I thought we would do something different this week. We are going to spend the whole five days in a single year – 1823 – thanks to a wonderful book with the full title of The footman's directory, and butler's remembrancer, or The advice of Onesimus to his young friends: comprising, hints on the arrangement and performance of their work, rules for setting out tables and sideboards, the art of waiting at table, and conducting large and small parties, directions for cleaning plate, glass, furniture, clothes, and all other things which come within the care of a man-servant, and advice respecting behaviour to superiors, tradespeople and fellow-servents : with an appendix, comprising various useful receipts and tables, which was published in London in that year. The recipes will of course also come from books published in 1823.
To give a little context to the week’s stories, in 1823 George IV was three years into his ten year reign as King of Great Britain, Ireland, and Hanover, and James Monroe was the fifth President of the United States of America.
I have a new respect for the role of footman after looking through this book, and I am sure you will too. Let us start with breakfast, shall we?
How to set the Breakfast table.
I SHALL now, my young friends, give you a few directions how to set out your breakfast-table, and likewise the lunch, dinner, and tea. But I shall first speak of the breakfast. I shall suppose that you have all things clean and ready for use, and that the party at breakfast consists of four persons; put the green cloth on the table, then the linen one on that; if it should be too large, let one end of the cloth be turned smoothly under on the green cloth; this is better than turning up the four corners and setting things on them, such as the salts or plate; as the cloth may be suddenly pulled, and then the things will be thrown down. Have four tea-cups and saucers, and if there be coffee, four coffee-cups and saucers; also let there be a cream-jug, a tea-pot, slop-basin, sugar-tongs, and a tea-spoon for each cup and saucer both tor coffee and tea, also spoons for the egg-cups, when used, with a butter-knife; and if meat is eaten, proper knives and forks to cut it with. You must set a plate and a knife and fork where each person is to sit, then put the cups and
saucers as conveniently as you can for the person who makes tea; let the cream-jug, slop-basin, and tea-pot, be put just behind them, the cream-jug to be to the right hand, the slop-basin to the left, the tea-pot between the two; let the bread, butter, and meat, or any thing else, be arranged as conveniently as you can. Always have salt on the breakfast-table; and if the family like mustard, &c. to their meat, the cruet-stand likewise. Sometimes the meat and other solid things are put on the side-table or tray close to the breakfast-table; if so, let a cloth be put on, and the things placed in it with knives and forks proper for carving, with the cruet-stand, &c. Have the tea-caddy near the person who makes the tea. Let the chairs be put round the table, and in cold weather have the fire made up and every thing in its proper place; and when once you are shown the way the family like, keep to it in future.
Always have the water boiling and the iron quite hot for the urn; put the water into the urn before you put the iron in, and let it be nearly full, or the heat of the iron will spoil it. Be careful that you do not put any water into the place where the iron goes, as the steam may fly into your eyes when you put the iron in, and blind you. When you take up the urn, do not forget the urn-rug, if there be one used; let the urn be put just behind the tea-pot on the table, so near that the person who makes tea can turn it into the pot without getting up to do it. If you have buttered toast to make, let the bread be toasted as quick as possible, in order that it may be light; but if you have to make dry toast, and that very thin and crisp, toast it some time before it is wanted, and put it into the toast-rack before the fire; but if the toast is preferred thick and not very dry, do it quickly and not till it is wanted. When you take any thing up, always put it on a waiter, never take it in your hand. When you take away, first take the urn, then have a tray to put your other things in; be careful not to break them, by putting too many on it at a time. When you have removed all the tea- things, &c. take the linen cloth off the table, but do not roll it up like a pocket-handkerchief and then put it under your arm, as this will be sure to rumple it: let your arms be expanded as wide as you can, take hold of the ends of the cloth and turn it over smoothly; you may then put it under your arm without fear of rumpling it. If the green cloth is removed also, take this off in the same way; let them both be folded up directly that you get down stairs, and in the same creases they had before. Let the linen cloth be put into the press, and the green cloth into a drawer, to keep them from the dust. Next put away the bread, butter, meat, and any other eatables which may be left, in their proper place ; then wash up the breakfast- things in boiling water, or nearly so, and in the tub or bowl which you have for that purpose. Let the tea-spoons be washed the first, the tea-cups and saucers the next, then the plates, and afterwards the silver forks; do not put glass cream-jugs into boiling water, or boiling water into them, as it will break them; it should be hot, but not boiling. When you empty the tea-pot, wash out all the tea-leaves, and wipe the tea-pot quite dry if silver, as I have before directed, and when done, let all the things be put in their proper places.
