When it comes to household management, there are more than just books for the “lady of the house.” The 1894 book, The Expert Waitress:A Manual for the Pantry, Kitchen, and Dining-Room, is aimed at the female domestics working in the kitchen and dining room. This manual covers everything from detailed meal service and washing the silver to personal presentation and additional skills a waitress should have to improve her role in the household. Sadly, no pictures this week, although the book does include some helpful charts showing what dishes and flatware are required for what meal. Just about the only thing missing, with all the book’s details on where to put what dishes during a meal and how to set a table, are diagrams of the actual table settings!
The pages above are from a number of different chapters, including those on serving luncheon, on keep the pantry “ship-shape,” on being indispensable in the home through other skills, and on the conditions of the contract for a servant. Some particularly striking quotes caption the images in the gallery (click on the first image to open the gallery).
While The Expert Waitress may not have practical applications today, it does offer a detailed look at one specific role in the late 19th and early 20th century household. One that, if absent, would have left everyone hungry!
Our copy is one of about 40 in public or academic hands, but one of only 2 in Virginia libraries. However, if you can’t get here to see it, this book is also available online via the Internet Archive or the Hathi Trust Digital Library.