Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

PAGE 2

The Morals And Manners Of The Kitchen
by [?]

And the same article charges her with “proving herself, in obedience, fidelity, care, and accuracy, the inferior of every kind of servant known to modern society.” Of course, there is hardly a family in the country which has not had, in its own experience, illustrations of the extravagance of these charges. There is probably nobody who has long kept servants, who has not had Irish servants who were obedient, faithful, careful, and even accurate in a remarkable degree. But then it must be admitted that this indictment is a tolerably fair rendering, if not of the actual facts of the case, at least of the impression the facts have left on the mind of the average employer. This impression, however, needs correction, as a few not very recondite considerations will show.

As a cook, Bridget is an admitted failure. But cooking is, it is now generally acknowledged, very much an affair of instinct, and this instinct seems to be very strong in some races and very weak in others, though why the French should have it highly developed, and the Irish be almost altogether deprived of it, is a question which would require an essay to itself. No amount of teaching will make a person a good cook who is not himself fond of good food and has not a delicate palate, for it is the palate which must test the value of rules. We may deduce from this the conclusion, which experience justifies, that women are not naturally good cooks. They have had the cookery of the world in their hands for several thousand years, but all the marked advances in the art, and indeed all that can be called the cultivation of it, have been the work of men. Whatever zeal women have displayed in it, and whatever excellence they have achieved in it, have been the result of influences in no way gastronomic, and which we might perhaps call emotional, such as devotion to male relatives, or a desire to minister to the pleasure of men in general. Few or no women cook a dinner in an artistic spirit, and their success in doing it is nearly always the result of affection or loyalty–which is of course tantamount to saying that female cookery as a whole is, and always has been, comparatively poor.

As a proof of this, we may mention the fact–for fact we think it is–that the art of cooking among women has declined at any given time or place–in the Northern States of the Union, for instance– pari passu, with the growth of female independence. That is, as the habit or love of ministering to men’s tastes has become weaker, the interest in cookery has fallen off. There are no such cooks among native American women now as there were fifty years ago; and passages in foreign cookery books which assume the existence among women of strong interest in their husbands’ and brothers’ likings, and strong desire to gratify them, furnish food for merriment in American households. Bridget, therefore, can plead, first of all, the general incapacity of women as cooks; and, secondly, the general falling off in the art under the influence of the new ideas. It may be that she ought to cultivate assiduously or with enthusiasm a calling which all the other women of the country ostentatiously despise, but she would be more than human if she did so. She imitates American women as closely as she can, and cannot live on the same soil without imbibing their ideas; and unhappily, as in all cases of imitation, vices are more easily and earlier caught than virtues.

She can make, too, an economical defence of the most powerful kind, to the attacks on her in this line, and it is this: that whether her cooking be bad or good, she offers it without deception or subterfuge, at a fair rate, and without compulsion; that nobody who does not like her dishes need eat them; and that her defects of taste or training can only be fairly made a cause of hatred and abuse when she does work badly, which somebody else is waiting to do better, if she would get out of the way. She has undertaken the task of cooking for the American nation, not of her own motion, but simply and solely because the American nation could find nobody else to do it. She does not, therefore, occupy the position of a broken-down or incompetent artist, but of a volunteer at a fire, or a passer-by when you are lying in the ditch with your leg broken.