone ringing if they don’t have the time to sit around waiting for a call?

A life hack for busy homemakers, noted by Country Living, was to place the telephone in a dust pan so that the sound of it ringing would be amplified and heard by the busy homemaker, as she flitted about the house getting work done.


Housewives learned plenty of useful advice for keeping their husband happy upon his return from work. Which of these is something the housewife should not greet the husband with?

Any 1950s housewife educated in home economics would know this cardinal rule: Do not greet your husband, whose head is full of his own stresses and struggles, with complaints about your day at home.


What is one trick to salvage the donuts that have dried out from the day before?

A 1950s homemaking trick for salvaging day-old donuts suggests briefly warming the donuts in the broiler. Then dab on some butter to help them rehydrate and give them an appetizing and fresh look.


On what day of the week should the efficient homemaker wash clothes?

Mondays make the most common sense as the day to wash laundry for the household each week. If the laundry is completed on Monday, the ironing can be finished on Tuesday, and everyone will have clean clothes to wear for the week.


What should be the aim of every homemaker?

In order to be able to guide and center a home, a perfect homemaker must be healthy in body and mind and spirit. Part of the study of home economics is personal physiology and how to attain optimum health.


Which of the following is a crucial consideration when selecting a house in which to make a home?

Fresh flow of air dramatically affects the health of a structure, generating ample oxygen to keep the body functioning properly. Each room must be capable of drawing fresh air and expelling the stale air.


Why is buttermilk easier to digest than regular cow’s milk?

The human body digests milk by first clotting the milk with the rennin in the digestive fluids. Buttermilk is easier to digest because it has already been clotted and so begins the digestive process past the first stage.


Is milk worth the high cost in a family budget? If so, why?

While it may feel like a large cost at the surface level, milk is well worth the cost of a gallon. It costs much more than bread, but it has high amounts of protein, which bread does not have. Compared to meat and other sources of protein, milk is a relatively inexpensive way to meet the body’s needs.


Is it possible to have fun with your friends if your home is untidy?

No, you can’t have fun with your friends if your home is untidy. A tidy home sets the stage for the well-being of everyone in the environment. If the home is cluttered and unkempt, the moods of the people visiting will reflect that.


In the 1950s, how many hours would a homemaker expect to spend on housekeeping tasks each week?

In the 1950s, the average homemaker would expect to spend at least 40 hours a week on housekeeping tasks, maintaining a sparkling clean house and preparing delicious food. No wonder the advent of new appliances was greeted with such welcome.


What ratio of eggs to milk would you use for a custard?

To make a custard, you’ll need a ratio of a four to six eggs per quart of milk. Custard is a versatile choice for entertaining and can be made without too much expense. Custard can be made soft or hard depending on whether you cook it on the stove top while stirring or cook it in the oven.


Which of the following was not a subject of home economics in the 1950s?

Home economics, as a field, is composed of much more than the areas of cleaning and cooking that people generally associate with it. Health, cooking, education, budgeting and finance, home management and sewing all fell under the umbrella of home economics. Language study stood outside the umbrella in the rain.


Which of the following is not a good option for dealing with the conundrum of leftover rice?

A good homemaker would never just throw away perfectly good rice, bland as it may be. Leftover rice provides an excellent backdrop or filling for many other foods, or can be used as a sprightly decorative border.


What percentage of an egg does the egg white compose?

In home economics, students would learn about the nutritional and biological elements of the food that would be served at home. Egg whites compose 57% of the total egg. The rest is composed of 11% shell and 32% yolk.


Which substance in meat yields gelatin when it is boiled?

Collagen holds together the muscle fiber, which is composed of tubes flowing with muscle juices made up of minerals and proteins. When the meat is boiled, collagen breaks down into gelatin.


What should a housewife do to prepare the children for the husband’s return from work at the end of the day?

When the husband returns from work at the end of the day, he is likely to be tired and looking for refuge from the chaos of the world. The housewife should prepare the children to be clean and properly dressed, so that their father can see them as the treasures that they are.


Why does soup meat become tasteless if it is taken out of the soup?

