A coffee break for a homemaker usually means pouring the last of the morning’s coffee down the drain, and washing out the pot. The very idea of having such a break with friends doesn’t even cross our minds. We just have too much to do.
Homemaking is by and large a solitary job. At least one person per household is delegated the job of keeping it clean and tidy. Occasionally, a spouse or children may help, but overall, normally the woman is the one who drew the short straw.
It can be lonely being a homemaker. There is no one there to visit with as you wash dishes. No one is there to help you figure out a quandary, when one arises. And it would be most helpful to have someone close by to assist in moving heavy furniture so you can vacuum underneath.
Homemaking in the Past
My friend Alona and I were talking about this just recently, while running a few errands. In the course of the conversation, she related how her mother worked around this issue. A group of friends, a pot of coffee, and chairs around a table.
When Mrs. Wimberly was keeping house, it was roughly the 1940s. The chores of the normal homemaker were vast. Not only was she responsible for keeping the home clean, but also maintaining a garden, preparing three meals a day, raising children, making clothes, laundry…that list just goes on and on.
It was a tough life. Money was scarce, so the idea of hiring help was unheard of. The men were either at a job or in the fields tending larger crops or livestock. Children were in school, or too young to help much. This means the bulk of the work was placed on the shoulders of the homemaker.
A Coffee Break for Homemakers
Too help ease the loneliness, once a week she met her friends and fellow homemakers for coffee. These coffee ‘breaks’ were usually held one day a week. They met in the afternoons, as other chores needed attention before they could leave their homes.
A different woman ‘hosted’ the coffee break each week. Money was tight, so normally cookies were served with the coffee. If for some reason they had made a cake earlier in the week, she might serve slices of it.
That cake was most likely what my Aunt Dot called a ‘Jam’ Cake. It was called this because jam was used between the layers, instead of frosting.
The jam not only kept the cake moist, but also helped the frosting stretch further. After all, sugar was rather expensive for these rural women, and they preferred to use it as sparingly as possible.
My grandmother used another version. Mamie’s was more of a fruit and nut cake, similar to Banana Nut. This one, however, uses jam as an ingredient, along with dried figs, raisins and chopped nuts.
Often, each woman would bring the hostess a small gift. If someone was growing purple hull peas that year, but knew the hostess wasn’t, she might bring her a ‘mess’ of peas.
Another might bring a jar of jelly or pickles. The gifts were usually small. Rather than a ‘pretty’, these gifts were always useful, and more than likely, needed items.
The Purpose of a Homemaking Coffee Break
A coffee breaks was used for several purposes. First, and foremost, it gave the women a chance to visit with their friends. They caught up on each other’s lives, probably did a little gossiping, and discussed personal issues they didn’t feel comfortable talking about with anyone else.
But it also acted as a local ‘newspaper’, of sorts. This is the place they learned of any illnesses, troubles another neighbor might be having, or any other news of the day. It kept them in the community loop, and let them know how might need a meal or a little extra help.
Coffee breaks were also a place to swap recipes, sewing patterns and handwork advice, such as how to repair a dropped knitting stitch, or learn a complicated crochet method.
Many of the women quilted, and it was a normal site to see a quilt frame set up somewhere in the house. If this was the case, often the women would finish their coffee, and pull a chair up to the frame to help with the quilting.
Coffee Breaks Today
Coffee breaks today mean escaping from your office desk long enough to grab a cup of bitter brew from the breakroom. Or, it means filling a to-go cup to take with you while you run errands. We have come way too far from the social hour of yesterday.
Social interaction is a necessity for a healthy mind and body. Through even the simplest visit, our emotions get a work out – from laughter and joy, to understanding, compassion and kindness. We leave the visit feeling refreshed and even invigorated.
Yet instead of truly sitting down to have coffee with a friend, we hide behind a phone to our ears, or simply text our thoughts. We live at the office, spend every free minute in the car, or just crashing on the couch from sheer exhaustion. Most of us don’t even have a clue as to how to chisel time out of our busy schedules to meet for coffee.
To add fullness to our lives, maybe we need to reinstate the true coffee break. It may mean doing it on a Saturday afternoon, but gathering together with friends is a wonderful thing to do.
It gives us a break from our normal routine. Having a coffee break with friends forces us to slow down. And it just gives us time to breathe.
Homemaking itself is a tough job, and can get very lonely. Having others close by to share time with can make it less burdensome. And who knows, you may just get a delicious recipe to try, or even a jar of homemade jelly!
A Little bit of Lagniappe
Before we ask a friend over for a coffee break, we want to bake something they would really enjoy. But what to bake? I have a couple of solutions to that question.
The first is an Apple Pound Cake. This is easy to make, delicious to eat, and perfect to share. It goes well with either hot drinks such as coffee and tea, or cold ones like Lemonade and Iced Tea.
Ready to get started? Just download the recipe HERE.
And I did say I had a ‘couple’ of solutions. If you want another recipe or two that would be perfect for your coffee break, be sure to sign up for my newsletter. Once you do, you will gain access to the Subscribers Resource page where you will find the recipes for Coffee With Friends. (And just so you know – there are quite a few other freebies waiting for you there!)
Looking for More Ways to Have Fun with Friends?
The Luck of the Season – How to Host a Potluck
Have an Old Fashioned Pounding
Lawn Games – How to Have Fun with Old-Fashioned Games
Do More & Have Fun with a Canning Party!
Love the doily/table runner in the picture of the cup & cookies! My mom did that type of crochet & I treasure every doily, dresser scarf, tablecloth, yes, even a bedspread that I inherited from her. Sometimes my coffee break is just my doggy & me, but we both enjoy the break & a little treat.
I have quite a few of those treasures, as I love vintage linens. My goal is to use them as much as possible. I even have a crochet tablecloth I use as a covering for the bed in my guest room!
My dogs are frequent ‘guests’ at my coffee breaks. They make great listeners!!!
Julie, this is a beautiful post. I felt like I was right there with you at Mrs Wimberly’s house in the 1940s! I think it’s important, now more than ever, to hold onto and/or revive such customs.
I’ve missed my coffee breaks with friends… some of them have health concerns that keep them at home during the pandemic. I miss them so much and hope we can get together for a cuppa soon!
I agree, Lisa! If you can’t get together, consider having a Coffee Zoom meeting!
Hi Julie, how true your words are. Bring back the coffee break, chatting and catching up with friends.
The jam cake sounds yummy especially with a nice cup of coffee.
Cheers! (yes pun intended)
I wish you were here, Lea! I would definitely put the coffee on and bake you a cake!
I love this so much! Your writing took me write to that table and I could smell the coffee and taste the cake.
Thank you, Christina! I love having friends over for a good visit. If you are ever in the neighborhood, let me know – I will put the coffee pot on!
This just made me take a deep breath, lol! Thank you for a great reminder of how important it is to slow down and take that break to relax and focus before getting on with chores. Coming from the Homestead Blog Hop.
Thank you, Kelly! I love a good coffee break with friends. It really does help me to slow down and enjoy life!