“I am a working woman with a secret life. I keep house.”
So begins Cheryl Mendelson’s 884-page love song to domestic life, the sleeper hit Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House.
Mendelson was raised at the knee of her two grandmothers, both expert housekeepers–one in the old Italian tradition, one in the English. Then she grew up, became an attorney, and put her hard-earned skills aside. Her domestic knowledge was viewed as outdated (at best) or embarrassing (at worst) in polite adult company.
But Mendelson couldn’t give it up so easily. Housekeeping, she found, is ultimately about making your home a place in which you can feel at home. The art of keeping house was too important to let it remain her dirty little secret.
This three pound manual contains detailed instructions for every possible household task, a history of housework in America and abroad, and exhaustive reasons why it’s worth caring about. For over a decade, housekeeping fans have found validation and haters have found encouragement in its pages.
Home Comforts helped transform what used to be some women’s “dirty little secret” into a source of pride, long before the cult of domesticity started gathering steam. It’s useful enough to earn a place on every home’s bookshelf, but little known enough that you can confidently gift it to a college grad without worrying she’ll get three more copies at her graduation party. (I’m looking at you, Dr. Seuss.)
Have you read this book? Love it? Hate it? Can you relate to Mendelson’s secret life?