Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Slop Pail

Today I'm talking about a rather gross subject from the viewpoint of modern America--The Slop Pail.

Today's young people won't even know what a slop pail is. I know about it because of visits to my grandparents' in my childhood. I was not a country kid. My family lived in town and we had (most of the time) indoor plumbing. But country folk did not have all the modern conveniences in those days.

This doesn't have anything to do with slop pails, except they surely
had one. This is my grandmother and some of her children
standing by the old log house. Left to right: Rhoda, Rose, Elsie, Bess,
and Joe, c. 1930.
My grandmother's kitchen was equipped with a coal/wood fired kitchen range. In one side of this stove was a well for heating water. That was the only source of hot water for the household. For baths extra water was heated on the stovetop, poured into a galvanized washtub, and cooled with cold water to the right temperature. The same applied, of course, to laundry.

Because there was no running water, there was no kitchen sink and no drains. Dishes were done in dishpans, filled with water as explained above. They would be emptied by carrying them to the back door and slinging the water out into the yard. Or it might go into the slop pail.

And so enters the Slop Pail. The slop pail was a big bucket into which all the kitchen scraps from food preparation, plate scrapings, and some waste water were dumped. About once a day, or when the bucket was getting full enough to need it, the slop pail would be carried to the chicken yard and dumped. Basic recycling! The chickens would eat the scraps; if the chickens left anything the insects would benefit; anything not finished by critters would go back to the soil.

When I think about the slop pail now, it pretty much grosses me out. I would hate to have one in my kitchen; it was not a pretty thing. But it served a need in a country home without plumbing.

Maybe tomorrow I'll tell you an old joke from my mother about a slop pail and a long-handled spoon.

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