Those of you at the pointy end of the food industry may be interested in what your jobs would have entailed in the first half of the nineteenth century, should you have been working in the British prison system. Just to give an idea of your work-life balance, be aware that you might also have been an inmate of the institution too.
The job descriptions are courtesy of the Fourth Report of the Inspectors [of the] Prisons of Great Britain, 1839.
The duties of the kitchen are performed by five hired cooks; and are these:—To rise at half past five o'clock; to light furnace and kitchen fires; to mix up oatmeal and flour for breakfast; to lay out the bread for prisoners; to cut bread for the infirmary; to fetch gruel cans from Pentagons Nos. 1, 2, 3, and 4; to measure out gruel and milk and take to Pentagons Nos. 1, 2, 3.
After breakfast they have to lay out bread for prisoners; to clean boilers, copper-lids, and cocks; to clean up the kitchen; to fetch gruel-cans, dinner-trays, mess-tins, and soldiers' cups from Pentagons No. 1, 2, and 3; to wash gruel cans, tubs, pails, &c.; to scour and clean taskmasters' towers Nos. 1, 2, and 4; to get ready and cook officers' and prisoners' dinners.
They have likewise to mix oatmeal for soldiers' dinners; to attend to furnace and kitchen fires; to carry hot water to Pentagon No. 3 for toast and water for the female prisoners; to cut up and weigh the meat; to weigh potatoes; to measure out gruel, and to carry to Pentagons Nos. 1, 2, 3; to carry officers' dinners to the towers 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.
After dinner they have to clean the boilers, cutting boards, dish covers, and scales: to clean up the kitchen; to fetch the dishes from Pentagons Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5; to wash tubs, pails, dishes, &c.; to fetch and wash potatoes; to clean yards; to mix oatmeal for supper; to carry hot water to the females; to measure out gruel and carry it to Pentagons Nos. 1, 2, and 3; to cut up bread for the soup; and to clean bread room.
After supper they have to serve out hot water to Pentagons Nos. 1, 2, 4, and 5, and to clean boilers; they have to be on duty alternate nights at the outer and middle gates, till ten o'clock; they have likewise to cut the infirmary bread in the morning, and to lay out the prisoners' bread three times a day at No. 1 kitchen.
The duties in the bakehouse are performed by two officers and one prisoner, and are these:— To rise at five o'clock in the morning; to make two batches of dough, and when finished, to heat the ovens. At eight o'clock they have to take one batch out of the trough, and weigh it off in small loaves, mould them, and set them in the oven; and while baking, do the same to the other batch; which occupies them till half past one o'clock. At two o'clock they count out the loaves, and send them to the kitchens. Afterwards the flour is put by them into the trough, and sifted; the bakehouse is cleaned up; the potatoes are washed; and coals are brought up from the cellar. This occupies them till five o'clock. At ten o'clock at night they set two sponges, which occupies one hour. They have to provide yeast for brewing, once a week. They have likewise to clean the windows and water-cistern, and to saw billet-wood when required.
Bread was the prison staple, as it was for the mass of the population on the outside, but prison bread was often of the poorest quality, prison authorities then, as now, being firmly focussed on the bottom line. Cheap bread often meant bread made from a mix of ingredients – to save on wheat, which was expensive.
To Make Mixed Bread.
Take a peck of the meal of maize, and boil it into a paste, a peck of potatoes boiled, skinned, and mashed, and a like quantity of wheat flour. Let these be kneaded into a dough, with salt and yeast; and, after standing before the fire a sufficient time to prove, divided into loaves and baked. N.B. A good bread may be made by substituting barley or oatmeal for the wheat flour.
A treatise on the art of bread-making, by Abraham Edlin (1805)
These days, as it was then, the best duty a prisoner might aspire to would be kitchen helper. Everyone wants to be in good with the kitchen help.
(And with the guys in the weight room. It's good to be friends with the guys in the weight room too.)
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