Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 32.djvu/106

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
96
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.
A KITCHEN COLLEGE.

By H. BROOKE DAVIES.

KITCHEN College! Well, why not? We have a College of Music, of Surgeons, of Physicians, of Preceptors; why not a College of the Kitchen?

It seems a little absurd at first sight, and yet the only absurdity is, that no one ever thought of it before. For many years the servant-grievance has been before the public. The scarcity and inefficiency of domestic servants have been talked about till we are almost as weary of the subject as of our incapable cooks and house-maids, but nothing seems to have been done to remedy the evil; there has been no improvement except in wages, for, no matter how incompetent the servant may be, she demands and gets high wages, and gives very general dissatisfaction.

I do not mean to touch here on the facilities offered of late years by classes and schools of cookery — doubtless servants can learn much from a course of clever practical lectures — but I would venture to point out that in the majority of cases the persons attending the classes are not servants, but ladies — mistresses in many instances — who go with the praiseworthy intention of learning how to be practical cooks by seeing a practiced instructor roll out pastry, or bake fancy bread in a gas-stove, and then go home and attempt to teach their own cooks; the second-hand instruction frequently taking a negative form, such as, "Cook, that's not the way to make puff pastry, that's not the way to make a custard, or truss a chicken"; the mistress herself having only a very indistinct recollection of what is the way.

However much good the schools and cooking-classes may have done, they do not seem to have reached the real root of the domestic-servant difficulty; they have caused no perceptible improvement in servants as a class. Servants are still scarce and unsatisfactory, and there is still the same evident distaste for service among the young women of the working-classes from which we naturally expect to draw our supply. Business of any sort, no matter how unhealthy, precarious, fatiguing, and unremunerative, is preferred to domestic service. A girl will work twelve hours a day and half starve rather than become a house-maid or kitchen-maid, with good food, a comfortable home, and comparatively easy work.

Now, there must be a strong reason for this very wide-spread dislike for service. It is not the love of personal liberty and feeling of independence. No working-woman in the world has less liberty, independence, and comfort than the out-of-door business girl in London. She has to serve not one but many masters; her work gives her neither time for pleasure nor means of enjoyment; her life is one long round