Servants

A Gift to Young Housewives appeared in 1861, the same year that the serfs were freed. The underlying assumption of the book is that many hands were available to assist in the myriad tasks that were necessary to preserve the foods for the household and prepare meals for the family and guests. Most servants at this period were illiterate and needed to be instructed in the performance of their duties. For prudent household management, Molokhovets advocated using accurate measurements in the kitchen, but lamented that the practice was not widespread and might seem “strange and even comic or awkward to carry out, especially for simple folk, such as our servants or cooks.” Thus she recommended that the cook begin by learning to prepare the broth under the housewife’s supervision and to her own specifications. Molokhovets’ trick was to determine the amount of finished broth by pouring the requisite number of bowls of water into a pan. The level of liquid was then marked on a clean wooden splint or spill, more liquid was added to the pan and, finally, it was reduced to the level marked on the splint. This method, she claimed, would produce broth that would always be the desired strength without there being either too much or too little.148

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