Friday, August 17, 2007

The Complete Servant (Book #81)

The Complete Servant (Samuel & Sarah Adams, 1825, republished in 1988 with an introduction by Pamela Horn) is one of the earliest domestic advice books. I got it to research a footman's duties for my WIP, in which two of my characters go undercover as footmen. It came to me courtesy of interlibrary loan from Linfield College, which I'd never heard of before but now know is a small liberal arts college in NW Oregon.

The book details the work of all the servants in a well-to-do early 19th century English household, from the butler down to the scullery maid. Reading it makes me want to go home and hug my vacuum cleaner, microwave, dishwasher, etc. Any one recipe in the cook and housekeeper's sections makes me feel tired. I'd never bake a cake if I had to go to that much effort. Not sure I'd like the cakes, anyway. Chocolate was only a drink then, and vanilla doesn't show up in the recipes, either. Lots of almonds and lemon zest, which is fine, and currants everywhere, which isn't. (I've never been a big fan of dried fruit in my desserts.) Currants in pound cake, even! Blech! One of the few recipes that sounded wholly appetizing to my modern palate was one for "East India Curry," which, allowing for changes in technology, sounds a lot like a modern curry recipe, not even especially blanded down for the English palate. But the rest? You can keep your boiled beef and currant-festooned cakes, English people 200 years ago.

Really, it's a fascinating window on a bygone world...that I wouldn't want to eat in.

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