by Bill Nye
Public Domain Books
It would please me very much, at no distant day, to issue a small book filled with choice recipes and directions for making home happy. I have accumulated an immense assortment of these things, all of general use and all excellent in their way, because they have been printed in papers all over the country–papers that would not be wrong. Some of these recipes I have tried.
I have tried the recipe for paste and directions for applying wall paper, as published recently in an agricultural paper to which I had become very much attached.
This recipe had all the characteristics of an ingenuous and honest document. I cut it out of the paper and filed it away where I came very near not finding it again. But I was unfortunate enough to find it after a long search.
The scheme was to prepare a flour paste that would hold forever, and at the same time make the paper look smooth and neat to the casual observer. It consisted of so many parts flour, so many parts hot water and so many parts common glue. First, the walls were to be sized, however. I took a common tape measure and sized the walls.
Then I put a dishpan on the cook stove, poured in the flour, boiling water and glue. This rapidly produced a dark brown mess of dough, to which I was obliged to add more hot water. It looked extremely repulsive to me, but it looked a good deal better than it smelled.
I did not have much faith in it, but I thought I would try it. I put some of it on a long strip of wall paper and got up on a chair to apply it. In the excitement of trying to stick it on the wall as nearly perpendicular as possible, I lost my balance while still holding the paper and fell in such a manner as to wrap four yards of bronze paper and common flour paste around my wife’s head, with the exception of about four feet of the paper which I applied to an oil painting of a Gordon Setter in a gilt frame.
I decline to detail the dialogue which then took place between my wife and myself. Whatever claim the public may have on me, it has no right to demand this. It will continue to remain sacred. That is, not so very sacred of course, if I remember my exact language at the time, but sacredly secret from the prying eyes of the public.
It is singular, but it is none the less the never dying truth, that the only time that paste ever stuck anything at all, was when I applied it to my wife and that picture. After that it did everything but adhere. It gourmed and it gummed everything, but that was all.
The man who wrote the recipe may have been stuck on it, but nothing else ever was.
Finally a friend came along who helped me pick the paper off the dog and soothe my wife. He said that what this paste needed was more glue and a quart of molasses. I added these ingredients, and constructed a quart of chemical molasses which looked like crude ginger bread in a molten state.
Then, with the aid of my friend, I proceeded to paper the room. The paper would seem to adhere at times, and then it would refrain from adhering. This was annoying, but we succeeded in applying the paper to the walls in a way that showed we were perfectly sincere about it. We didn’t seek to mislead anybody or cover up anything. Any one could see where each roll of paper tried to be amicable with its neighbor–also where we had tried the laying on of hands in applying the paper.
We got all the paper on in good shape–also the bronze. But they were in different places. The paper was on the walls, but the bronze was mostly on our clothes and on our hands. I was very tired when I got through, and I went to bed early, hoping to get much needed rest. In the morning, when I felt fresh and rested, I thought that the paper would look better to me.
There is where I fooled myself. It did not look better to me. It looked worse.
All night long I could occasionally hear something crack like a Fourth of July. I did not know at the time what it was, but in the morning I discovered.
It seems that, during the night, that paper had wrinkled itself up like the skin on the neck of a pioneer hen after death. It had pulled itself together with so much zeal that the room was six inches smaller each way and the carpet didn’t fit.
There is only one way to insure success in the publication of recipes. They must be tried by the editor himself before they are printed. If you have a good recipe for paste, you must try it before you print it. If you have a good remedy for botts, you must get a botty horse somewhere and try the remedy before you submit it. If you think of publishing the antidote for a certain poison, you should poison some one and try the antidote on him, in order to test it, before you bamboozle the readers of your paper.
This, of course, will add a good deal of extra work for the editor, but editors need more work. All they do now is to have fun with each other, draw their princely salaries, and speak sarcastically of the young poet who sings,
“You have came far o’er the sea, And I’ve went away from thee.”