November 19, 2012

Mid-1800s Servitude and Cooking This Week

This etching was taken from a story that illustrated the difficulty of keeping a good cook. It also inadvertently illustrated the Irish stereotypes of the time.

The first cook, Margaret, was perfect, except that she drank in excess and stumbled back to the house on her days off. The second cook, Biddy, had a violent temper. The third, I feel would probably be me.

She put the puddings in and prepared a turkey for 2PM supper at 11 o'clock and sat down and read a few pages of a book. When the mistress came in, the cat was eating the turkey and the puddings were charred. She thought she had only sat down for a minute but it ended up being 2 hours that passed by.

An interesting thing to note is that all food prepared by the cook was still considered the mistress' food. It was her pudding that was burning and her turkey on the floor, which is technically true: she paid for it. When a new cook was hired at a house, her mistress would teach her how to cook things her way and everything cooked at the house would be expected to cooked in the new way. Over time, a cook may add a little bit of her own flair, but she wouldn't want to outdo her employer.

Regardless, women were judged on how good of a housekeeper they were. Back then that meant, how well they kept their own house or how well they oversaw their servants. Most women of any means could typically afford at least one servant if not a few for housework and one for cooking. The constant supply of new immigrants, guaranteed that servants could be employed cheaply.

For a young immigrant girl, a job as a servant was a good prospect. She would have a place to stay and food and would not add cost to the living expenses of her family. Most servants got one or two days off a month when they could visit their families and friends. They also got certain hours off when they weren't needed. A girl would only work in this fashion until she got married. 

This week we will all be preparing that huge Thanksgiving meal, sans servants. I'm actually very excited. Thanksgiving is a pretty boring holiday for vegetarians. (I don't do the tofurkey thing.) But, I am really excited to get to cook. I haven't cooked in ages and the perfect Thanksgiving weekend would be a day of cooking and reading. I have a long list of books I want to read and haven't had a second to read anything not related to school. And while I don't plan on letting the turkey burn while I cozy up with Clarissa Dillon's Ph.D thesis on Colonial Era gardens of Chester County, I'm not making any promises.     

November 12, 2012

Just Checking In

I feel like we missed most of the Fall and Winter came on too suddenly. I already find myself securely fastened in heavy blankets, reluctantly exposing my hands to do work.The fog today and last night was pretty crazy. It was hard to see even a few feet in front of yourself.

My time student teaching will soon come to an end; which is both sad and exciting. I really like the school that I am at and the community there, so it will be sad to leave. However, I will really enjoy the break from the constant stress that I get, not from teaching, but all the extra work that school has been putting on us. Make no mistake: teaching is hard. I wish I could devote more time to preparation for my classes and less time typing up useless paperwork for college. There really is a limit to how many hours a day your brain can work before you go completely nuts.

This is a scary time too. Who knows what is next? A new job? Graduate school?  No idea. I'll keep everyone posted.

November 5, 2012

Remember, Remember the 5th of November

Explosives placed under a government building by  a group of religious extremists? Sounds like something we'd see on the news. 

On the night of October 25th,1605 an anonymous letter was sent to Baron William Parker during dinner alerting him of a plot to blow up the House of Lords in an attempt to assassinate King James I and his daughter Princess Elizabeth.

Nine year old, Princess Elizabeth was scheduled to become the Catholic head of state on November 5th which angered a group of English Catholic extremists who feared that there was little chance of increased religious toleration under the reign of King James I.
However, this wasn't the first attempt of English Catholics at harming King James I, in 1603, there was a plot called the "Bye Plot" in which Catholic priests and Puritans had planned to kidnap the king. The whole thing was fouled before it even began but nevertheless made the king take threats seriously which worked against the November 5th plotters.   

Guy Fawkes is now the poster child for the plot, although he was only one of many conspirators in "The Gunpowder Plot." He earned his notoriety because on the night of November 4th, 1605, he was found in the House of Lords guarding 36 barrels of gunpowder which was enough to level the building. He was wearing his now iconic, hat, cape and boots with spurs. Fawkes was arrested immediately, while the other conspirators fled.      

Punishments included  dragging behind a horse and having genitals removed and burned in front of their still living owner, the removal of bowels, dismemberment by quartering and leaving the pieces at the mercy of animals. The conspirators ended up suffering a variety of cruel deaths, many of which started at the gallows. Fawkes managed to break his neck at the gallows, which alluded many of the other conspirators, but was still quartered.

The plot inspired a poem:

"Remember, remember the Fifth of November,
the Gunpowder Treason and Plot,

I see no reason why Gunpowder Treason should ever be forgot.
Guy Fawkes, t’was his intent to blow up King and Parliament.

Three score barrels were laid below to prove old England’s overthrow;
By God’s mercy he was catch’d with a dark lantern and lighted match.

Holloa boys, holloa boys, let the bells ring.
Holloa boys, holloa boys, God save the King!"

King James I also immortalized the event by commissioning a sermon to be given on November 5th, 1606 to make sure everyone remembered the punishments. It became tradition to commemorate the day every year. 

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