The Keeper of the Keys

Selected excerpts from the introduction to Laurel’s Kitchen

(it’s called The Keeper of the Keys, but I think of it as the Manifesto of the Mighty Homemaker):

“I have begun to wonder, of late, about this belief that housework is essentially tedious. To what extent do you suppose it has been hoisted upon us by those same commercial interests who so obligingly provide us with dishwashers, dehydrated dinners, and disposable diapers – all meant very generously, of course, to relieve us of all that horrible work, obviously an evil in itself?”

“What really troubles us most about housekeeping is that in our desire to be freed from its tedium, we have welcomed a host of time- and labor-saving devices which have not only not eliminated tedium but cut us off from the truly pleasurable, creative side of our work…Worst of all, these labor saving products and devices represent an enormous sinkhole for the worlds diminishing resources. The world cannot afford this version of homemaking.

“The less than thrilling side of homemaking will always be there. But as soon as we take into our own hands some of the tasks we’d previously consigned to machines and manufacturers, our work becomes vastly more gratifying.”

“Why compartmentalize our lives so that art is a thing apart? There is an artistic way to carry out even the simplest task, and there is great fulfillment to be had from finding out that way and perfecting it. To lead lives of artistry, we have only to slow down, to simplify, and to start making wise choices.”


No, I don’t sing my way blissfully through all the chores, but folks, these ladies are on to something. Last fall when we began preparing for our plastic fast I revisited this cookbook for practical advice. I found these words (and many others) that inspired and encouraged me at a time when I was struggling with the basic question of what to cook for dinner. I was a little skeptical at first, about how great it is to make lentil spread, but quickly found that they were right. The routines of cooking whole foods from scratch did seem to bring me to new heights of satisfaction and creative fulfillment. Partly this is because simple tasks like making bread and soaking beans are a part of something bigger–they speak to our collective need and longing to live in a more sustainable way. Reframed as such, how could this work that nurtures us and helps us nurture the earth not be gratifying?

Assuming you like lentil spread, of course.

7 Replies to “The Keeper of the Keys”

  1. Inspired by you I made chapatis the other day to go with the dal and chicken tikka masala I had made for dinner. It was easy and satisfying rather than buying a pack at the store.

  2. “Why compartmentalize our lives so that art is a thing apart? There is an artistic way to carry out even the simplest task, and there is great fulfillment to be had from finding out that way and perfecting it…”

    I love that! Thanks for bringing this book to my attention.

    This post reminds me of the book Mary Poppins, particularly when she says, “…you find the fun and snap the job is a game…”

    Peace and love. Anna

  3. I so agree.

    I find simple pleasure in folding laundry and spreading clean sheets onto my bed. And there is something so satisfying about cooking a meal on the stove instead of shoving something in the microwave. It brings pleasure to my world and makes me sit up straighter.

    I love art, so I’m happy to know we can create art for ourselves with the way we live.

    Thanks for posting this!

  4. I’ve read and re-read this intro to the original paperpack edition so many times, I’m surprised it’s still holding together!
    Laurel’s Kitchen is still one of my most treasured cookbooks.

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