Imágenes de páginas

upon the dining-room table, once it had been taken away. I speak, of course, of establishments where a number of servants are employed. These servants ate and still eat five or six meals a day, without any restraint upon their power of consumption. They began with a heavy breakfast, between seven and eight o'clock in the morning, consisting of tea and coffee, hot bread, eggs, bacon, oatmeal, jam, and fruit. At ten or half past they had and have a second or supplementary breakfast of bread, milk, coffee, or tea"Just a bite, you know, madam!"

Dinner at twelve sees the kitchen-table groaning under the burden of the chief or third meal of the day-soup, roast meat or fish, vegetables, tea, coffee, and milk, cake, pie, pudding, jam, preserves, fruit. Along about two-thirty the famished domestic is moved to avert starvation by a fourth resort to the larder, and a secondary luncheon of tea, coffee, milk, lemonade, cake, the remains of the pie and the fruit; and any unconsidered trifles from up-stairs that may have been salvaged by the butler or parlormaid.

Thus they are enabled to endure the pangs of hunger until five o'clock, when the regular supper is served, followed by another-or sixth-meal at nine or ten o'clock, just before the friends go home, consisting of everything that is left in the house which they have previously overlooked.

To meet these useless and extravagant demands, cooks are accustomed to order huge quantities of raw and canned foods, which, in addition to being a temptation to waste, constitute an equally strong one to dishonesty upon the part of those employees who, though they share in the general gastronomical privileges below stairs, live out and have others less fortunate dependent upon them at home.

How well I remember discovering in our area our cook's aunt-a massive lady from Galway-with a basket hardly concealed beneath her shawl, in which were a fourteen-pound roast, a milk-fed Philadelphia capon, several packages of tea, sugar, and coffee, various jars of preserves and cans of table delicacies, and a handful of my best cigars! But that was long ago.

The war has brought up mistress and servant alike with a jerk. My sober guess is that, in the section of New York City between Fifty-ninth and Ninetieth Streets and Fifth and Madison Avenues not fifty per cent of the mistresses of households knew what their servants had for dinner, or how many persons sat down to table in the servants' dining-hall-including followers, brothers, sisters, aunts, and cousins just over or temporarily out of a job; how many times a week meat was served in the kitchen; what proportion the bills for the maintenance of the help bore to the total cost of keeping up the establishment; or whether

the price of flour was five dollars or twenty dollars a barrel. Well, they know now-some of them!

Ladies who have always assumed that it would be indelicate to refer to a pot-roast or a rump-steak now daily visit their ice-boxes and direct the activities of their cooks. The régime of the Queen of the Kitchen is over, unless she is one of Mr. Hoover's anointed. It is a paradox of interest that in some households employing a large number of servants, where from five hundred to one thousand dollars a month is spent for food supplies alone, the monthly budget has grown steadily less, with the advance in prices, since our entry into the war.

The reason is not far to seek. Where heretofore there was no restraint upon the cooks, now, for the first time, some attention at least is being paid to the quantity of supplies ordered, their quality and cost, and the use to which the remnants of food left over from each meal are put. One lady tells me that the moral effect of her nodding to the cook in the morning is enough to save her about ten dollars a day. If it saves ten dollars in money, what must that nod save toward the flour and sugar we must send to starving France and Belgium?

This is highly encouraging as far as it goes; but, so far as I have observed, only a small minority of people of my acquaintance-unless their incomes have been reduced-have materially cut down their scale of

living. Those who, like myself, have been compelled to do so have bowed to necessity; but I know of but few of my friends who are reorganizing their households and enforcing genuine domestic economies in order to buy more Liberty Bonds or give the money thus saved to war relief.

They are, no doubt, buying Liberty Bonds and giving generously to war charities, but they have not reached the state of mind in which they feel called upon to endure discomfort, or even to inconvenience themselves in order to furnish additional money for the support of the government or for relief-work.

We saw the same phenomenon in times of peace. Rich women who believed that Christ measured the value of giving by the sacrifice involved, and taught that to save one's soul it might, in some instances at least, be well to sell everything one had and give the proceeds to the poor, were entirely satisfied to continue to roll round in their limousines, though they could have disposed of them at a reasonable price and saved the lives of hundreds of tubercular children with the money.

Most of the people I know are sincerely trying to follow out the directions of the Food Administration and to conserve those special necessaries that are so vital to our allies and to our own fighting force. Apart from that, I don't think they have really done very much. It is too often a hard and disagreeable job,

involving usually a state of belligerency, or at least armed neutrality, with the domestics.

There is another aspect of affairs upon which the lady of fashion might profitably consult her pet clairvoyant: If we are forced to send a couple of million men to France and Italy in order to pull the fangs of Hindenburg and Ludendorff, she will in time be apt to find herself not only without a chauffeur, butler, or second man, but cookless and maidless as well. With her agreeable bank balance she may be willing to continue to pay the upward-leaping wages of the leisure class who wait on us; but not so the majority of employers. The servants will seek other work.

Wages of domestics generally have gone up from fifteen to twenty per cent since the war began. Considering that they receive their board and lodging, which have gone up about fifty per cent in the same period, a female domestic servant is costing her mistress not far from thirty-five per cent more than a year or so ago. A twenty-five-dollar maid now asks thirty-five, and her board costs about ten dollars a month more than it did.

But it will not eventually, I feel sure, be so much a question of wages; the difficulty will be to get servants at all. The scarcity of labor will not stop when it reaches Fifth Avenue. I should not be at all surprised, if the war continues another two years, to find practically every mistress of a household with

« AnteriorContinuar »