As in most small families the table linen is put on the table more than once before sent to the wash, if you have different cloths for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and perhaps one for supper, or tray-cloths, let the breakfast-cloth be put into the press over-night, ready for morning ; when this is taken out let the lunch one be put in ; and the dinner one next, and so on , and thus, you will always have your cloths neat and in readiness. Sprinkle a little clean water over the cloth with your hand, but do not make it too damp, or sprinkle it in too large drops at a time, as it will take off the gloss, and may likewise draw the stains out of the wood and stain the cloth. If at any time you should forget to put the cloth into the press in proper time, or have but little time to let it stay there, damp it with warm water, putting it into the press, and pressing it tight down, which will make it smooth in a very short time.
I had never, until reading this piece, heard of an “urn-rug” before. I do however own a hand-knitted tea cosy.
Our first recipe for the day is a nice breakfast dish:
Fine Yorkshire Cakes.
Mix two pounds of flour with a quarter of a pound of butter melted in a pint of milk, a couple of beaten eggs, and three spoonfuls of good yeast Mingle the whole well together; set it to rise; then knead it, and make it into cakes of about six inches diameter. They are to be baked in a slow oven, but let them first stand on tins to rise. They are lighter when made without butter, but eat shorter with it. They are either buttered hot out of the oven, or cut in two when cold, toasted brown, and buttered for breakfast or afternoon tea.
A modern system of domestic cookery … by M. Radcliffe (Manchester, 1823)
And here we have the inimitable Dr William Kitchiner, on the correct way to poach eggs.
To Poach Eggs. (No. 546.)
The Cook who wishes to display her skill in poaching, must endeavour to procure Eggs that have been laid a couple of days, those that are quite new laid are so milky, that take all the care you can, your cooking of them will seldom procure you the praise of being a Prime Poacher; - you must have fresh Eggs, or it is equally impossible.
The Beauty of a Poached Egg, is for the Yolk to be seen blushing through the White,—which should only be just sufficiently hardened, to form a transparent veil for the Egg.
Have some boiling water in a Tea Kettle,—pass as much of it through a clear cloth as will half fill a Stewpan, break tbe Egg into a cup, and when the water boils, remove the stewpan from the stove, and gently slip the Egg into it; it must stand till the white is set; then put it over a very moderate fire, and as soon as the water boils, the Egg is ready ; take it up with a slice, and neatly round off the ragged edges of the while,— send them up on a toast with or without Butter; or without a Toast, garnished with streaked bacon (Nos. 526 ot 557,) nicely fried, or as done in (No. 545,) or slices of Broiled Beef or Mutton (No. 487,) Anchovies (Nos. 434, and 435,) Pork Sausages (No. 87,) or Spinage (No. 122.)
Obs. —The bread should be a little larger than the Egg, and about a quarter of an inch thick: only just give it a yellow colour:—if you toast it brown, it will get a bitter flavour:—or moisten it by pouring a little hot water on it; Some sprinkle it with a few drops of Vinegar.
The Cook's Oracle: …. by William Kitchiner (Second American edition, 1823)
I like the Footman's concern, here and in the later entries, for safety: of things, of course, but more importantly of people. The warning not to leave impedimenta on the stairs, as people have been known to trip and fall to their deaths, is particularly appealing. (Is that really the term I want?)
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