Animal meat juice is filled with substances that give it flavor, known as extractives. When the meat is cooked in liquid, these extractives are drawn out of the meat and into the liquid, giving the soup a full flavor and leaving the meat relatively flavorless.


Which of the following is not a healthy way to preserve meat?

Meat can spoil easily, as it provides a productive environment for bacteria to grow. In order to preserve the meat, the bacteria growth must be slowed or stopped. This can be done by any of the above methods, but chemical treatments add another element to the meat that makes it unhealthy.


What gives meat the tough texture that makes guests chew and cringe?

Tough meat has the potential to ruin a dinner party. Selecting a cut of meat from a muscle that the animal uses less can help assure the cook that they are preparing meat that will melt in the mouths of dinner guests.


Why does bread need to be leavened in order to be palatable?

The leavening of bread refers to the lightening of bread’s texture that occurs when yeast in the bread ferments and produces bubbles. The bubbles give a lightness to the bread that makes it less dense and easier to chew.


What is one reason that a health-minded homemaker may avoid baking quick breads over traditional yeast breads?

Quick breads, such as banana bread and coffee bread, can be baked using baking soda or baking powder to create the leavening effect without the hours necessary for bread to rise. These chemicals, however, may leave behind a harmful residue that the careful homemaker wants to avoid.


Which of the following should be done as a precaution to prevent bed sores?

Homemakers are often responsible for the care of people confined to beds in the home, so the care of the sick is foundational in home economics. One way to prevent bed sores is to remove any objects from the bed that will cause rubbing of the skin, such as crumbs.


Which is the only fork that would be placed on the right side of a table setting?

It’s a well-known rule that forks go on the left side of a table setting, and knives and spoons go on the right. The oyster fork, however, breaks all the norms in the table setting world, as it will show up on the right side.


Which of the following is not a generally accepted rule in table manners?

While in France it is polite to set your hands on the table when you are not actively using them, in the United States, people more commonly place them in their lap. Cutting only one bite at a time may not be observed as often as these other manners, but it is the well-mannered way to eat.


How can a homemaker prepare for the breadwinner to come home at the end of the day?

The homemaker needs to be fresh when the breadwinner arrives. They have many options for how to freshen up, from taking a little rest so as not to seem dry and boring, touching up make-up and brightening up their attitude.


Which of these tasks would a homemaker not expect to do in order to keep the home running?

The able homemaker in the 1950s would be perfectly comfortable with keeping a vegetable garden, mending torn items and making food from scratch. However, she would be equally content to use the new appliances coming on the market promising to save time.


If a family did not yet a have a drying machine, what would a good washing day look like?

If a family did not own a dryer — which many families still did not own in the 1950s — they would naturally air dry their clothes. The best day to do this would be a sunny and dry day, so that the clothes would dry quickly.


When should dinner be ready on a typical weeknight?

Many home economics guides in the 1950s advised that the homemaker should be sure to have dinner ready and waiting, though still piping hot, when the breadwinner came home. Breadwinning is hard work, and the homemaker should recognize that by providing delicious food to sustain the work.


Why might a savvy homemaker select a rug instead of a carpet to adorn a room?

Especially if a family did not have a vacuum cleaner, a homemaker would select a rug over a permanent carpet because it could easily be removed to be cleaned. One cleaning method would be to hang the rug over a fence and beating it with a broom until all the dust fell to the earth.


Why is the living room considered the center of the home?

The living room acts as the center of the home, that space that members of the family and visitors gather in and come together to connect. It’s a social center, as crucial for maintaining a healthy home as is the heart in a healthy body.


How can you remember which glass belongs to you at a table where the glasses seem close in proximity?

If you’re not sure which drink is yours at the table, you can always ask your neighbor. But if you want to know the right answer for yourself, see which hand makes a “d” when you bring your index finger and thumb together. “D” is for drink; the other side makes a “b” for your bread plate.


Why is it considered impolite to place a knife with the edge facing outward instead of in towards your plate?

The reason that knives always point in goes back to an old code in table setting. If a person harbored aggression against someone at the table, they would signify that by pointing the knife edge in the enemy’s direction. Watch where you’re pointing that knife!


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