Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Wisdom from Australia's first cook book. 

If you're a fan of period dramas like Downton Abbey, you won't have any trouble recognising the life of the manor house cook in the following description from a London newspaper circa 1870. Although Downton Abbey depicts life in 1914, the similarities are remarkable, even with nearly 50 years between them.

"(The Cook) must be neat and clean, orderly in habit, good tempered, obliging and respectful; She must keep the kitchen tidy and have everything in its place and a place for everything. She is moreover required to think, and to cook breakfasts, luncheons and dinners without a fault, to make pap, broth and gruel... she will be also required to do a great deal of nursing, must be up late, rise early and on no account take snuff, neither must she be seen with a pipe (if Irish) or indulge to excess in gin or beer, nor have any followers in the shape of the masculine gender."

Poor Cook. She had it tough. Wages were low and positions difficult to secure. The author of this newspaper article lamented the prospects of cooks.

And he had something better in mind...

"What is she to do...? Pack up her traps, without delay, and slope for the colonies. Here she will be better paid, better fed, better treated, have tea three times per diem, and find a husband very soon after she arrives!"

Don't you love it? And why wouldn't the harried cook take such gutsy measures? With Australian newspapers full of Cook Wanted adds, and Aussie lads on the look out for wives and/or cooks, many English lasses immigrated to the Colonies of Australia. Whether for love or money, the boom years after Australia's gold rush brought many souls looking for something better than what the 'old country' offered. Sometimes, they knew what their hearts desired... other times God took hold of them and wrote His own story there.

And that folks, for the historical romance writer, makes for a delicious backdrop!