04, The Staff and its food

Many large restaurants and hotels had a servants’ hall, mostly used for ‘meals’. Generally, they served vile stuff at the very best, and sometimes even rotten. You either had to have that or go without, and so the waiters never went into the staff hall. They used to take tasty bits left on customers’ plates, hide them and wait for a chance to eat them, or during their two or three hours rest time from three to six, they would go to a nearby cafe and have a real good meal. But for this meal they would have been physically unable to carry on, so that is where a great portion of their tips went.

The same applied to the chambermaids and pageboys and so on. All kinds of kitchen porters have served to them the staff ‘food’. They also have to take it or leave it but pinching is much easier in the kitchen, especially where the cooks are real men. As an apprentice I wore whites, I sat with the cooks and we had just what we fancied from the menu. But many just played with the food. We were full with the steam, the heat, the sweat, the fat, and had no appetite. When I got home at ten o’clock I gladly ate my mother’s bread-and-butter and cheese and a cup of cocoa and enjoyed it – the environment was different. I had left a hell and was now in my home where someone who cared for me studied every desire or whim: there was no profit-making hell here.

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