A Teachable Moment

Mrs Beeton_Range Detail

Isabella Alden told a story about her childhood that shows not only the love within her home, but the skill of her father in capturing everyday moments to teach Isabella character-forming lessons.

“I recall a certain rainy day, when I hovered aimlessly from sitting-room to kitchen, alternately watching my father at his writing, and my mother at her cake-making. She was baking, I remember, a certain sort known among us as ‘patty-cakes,’ with scalloped eMrs. Beeton_Victorian Kitchen editeddges, and raisins peeping out all over their puffy sides. I put in an earnest plea for one of the ‘patties’ as it came from the oven, and was refused. Disconsolately I wandered back to father’s side. He was busy with his annual accounts.

“Our home was in a manufacturing town, where the system of exchange, known as ‘due-bills,’ was in vogue. Something caught my eye which suggested the term to me, and I asked an explanation.

“Father gave it briefly. Then I wanted to know whether people always earned the amount mentioned in the due-bill, and my father replied that of course one had the right to issue a due-bill to a man who had earned nothing, if for any reason he desire to favor him, and that then the sum would become that man’s due, because of the name signed.

“I remember the doleful tone in which I said, ‘I wish I had a due-bill.’ My father laughed, tore a bit of paper from his note-book, and printed on it in letters which his six-year-old daughter could read, the words:

Dear Mother:
Please give our little girl a patty-cake for my sake.

“I carried my due-bill in some doubt to my mother, for she was not given to changing her mind, but I can seem to see the smile on her face as she read the note, and feel again the pressure of the plump warm cake which was promptly placed in my hand.Mrs Beeton_Rolls and Cakes edited square

“The incident took on special significance from the fact that I gave it another application, as children are so apt to do. As I knelt that evening, repeating my usual prayer: ‘Now I lay me down to sleep,’ and closed it with the familiar words: ‘And this I ask for Jesus’ sake,’ there flashed over my mind the conviction that this petition was like the ‘due-bill’ which my father had made me—to be claimed because of the mighty name signed. I do not know that any teaching of my life gave me a stronger sense of assurance in prayer than this apparently trivial incident.”

—Excerpt from Successful Women by Sarah K. Bolton

Follow this link to a 19th Century recipe for raisin cakes.

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