It pays to remember that in The Good Old Days, one’s employer had rather more power over one than is possible today (for those of us in the lucky parts of the world that is.) In olden times, for example, the servants in wealthy households worked very long days, with little or no time off, and received little more than their keep. In the eighteenth century, one expectation on the part of the servants was that their ‘keep’ would include plumb pudding regularly on the menu . We associate plum pudding now with Christmas, but it was once a staple – because the ingredients, and the pudding itself, had good keeping qualities. Plum pudding may not have been a daily dish for most, but nor was it a rare treat.
The most fascinating source of information on life on the farm and the estate is The Country Housewife’s Family Companion (1750) by William Ellis. He describes how one Master of the household made some moves towards economy in the matter of his servants’ food, but not to the point of meanness.
How a Lord’s Family-Servants had Apple-Pudding made for them instead of Plumb-Pudding.
The Lord I mean here, was one that was a true Œconomist, yet kept a good House both for eating and drinking, for I have known him to keep two Men Cooks at a Time. However, to save extraordinary Expense, amongst his other Management, he obliged his many common Servants to eat no other Pudding for seven Weeks together than Apple boil’d Pudding, which with other Victuals gave them a full pleasant Meal; the Apple-Pudding was made thus: - the Dough or Crust was made with Wheat-meal, and either Butter, Suet, or Kitchen Fat, rolled thick to wrap over Apples chopt into small Pieces. When this was done, the Pudding was tied up in a Cloth, and boiled three or four Hours. Then they eat it with Sugar in melted Butter put over the Apples. This was done to save the Charge of Plumbs &c.
Quotation for the Day.
Cooking is the ultimate giving!