Sunday, March 10, 2013

Setting The Breakfast Table, 1851

“First spread the table cover upon the table, and then the linen breakfast cloth.  Large cups and saucers are used generally for breakfast and of these you must take care to place the number that will be wanted, as conveniently as possible for the lady who makes the tea, or pours out the coffee.  Take care there is a spoon for each cup and saucer; and lay a small plate, with a small knife and fork, for each person.  The milk-jug and slop-basin must be placed on the table; and if an urn is used, you should place the urn-rug on the table, close behind the tea-pot, that it may be ready to put the urn on, when you bring it up.   Salt-cellars are usually required on a breakfast-table; and where ham, or any cold meat is taken, you must put the mustard also, taking care to see that the mustard-pot is nice and clean.  When meat is taken, do not forget to lay a large knife and steel fork to each dish, to carve it with; and if fish is taken, as well as meat, lay an additional silver fork to each person.

A loaf and butter are usually put upon the table; the loaf should be in a bread plate, not a bread basket having a table knife to cut it with; and if there is a silver knife for the butter, you must not forget to place it ready with the butter cooler, or on the butter pate, if a butter cooler is not used.  Dry toast may be made before it is wanted, and should be set up in the toast-rack the moment it is done, as it gets tough if laid on a plate to cool.  The toast-rack, with the toast in it, must likewise be set on the table; as well as cresses, or any other salads it may be the custom of the family to take; but hot toast, bacon, or eggs, must be got read by the cook punctually by the time they are required, and must be taken up stairs by yourself, at the minute they are wanted.

If a bright copper tea-kettle is used in the parlour, instead of a tea-urn, you must take care that it looks clean and bright; and that the water boils in it when the lady comes down.  It is usually cleaned by the cook; but if you have to do it, it must be polished with wash-leather and a little rotten-stone; or , if it be tarnished, with rotten-stone moistened with a little sweet oil, and afterwards polished with leather and dry rotten-stone; or dry whiting; but if it gets stained with smoke, or soot, the best thing to clean it off with is, a little very strong soda and water; and afterwards polish it with a leather and dry rotten-stone, or dry whiting.  Many of these tea-kettles have a heater used with them, which is made hot in the kitchen fire by the cookmaid, the same as the tea-urn heater is.

Place the chairs in order around the table; and in cold weather, make up a good fire, but never leave a poker in it, as it is almost sure to fall out, and burn the hearth-rug. Having got all ready for the family breakfast, you should, while they are taking it, sit down with the cook and take your own.”

From the The Housemaid's Complete Guide and Adviser, free download at Google Books. A fun but rather exhausting read.


Packrat said...

Good heavens! LOL

Packrat said...

Upon more thought, most of this is common sense. I mean, given the option, would one leave guests standing, or the room cold, or not put out knives for meat? I do know many people who need to remember to put a pad under hot things, tho. this was interesting. thanks! (shift key doesn't always work, sorry.)

Shay said...

Well, it would be useful to a scatter-brained housewife as well as a new maid...but I must say after reading several pages of the book, it was pretty clear why good help was hard to find.

Girls back then probably saw factories as better options than the kind of drudgery that went along with being a housemaid.

Bunnykins said...

Very sensible to have a written guide as that kind of breakfast, both the breakfast and the service, would be as foreign to the poor girls entering service as it is to us now. Glad it wasn't me running up and down stairs and worrying about the proper spoon in the proper place.