Holiday entertaining can make one feel a bit like a servant. So, do as they do in “Downton Abbey”.
Just in time for holiday entertaining, “Downton Abbey Rules for Household Staff” (St. Martin’s Griffin, Nov. 25) is coming to the rescue. Downton Abbey RULES!
Mr. Carson, butler to Downton Abbey’s Earl of Grantham, has written the foreword to “this little book of suggestions”, based on some 20 actual staff manuals from the era.
This little book joins the big, beautiful book “A Year in the Life of Downton Abbey: Seasonal Celebrations, Traditions, and Recipes” (St. Martin’s Press). It’s written by bestselling author Jessica Fellowes, niece of the PBS Masterpiece program’s creator Julian Fellowes. The author just discussed her ever-so-charming book on Nov. 5 at Washington’s National Press Club.
“Downton Abbey Rules for Household Staff” happens to have many helpful hints, like “How to Make Tea”; “The Avoidance of Waste”; “A Method to Kill Flies in the Kitchen Without Poison”…
And it’s ever so wry and dry, like “The correct method for uncorking champagne” to avoid “such indignities as …sending champagne cascading everywhere.”
For the truly dedicated host, here’s a sampling of its Abbey home remedies a.k.a. “curatives”:
“Intoxication” (including a “red herring”)
- Induce vomiting: “simply tickle the throat with a feather or finger.”
- Hangover remedy: instead of a hair of the dog, “a morsel of boiled beef well salted or a slice of red herring is advised to settle the stomach.
“A Wash to Prevent A Gentleman’s Hair Falling Out” “…(only if concern is expressed, for it is a sensitive subject)…”
- This recipe is for application only, certainly not ingestion, for it would give indigestion and perhaps induce vomiting, no feather necessary.
- Use “unprepared tobacco leaves, rosemary, and box leaves boiled in a ‘pipkin’ pot…”
- Nary a word on whether it works for women as well.
“Healthy hair growth for ladies”
- Rub a concoction of olive oil, spirit of rosemary, oil of nutmeg into hair roots nightly.
“A cure for warts”
- Apply twice daily a few drops of “reduced vinegar to the bruised leaves of the marigold (calendula officinalis)”…
- No word on how to bruise the poor marigold leaves or reduce vinegar.
“A cure for chapped hands”
- Ingredients include “virgin wax” and “spermaceti”, old chap.
- Neither is what you may think. Any such “Pert answers” are dealt with in another section of the book.
Now, Mr. Carson knows that guests can be a royal pain, literally and figuratively.
But the butler cautions that “The household, in its temporary disorder and strain, must show neither to the visitors.”
How to avoid showing such strain?
- Keep in mind Mr. Carson’s motto in the wee book, “To be a servant, in my view, is a noble calling.”
- And remember that soon after the holidays end, “Downton Abbey” Season 5 begins, on Jan. 4.
An extra added attraction, not that one is needed for the first episode, is a documentary “The Manners of Downton Abbey” (click here for preview). Airing right after the first episode, Jan. 4 at 10:15 P.M., explore Edwardian etiquette with Alastair Bruce, expert on royal ceremony and custom, and historical advisor to the series.
“Discover the secrets of how the aristocratic set dined and dressed, how they married and made money, how they interacted with the servants (and the servants interacted with each other), and above all why they behaved as they did,” says PBS. It’s illustrated with moments from “Downton Abbey”, plus interviews of cast members.
So, happy holidays, happy new year, and happy new season of Downton.
For more info: “Downton Abbey Rules for Household Staff” (St. Martin’s Griffin). “Downton Abbey”, www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/downtonabbey. Season 5 airs Jan. 4-March 1, 2015, on PBS Masterpiece (WETA TV 26 in the Washington, D.C. area). Viking River Cruises,www.vikingrivercruises.com, sponsors “Downton Abbey” and all PBS Masterpiece offerings — including new 2015 programs “Wolf Hall” and “Grantchester”.