Victorian London - Professions and Trades - Service Industry - Servants - Cooks



    For ages it has been believed that a certain wicked person sends cooks; but JOHNSON has well observed, and so by the bye have SMITH and BROWN, that "if we had no cooks, we should be as bad as cannibals."
    Cooks have always been the subject of sarcasm, and JONES tells us, that even in his day the wits loved to give the cooks a good roasting. It is said, moreover, that "too many cooks will spoil the broth," from which we may presume, that as the workhouse broth is the very worst in the world, a great many cooks must have a hand in it. APICIUS was the first man who made cookery a science, and he poisoned himself; no doubt with his own cookery. He invented several sauces, and was, in fact, the Roman HARVEY. He is believed to have been the first who added the trimmings to legs of mutton, and he took for his motto the line in VIRGIL 
        "At Regina gravi jamdudum saucia curd.
because the luxury of gravy, jam, sauce, and curry are all shadowed forth in the quotation alluded to.
    DR. JOHNSON was, according to BOSWELL, "a man of very nice discrimination in the science of cookery," and he was proverbial for his sauce, which he dealt out to every one with the greatest freedom. BOSWELL once asked him if he liked pickles, when he said, "No Sir, the man who would eat a pickle, would pick a pocket."
    BOSWELL adds, "I ventured to say he would;" and they wound up the evening with grog, which BOSWELL, as usual, had to pay for; and it is thought that the expression of "Standing Sam" originated with BOSWELL having to stand whatever SAM (JOHNSON) chose to call for.
    The celebrated Dx. PARR was also a great epicure, and liked his victuals underdone, from which we have the expression Parr-boiling. MILTON loved his meat well-dressed, and died with a good thing in his mouth; but whether it was a morsel of philosophy, or something nice, has never transpired.
    Having said thus much of the ancient and classical who took an interest in cookery, we plunge down stairs into the modern kitchen, and embrace the cook of the present period.
    On going to be hired, you will, perhaps, be told there are no perquisites allowed. Don't stick out about that, for if perquisites are not allowed, you must take them.
    It is easy to say the meat makes no dripping, and, of course, you can't account for it.
    It is a rule in cookery to make the best and the most of everything, and yea will therefore sell your kitchen-stuff at the marine-store shop that will give the best price for it.
    In some families the mistress of the house will assist the cook; but she should have a sickener of that as soon as possible. If she makes a pie, spoil it in the baking; for if there is any truth in the adage about "too many cooks," the lady of the house should not be encouraged in making one of the number.
    Order is a great essential to a cook, who should keep everything in its place, taking care to keep herself as snugly in her place as possible. Never connive at dishonesty in others, but keep yourself to yourself; for, if you rob your mistress, the least return you can make is not to sanction others in doing so.
    Never go into any place where a cat is not kept. This useful domestic animal is the true servants' friend, accounting for the disappearance of tit-bits, lumps of butter, and other odd matters, as well as being the author of all mysterious breakages. What the safety-valve is to the steam-engine, the cat is to the kitchen, preventing all explosions or blowings-up that might otherwise occur in the best regulated families.
    Having laid down some general principles for the guidance of cooks, we give a few maxims that cannot be too strictly attended to.
    1. Keep yourself clean and tidy if you can. If your fingers are greasy wipe them on your hair, which thus acquires a polish.
    2. When a joint comes down from dinner, cut off what you intend for your supper. If cut while the joint is warm, it does not show that it has been cut. Relieve it also from all superfluous fat, which will of course go into your grease-pot.
    3, If you want a jelly-bag, cut up an ironing-blanket for the purpose. The former is, of course, wanted in a hurry, but the latter may be procured at leisure.
    4. When your dishes come down stairs, throw them all into scalding water at once. Those that are not broken by the operation may afterwards be taken out, and put in their proper places.
    5. Scour your pickle-jars, but empty them first, if you are fond of pickle.
    6. If you have been peeling onions, cut bread-and-butter with the same knife; it will show the multifariousness of your occupations, and perhaps give a hint for raising your wages.
    7. Let your spit and your skewers be always rusty; or, at least, do not take the trouble to polish them; for by leaving great black hole the meat, they show it has been roasted, which is always better than being baked, and it will be the more relished in consequence.
    8. Never do anything by halves, except lamb, which you must some times do by quarters.
    9. If you are cooking even a sheep's head or a bullock's heart, take pains with them, so that what. you do may be equally creditable to your head and heart.
    10. If you have a follower, or a policeman, who likes a snack, cut it off each joint before you cook it -  for everything loses in the cooking - and the disappearance of one pound, at least, in eight or nine, may thus be easily accounted for.
    The above maxims will be sufficient to guide the cook in her course of service, and we do not add any receipts, for it has been well said by Dr. KITCHENER, or might have been said by him as well as by any one else - that he who gives a receipt for making a stew, may himself make a sad hash of it.
    In bidding farewell to the cook, we would have her remember that her control over the safe will give her a peculiar influence over the heart of the police, and she must be careful not to enervate a whole division, and leave a district defenceless, by being too lavish with the blandishments of love and the larder.

Punch, Jul.-Dec. 1845

see also Cassell's Household Guide - click here