After almost giving up this book during the first 50 pages, because the reading mainly consisted of wordy descriptions of the prehistoric dwellings of Skara Brae and the Crystal Palace of the 1800's, I persevered and am now really enjoying this chronicle of all things Home.
Basically, the book is a room-by-room history of how each room in our modern homes developed, along with lots of interesting factoids about life, diet and personal habits of people from the Middle Ages through the Industrial Revolution.
I have learned that the word "cabinet" was originally a diminutive form of "cabin," as in "cabin-ette." Once a piece of furniture to store valuables, it eventually referred to a place in larger houses and estates where the most private of private meetings were held. Eventually, the term actually began to refer to the people themselves in those meetings, which is why our high-ranking government members today are called the President's "cabinet."
Here's another interesting fact: In the Middle Ages, bread was primarily baked by professional bakers in villages, rather than in the home. Around the 1500's, the bakers were accused of adding all sorts of ingredients to bread in order to stretch their genuine (and therefore more expensive) ingredients like flour. The false ingredients were things like chalk powder, sawdust and bone-ashes. Once this was reported and discovered, bread-making was more tightly regulated, with weights and ingredients being measured out carefully and records kept. Since evaporation made loaves turn lighter, however, nervous bakers began adding an extra loaf to orders -- the "baker's dozen" -- so that if the loaves were light the extra one would make up for any loss and the regulators would suspect no attempt at foul play.
And one more: The word "boudoir" literally means, "room for sulking." So much for romantic intrigue.
Anyway, those are just two of the fascinating things I've learned from the book so far. Since it's raining cats and dogs and the wind is howling right now, I am contenting myself with reading and making a winery friend's birthday cake for later today. So Bill Bryson, it's you and me today....at home.