Saturday, February 02, 2008

Move Over Martha.

It seems that for quite some time I have been under the misguided notion that Martha Stewart is the diva of domesticity. While I admit that I am inspired by some of her ideas, especially around Halloween, rest in peas indeed, I now pray in the pantry of an altogether different grand dame who is THE authority on all matters concerning the household – Mrs. Isabella Beeton.

I noticed a copy of her book (624 pages in the abridged version) atop KitKat’s icebox on one of our Survivor nights. Both he and Fauntleroy were thoroughly shocked that I of all people had never heard of her before. I apologize to Isabella for being so foolish for so long but I promise to make haste in learning your valuable lessons.

The plan was to read the book and share one or two pearls of wisdom with the readers of light and flaky. But I can’t wait until the end! Literally EVERY single page has a lesson or message of the utmost importance.

For example, I no longer go to the washroom in the morning to brush my teeth, shower, shave etc, I simply do my ablutions. Nice and succinct don’t you agree?

The entire book can be summarized thus: “As with the commander of an army, or the leader of any enterprise, so it is with the mistress of the house.” And what commanders we would all be if we read Mrs. Beeton Book of Household Management. I remember KitKat describing my actions as I prepared for one particular Christmas dinner as those of a "submarine captain". The kitchen was so tiny and 12 people have a 6 course meal come out of it. Not quite a commander, but getting there. I will now share some of my favourite selections from Chapter 1 – The Mistress.

“I have always thought that there is no more fruitful sense of family discontent than a housewife’s badly-cooked dinners and untidy ways.” Indeed Mrs. Beeton, indeed.

And did you know that “early rising is one of the most essential qualities which enter into good household management, as it is not only the parent of good health, but of other innumerable advantages. Indeed, when a mistress is an early riser, it is almost certain that her house will be orderly and well managed. On the contrary, if she remain in bed till a late hour, then the domestics, who, as we have before observed, invariably partake somewhat of their mistress’s character, will surely become sluggards.” Damn those sluggardly domestics. Thank goodness I am an early riser, keeps them in line I tell you what.

I am extra pleased with this next passage as I am going bonnet and shawl shopping next week. The three things I need to keep in mind are 1. That it be not too expensive for my purse. 2. That its colour harmonize with my complexion and it’s size and pattern with my figure. 3. That its tint allow of its being with other garments I possess. Along these same lines I must remember to adapt my dress and change it with my circumstances. At breakfast, things must be kept neat and simple wearing no ornaments. And regardless of where I am during the day, jewellery and ornaments are not to be worn until I assume the full dress for dinner.

As I said, the guide is fantastic and I could go on. But I don’t want to share everything at once lest you get as excited as I did. I also have to go and pack for my trip to England. Did you know that for £40 to £80 a year I can have a house steward? And £25 - £50 will get me a butler. And cooks top out at £40! It will be expensive to fly them all back here, but I think it well worth the investment.

I look forward to sharing more of Mrs. Beeton’s advice with you all very soon.

Yours truly,
Robert W. Mitchell


Blogger Blair said...

Hee hee. You were born in the wrong century my dear. I can just picture you giving those slovenly servants a jolly good thrashing!

2:38 PM  

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