20 Favorite Old-School Kitchen Hints from Heloise

Food Lists

When I was a tween—back before the word “tween” existed—while all of my girlish peers traded Sweet Valley High paperbacks, I read brittle Pocket Book compilations of Hints from Heloise from the 1960s. Though issues of Seventeen magazine held some appeal, I was more drawn to Good Housekeeping, which had a monthly “Ask Heloise” column.

With bloggers and HGTV, a galaxy of housekeeping advice is only seconds away at any given moment. That wasn’t the case in 1959, when Heloise Bowles Cruse, a housewife with a business degree, began her column, “The Readers’ Exchange,” in the Honolulu Advertiser. It immediately struck a chord, and was nationally syndicated in 1961 as “Hints from Heloise”; her first book, Heloise’s Housekeeping Hints, was a huge best-seller in 1963.

It’s Heloise’s tone that really sets her apart. Unlike the so-called “lifestyle experts” that are a dime a dozen today, Heloise was her audience’s peer. She’s friendly and encouraging and kinda cheesy—she often addresses her readers as “gals”—but it all comes off as genuine. She’s a cheerleader for doing a job well as a reflection of self-worth, and for many of the readers in her column at the time, was likely one of the few people reminding them that taking care of a family and making a home a wonderful place was a job to be proud of.

The original Heloise died in 1977, and her daughter assumed the Heloise mantle, continuing the Good Housekeeping column, and eventually adding a podcast, many more books of hints, and a website. By now, new Heloise has been at it much longer than her mother.

While I value all aspects of the Heloise legacy, I have a particular fondness for original Heloise. I didn’t realize it until re-visiting those Pocket Editions decades later, but the hints I gleaned from them in my youth stuck with me. Some of them some across as dated, but their essence is timeless.

1. “Don’t throw away lemon halves after the juice has been extracted. They may be dipped in salt and rubbed on the bottom of your copper-bottom pots for a few minutes and they will gleam like new.”

2. “Anytime a pancake better called for eggs, the same recipes was much better if the yolk was put into the batter and the white beaten separately until stiff, then gently folded into the batter. When the original recipes called for two eggs, I used three eggs. The pancakes were absolutely lush!”

3. “Never throw away leftover coffee. When it’s cool out it in an ice tray and make coffee ice cubes out of it. When you have your afternoon snack, use these cubes instead of plain ice when making your iced coffee.”

4. “Did you ever hear of drying salad greens (lettuce, watercress, etc.) in your washing machine? Wash the greens well, shake out as much water as you can and place them in small heaps in a clean dishtowel or clean pillowcase. Fold the ends across loosely, place in the washer and set the control for the ‘spin-dry’ cycle. This is especially useful to women who make salads for large parties and church suppers.”

5. “When cutting marshmallows or chopping dates, if you dip your scissors in water and cut them wet, the goodies won’t stick.”

6.Never clean a closet or drawer when you are not angry or in a throwing-away mood! You will be wasting your time. Wait until you are angry! This is the best time to clean.”

7. “To be surer of saving on grocery bills, never go to the market hungry! When you go hungry, you go for fancy foodstuff to ‘tide you over’ until dinner. It’s all psychological, but it works as a money stretcher, instead of a tummy stretcher.”

8. “Try to adapt yourself to new ideas. If we didn’t we would still be boiling our clothes over a wood fire!”

9. “Here’s another use for your ice-cream dipper: Use the dipper to make uniform meat balls or meat patties.”

10. “Use a vegetable peeler to shave off thin curls from a firm or frozen stick of butter. Almost instantly the curls will be soft enough to spread.”

11. “If you do not own one of those meat pounders then try me method. ‘Borrow’ your husband’s hammer! By golly there is no use in buying something and having an extra gadget in your drawer if you can get along without it.”

12. “Several layers of newspapers on each shelf when defrosting your refrigerator will help sop up the water and eliminate a lot of sponging.”

13. “When baking potatoes, I find it a wonderful to put each potato in one of the holes in a muffin tin. The tin makes it easy to remove the potatoes from the oven and keeps them from rolling around or dropping through the racks in the oven.”

14. “I stick a toothpick through the garlic [clove] before placing it in the food or sauce. That way it’s really easy to find when I want to remove it.”

15. “When baking potatoes…for those who love to eat the skins and want them crisp…use bacon grease.”

16. “When you want to pulverize a garlic bud, put the bud between two pieces of wax paper (skin included) and just hit it several times with a hammer.”

17. “Was anyone unkind enough to leave a burning cigarette on one of your china saucers? To remove the nicotine spot, just dip a cork into some moist salt and the spot will come out right after rubbing.”

18. “If grease in a skillet catches fire, first turn off the heat; then, if possible, put a cover on it, maybe using a long-handled fork. Baking soda sprinkled over the fire smothers it.”

19. “Use the best while you can! There is no one more important in your home than you! So don’t save your good things for “tomorrow”—use them now. Get your good silver out and put it in your kitchen drawer and use it every day. Use your good dishes at least once a week, if not daily. There is no one who will ever come into your home who is more important and loved any more than your own family. They are the greatest!”

20. “Love is the greatest thing you have to give. Give it freely…yes, even if it is through washing dishes and doing laundry. Never do ‘chores’ if you are not in the mood. Wait til you want to do them because of what it can or will mean to someone else.”

Sara Bir is Paste’s food editor. She owes a lot to Heloise I and Heloise II.

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