12 April 2013

Good Wives

If you want to get my dander up, all you have to do is buy a package of puff paste and stick it in my freezer.


I mean, not that I have anything against puff paste - other than I think it's often used as a misguided replacement for pie crust and is better suited to palmiers and vol-au-vents - but um, Good Wives? What the hell is a good wife?

Good: a general term of approval or commendation, meaning "as it should be" or "better than average"

Wife: 1) a woman, 2) a married woman; specif., a woman in her relationship to her husband

I am certainly a better than average woman, but if the puff paste in my freezer is called Good Wives, is that not attempting to replace me? Is that not suggesting that I am not a better than average woman?

Not content with spewing venom at my good husband, I looked up the brand on the intertubes:

In 1979, the two wives who started making these hors d’oeuvres in their homes thought the name "Good Wives" would be appropriate and fun. "Good Wife" was a term applied to a married Puritan woman, implying industry and integrity.

Okay. Puritans. Gauntlet thrown.

Goodwife: a wife or a mistress of a household" or "a title equivalent to Mrs., applied to a woman ranking below a lady

Not content with a mere definition, I moved on to what turned out to be a great book, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's Good Wives (Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England 1650 - 1750). Why yes, a scholarly tome about Puritans, but accessible and fascinating. From the preface: "To write about good wives is to write about ideals; to write about goodwives is to write about ordinary women living in a particular place and time."

You know what? Those women had it hard. Housekeeping was arduous, childbearing was dangerous, church going was de rigueur.  "A married woman in early New England was simultaneously a housewife, a deputy husband, a consort, a mother, a mistress, a neighbor, and a Christian. On the war-torn frontier, she might also become a heroine". She was powerful, she was burdened. If her ordinary honorific was Goodwife, so be it, and the more power to her.

So I've simmered down, and I'm no longer offended by the poor innocent puff paste. But it took a couple of hundred pages for me to get there.


NOTE: All definitions in italics are from the Webster's New World Dictionary, Second College Edition, ©1970

20 comments:

amy bader said...

I love the way your mind works. :)

sandy repp said...

And when I started reading this post, I thought perhaps your dander was up because you preferred making it from scratch instead of using the frozen kind...silly me!

FreshHell said...

I'm not sure anything's really changed. Wives and mothers still have multiple roles and probably always will. I think it's just life. I do think the brand name is a little...annoying. Unless, perhaps, every box comes with a copy of LTU's book for context. Otherwise, it strikes me as a companion to Betty Crocker or something.

RuthWells said...

I was hoping they were using the term ironically, because a really good wife would make her own puff pastry from scratch. (Which really isn't all that hard, actually. And it's somehow more delicious than even all-butter store bought.)

Harriet said...

The Connecticut town I grew up in had a Goodwives shopping center (named for the Goodwives River). Maybe there's a reason both versions of The Stepford Wives were filmed there...

AnnetteK said...

I read Good Wives in college, a looong time ago, but it was the first thing I thought of when I saw the pastry pic. It's a great book!

Hugh said...

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich kicks serious butt. "Good Wives" is amazing. Check out "A Midwifes Tale" too. Seriously. This woman is amazing...

Hugh said...

BTW, that was Hugh's alter ego. He has, however, read "Good Wives."

Mary Gilmour said...

Thanks for the book reference - I will surely read it!
I think the term was also in use in England, shortened to 'Goodie' at times, as in 'Goodie Two Shoes'.
That term was in use as a teasing term when I was a kid - if you obeyed the rules you were a 'Goodie Two Shoes'.
?
And I have never made pastry from scratch for sure.

Bibliomama said...

Yeah, a little cognitive slippage from where I expected this post to go, which had me pre-emptively thinking 'geez, yes, fine, homemade chicken stock is better but I'm just NOT TALENTED at pastry, OKAY?' Instead, it went to AWESOME.

Kyddryn said...

Frivolous, me - all I could think was, I wasn't a very good wife, so does that mean I cannot use that brand???

Shade and Sweetwater,
K

Anonymous said...

I thought you were going to the "make it yourself" place too. I LOVE that it took you a couple hundred pages to get over the brand name!
Sue in Pville (I'm never going to remember another password and I'm tired of lurking at your comments without saying anything...)

kittiesx3 said...

I love this post. Also love the process you used to simmer down. Love, love, love!

Sarah said...

You are quintessentially you in this post. :)

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

You're so funny. --- I re-read The Scarlet Letter recently, so the puritans came to mind almost-immediately-secondly.

You might like Charles LeGuin's reprinting of his grandmother's diary. Magnolia Wynn LeGuin was her name. She lived on a farm in Georgia about 120 years ago and there were years -- years! -- when she didn't leave her own property. I bought it because I'd run out of new work by Ursula LeGuin, and then re-read it after my first son was born and at that point, I really, really appreciated it.

ozma said...

I probably would have shriveled up and died.

There's a lesson here also about how it's not so bad to buy pre-made puff pastry.

alejna said...

This post reflects so many of the things I love about you, Maggie. I love how your mind works.

ifbyyes said...

My husband does all the cooking. I guess I'm a bad wife.

Jocelyn said...

I wish you'd also had to watch the entire series THE GOOD WIFE.

'Cause, well, that would just have been a bonus.

De said...

After reading this, I sought out Ulrich's Diary of a Midwife. It's unputdownable.