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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review April 1, 2008 / 25 Adar II 5768

Quality for dinner. Pass the Fairy Liquid, Old Boy

By Paul Johnson


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | I have no objection to washing up. I prefer it to most other chores. When I was very small my mother allowed me to ‘help’ with the washing up. This meant doing the drying. I got praise for the thorough and conscientious way I did it, polishing the delicate pieces of old china till they reflected the light. My mother had a gift for making all dull jobs seem important and requiring craftsmanship. She said: ‘You’re a first-class dryer now.’ I preferred it to washing up in those days. Now it’s the reverse. I like putting on a big striped apron and taking over the sink. Normally the dishwasher takes all we use, but if there are a lot of guests I come into my own, dealing with the big saucepans and messy dishes, scouring with wire wool pads and brushes, handling expertly the silver forks and spoons, and making sure the wineglasses are properly and safely washed — afterwards drying them until they shine.

As I work, I sing old French advertising ditties I remember from the early 1950s, such as ‘Omo est là: la saleté s’en va!’ And I think of George Orwell. His Down and Out in Paris and London, a description of his extreme poverty in 1931–32, at the beginning of the Big Slump, and the terrible jobs he had to take just to stay alive, is his best book in my view, and certainly my favourite one of his. He had the inquisitive policeman’s nose for detail, and a deadpan way of setting it down. Among his other gruesome occupations was that of plongeur in the big Paris hotels, and later in a restaurant. The plongeur was the lowest male form of life in the catering trade. It is true that there was an even more abysmal level in the sculleries and outhouses performed by women. Only men were regarded as physically strong enough to be plongeurs, otherwise it would have been left to females. As it was, these men had to work at least a 12-hour day, sometimes as long as 17 hours, and during the climax of the breakfast, lunch and dinner services, the work was so intense, rapid and onerous that, when the pace slackened, they just lay down on the kitchen floor exhausted. Orwell says there was a staff of 100 to look after 200 guests at the hotel. He gives a blow-by-blow account of the heat, dirt, squalor, swearing, quarrelling and bullying which went on all the time among the staff.

Orwell’s underlying thesis is that so-called luxury living in hotels and restaurants is a fraud and a pretence, everything done for appearance, no real quality. I daresay things have changed radically in the three quarters of a century since he wrote, especially in treatment of the staff, but the underlying verities remain. The way the food is handled by cooks and waiters before it emerges from the kitchen and reaches the table is described by Orwell with grim puritan horror, and he says that the more expensive the establishment and elaborate the food, the more likely it is to reflect the sweat-drenched dirt in which the staff work behind the scenes. On his last page he swears he will never patronise a luxury restaurant. I rather share his view. If possible, I like to see my food cooked, and put on the plate, and as a rule would always prefer my meals in a private house (preferably my own) than in a restaurant, especially one run by a celebrity chef — for while the cook is imperious and arrogant, and highly paid, the waiters will bear grudges and will take it out on the customers by doing nasty things to the food before it reaches them.

When I say that, for the squeamish and the imaginative, it is safer to eat in a private house than in a restaurant, I am talking about the present. In Victorian times, a big country house, or even a large London establishment, was run on lines which meant the lower servants were or felt themselves to be persecuted, overworked and underpaid. A Mayfair or Belgravia house would have a kitchen staff of a cook and assistant cook, two kitchenmaids at least, two scullery maids and a male known by the old title of a scullion. He was the equivalent of Orwell’s plongeur, doing all the heaviest work at the sink, the scullery maids helping to stack dishes and dry. These lowly people never set foot in the kitchen proper, except when specifically told to do so. The business of waiters was done by the four footmen, under the direction of the butler, who acted as maître d’hôtel. All these people were needed to serve a nine-course meal for 18 people, standard for an upper- or upper-middle-class dinner party. The frenzied work at the climax of a big dinner left all tired if not exhausted, and resentful servants could take their revenge in disgusting ways I will not elaborate. On the other hand, as Orwell writes, some servants identified with the privileged recipients of the food. This was still true up to the second world war. A memoir which recalls Cliveden in the 1930s recounts how a maidservant was made to carry into the guests a soufflé dish so hot that she burned her hands, and she complained to the butler. He said: ‘Yes, my dear, and I am sorry but you must bear it. The scars on your hands will soon heal but a soufflé, once ruined, is ruined for ever.’

It is poignant to think that, until quite recently, men never did washing up, and even women had to be pretty far down the social scale to be forced to the sink, even in emergencies. We know from Jane Austen’s letters that from time to time she did various forms of household work even in the kitchen, but there is never a mention of washing up. In Mansfield Park, when Fanny Price, in temporary disgrace for refusing to marry Henry Crawford, is sent back to her poverty-stricken natural family in Portsmouth, she finds that even they can afford to employ a slatternly maid of all work. She would do the washing up. If Jane Austen herself had ever been called on to wash up, we should certainly have known about it. Jane Welsh Carlyle describes in detail her troubles with servants, and what maids would and would not do, but there is never any suggestion of her being forced to wash up Mr Carlyle’s dinners. A man would go through life without ever knowing where or how washing up was done. I suspect there is no cartoon in Punch showing a man washing up until at least the second world war.

Can you imagine Lytton Strachey helping with the washing up at Garsington? Or Aldous Huxley? I suspect the first writer who knew all about it was D.H. Lawrence, under the direction of his hausfrau Frieda. Who was the first prime minister to do it? Harold Wilson. Ramsay MacDonald would never have stooped so low. Princess Diana said: ‘I don’t mind washing up. Prefer it to making beds.’ ‘What about Prince Charles?’ ‘Never, never, never.’ Is there any reader who has never done the washing up? If so, time to take the plunge

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Previously:

03/25/08: In search of an American President with brains and guts
03/18/08: Technological warfare against mice won't work. Try cats
03/11/08: What is a genius? We use the word frequently but surely, to guard its meaning, we should bestow it seldom
03/03/08: Fiction as a crutch to get one through life
02/26/08: Impatience + Greed = Trouble
02/13/08: Shakespeare, Neo-Platonism and Princess Diana
02/07/08: Where Industry Has Failed Us
12/19/07: People who put their trust in human power delude themselves
12/12/07: What is aggression?
12/04/07: Pursuing success is not enough
11/07/07: Are famous writers accident-prone?
10/31/07: Courage needed to disarm Iran
09/20/07: Who Will Say ‘I Promise to Lay Off’?
07/24/07: Greed is safer than power-seeking
04/02/07: Benefactors must be hardheaded
03/07/07: American idealism and realpolitik
11/28/06: Space: Our ticket to survival
10/24/06: Envy is bad economics
10/11/06: Better to Borrow or Lend? Rethinking conventional wisdom
08/22/06: Don't practice legal terrorism
08/08/06: A summer rhapsody for a pedal-bike
08/03/06: Why is there no workable philosophy of music?
07/11/06: Historically speaking, energy crisis is America's opportunity
07/06/06: The misleading dimensions of persons and lives
06/06/06: First editions are not gold
05/23/06: A downright ugly man need never despair of attracting women, even pretty ones
04/25/06: Was Washington right about political parties?
04/12/06: Let's Have More Babies!
04/05/06: For the love of trains
03/29/06: Lincoln and the Compensation Culture
03/22/06: Bottle-beauties and the globalised blond beast
03/15/06: Europe's utopian hangover
03/08/06: Kindly write on only one side of the paper
02/28/06: Creators versus critics
02/21/06: The Rhino Principle

© 2006, Paul Johnson

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