Lest We Forget. Servants in the Kitchen


Last year I wrote a series of posts on servants in the kitchen. A reader asked me to put them together, so here goes.

1. Lest We Forget: Servants in Culinary History

Why we tend to forget servants and who servants were

2 Mistress and Servant Go to Cooking Class

How the mistress learned to supervise the cook and how the cook learned to cook

3. Servants who Steal

What did and didn’t count as stealing, a response to readers’ questions

4. Servants: The Missing Link in Culinary Change

How an Indian servant learned to cook Indian food from a cookbook for British housewives

5. Servants and Ethnic Cuisines

The shadowy role of servants in “ethnic” cookbooks designed for an American market

6. Servants and Julia Child

The shadowy role of servants in Mastering the Art of French Cooking

I had a number of very useful comments about these posts when they first appeared.  I will collect them and post them in a few days.

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4 thoughts on “Lest We Forget. Servants in the Kitchen

  1. dianabuja

    Thanks for this Rachel; it’s great to have them all pulled together.

    It got me to wondering: where is the ‘cross over’ between being a servant in the kitchen and being a chef?


    1. Rachel Laudan

      Well, yes, like Karen I think this is an excellent question. Of course servants have not gone away, in a certain sense, but been outsourced–the girls at the dry cleaners, the cleaning team who comes in, the women bending over sewing machines in different parts of the world, and the chef or more to the point the kitchen minions he or she has working, the youth working at the fast food chains.

      I do think there is a difference though. The problem for the servant was and still is where you are or where I am that they are totally beholden to the mistress. This works well when the relationship is a benign one. It isn’t always though. One girl who worked for me told me that she was locked in all day until the employers returned from work and then they inspected the house before they let her go.

      Of course sweatshop conditions can be bad too. It’s a vexed question.


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