Friday, June 07, 2013

The Servants' Dinner.

From yesterday’s source, The footman's directory and butler's rememberancer (1823) I give you the author’s advice to his fictional acolyte, William, on the subject of servants’ meals.

And now, my young friends, having taught you how to attend on the meals of your superiors, I will give you a little advice as to the proper mode of conducting yourselves at your own. In all families there is, or ought to be, a set time for the servants to have their meals, when all should endeavour to attend, as, without this, it will be impossible to go on comfortably; you must therefore arrange your work so as not to be loitering about when you should be at your meals, as the manner of some is, which often is the cause of sad contention and confusion; for, if one servant comes at one time and another at another, it interferes with the cook and her work, so that she will not be able to do her business regularly; besides, how unthankful and irreverent it is not to be round the table, when a blessing is .asked on the bounties which the good hand of the Lord has provided for the returning wants and necessities of our bodily health, which we ought to receive with thankfulness, and acknowledge by our attention to the set times appointed for it, our good behaviour while receiving it, and our readiness in returning to our proper occupations afterwards. Let us not be like some we read of, who ate and drank, and then rose up to play, but let us receive our provisions thankfully and eat moderately, and not meet at the dinner table, or any other, to quarrel and dispute with each other, which too often is the case, and to complain of the cooking, or the provisions not being good enough: this is what I have often seen in persons who had scarcely ever known the comfort and pleasure of eating a good meal before they entered gentlemen's service. How wicked is such conduct toward God, who has made their cup to run over in natural things; and how ungrateful to their employers, who provide bountifully to make them comfortable and happy! In some families they are very strict, and will not wait for any servant; if they do not attend at the time appointed, the provisions are removed from the table and put away, and this is what ought to be in every family. If any of the servants be kept from their meals by particular business of their employers, it is a different case, there should then be a sufficient portion cut comfortably off, and put by for them; for the whole ought not to be kept waiting for one, unless it is ordered to the contrary. It is the rule in some families that the man or boy should lay the cloth for the servants; it is always the boy's place to do it where there are both kept, therefore lay it in time for the cook to put the dinner on at the appointed hour. The man-servants likewise always have to draw the beer for dinner or supper; never draw too much at once, but rather go twice than run the risk of wasting it. If there be too much accidentally drawn at any time, put it into a bottle, and keep it for the next time you draw, and mix it with the fresh: shameful waste often brings woeful want to those who are so sinful as to be careless and extravagant in the provisions committed to their charge. Be clean and tidy at meal-times, and talk but little while eating; I have known some who have been so rude as to talk all manner of filthy conversation at such times, which is a disgrace to any human being, and ought not to be suffered in any place, above all in a gentleman’s house. Some likewise cannot sit a moment without lolling upon the table, or cutting and chipping a bit of bread, or something of that kind, or rubbing the table-cloth with their fingers, or else knocking the knives against each other: avoid all such foolish actions. If you have done eating first, sit upright and behave respectfully, and never get up till all have done, unless your business calls you. Do not abuse the plenty you may see before you by suffering it to tempt you to eat and drink till you can do it no longer, or till you feel uncomfortable: this is a hoggish practice, and frustrates the designs of Providence; for, when the stomach is overcharged, it does harm instead of good, as it cannot digest well, particularly if you have not much exercise, as you cannot then require so much support; and gluttony and excess not only unfit the body for exercise, but likewise clog die wheels of the mind, and make it seem a trouble to read, move, think, or do anything else. When you have done dinner put your chair back in its proper place, and never leave your things about for others to wait on you, as you must consider there is no servant kept to wait on another; therefore, always help to clear away the things and put them into their proper places. If at any time you should see your fellow-servants busy and not able to come at the hour appointed for meals, lend them a hand if you can, so that you may, if possible, be all together at those times; this will be acting like a Christian; for, how heathenish it is to see a family of servants come to meals, one at one time and another at another, without asking a blessing on what the Lord in His goodness has provided, or returning thanks for what has been received? this is done in too many families, but we are ordered by the Lord to receive everything with thanksgiving and prayer, and in so doing you will have such comfort and blessing in receiving, as the drunkard and gluttonous man can never know.

As the recipe for the day, I give you a little something from The house servant's directory
or, A monitor for private families (1827) by Robert Roberts, servant. This one of the first books by an African American to be published commercially.

To Make Best Wine Vinegar In One Hour.
Take some rye flour and dilute it with some of the best and strongest vinegar you can find, make 
a thin round cake, bake it in the oven, then pound it into fine powder, then wet it as before, and bake again; repeat this operation three or four times, then if you hang the last made cake while hot, by a cord, in a cask of wine, you will have most excellent vinegar in one hour. 

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