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Page:Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management.djvu/1869

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1679
MEALS: THEIR IMPORTANCE AND ARRANGEMENT

off barons of beef and tankards of ale. Tea was not known in England until the seventeenth century, when Catherine Braganza, the wife of Charles II, is said to have introduced it, and history records that tea found great favour with the fair dames who graced the Court of that period. It is almost needless to add that its high price precluded its general use. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the cheaper kinds cost from 6s. to 7s. per pound, and about 1850 the price was reduced to 5s. per pound, but after the reduction of the duty in 1865 the consumption rapidly increased.

The moral and physical welfare of mankind depends largely on its breakfast, yet many of those upon whom the responsibility of providing it rests do not realise how far-reaching may be the effects of a good or bad meal. A being well fed and warmed is naturally on better terms with himself and his surroundings than one whose mind and body are being taxed by the discomfort and annoyance of badly cooked or insufficient food. With a well-stocked larder and a sideboard supplied with such good things as game-pies, cold game, galantines of chicken or veal, brawn, potted meat, cold ham and pressed beef, it is an easy matter to gratify the tastes and wishes of all, but no meal taxes the ingenuity of middle-class housewives more than breakfast. In small households there is a constant complaint of lack of variety, and the too frequent appearance of bacon and eggs, which, it must be confessed, is the sheet-anchor of the English cook.

But, notwithstanding this plea for "something new," there are over two hundred ways of dressing eggs, to say nothing of grilled chops, steaks, cutlets, kidneys, fish and mushrooms, anchovy and sardine toast, sausage-rolls, sausages broiled, boiled or fried, meat patties, rissoles, croquettes and croutes, fish omelette, fish-cakes, fish soused and kedgeree, pressed beef, galantine of beef, potato-chips, potatoes fried in a variety of ways, and a host of other inexpensive and easily prepared dishes. Many of the lower working-classes cannot, of course, afford to provide some of the dishes enumerated above, but the present work includes an almost endless variety of preparations of a simple, inexpensive character, which might be advantageously used to relieve the monotony of breakfast.

The Service of Breakfast varies very little, no matter how simple or elaborate the meal. On the cottage table, the breakfast-ware, teapot, bread, butter, and dish of bacon, or whatever constitutes the homely fare, all have their allotted places, although the arrangement of the respective articles may not agree with everybody's sense of fitness. Ascending a degree in the scale of life, it is usually found that a touch of refinement is added by plants and flowers. When the table is a small one, the centre of it may be occupied by a single plant, or two plants or bowls of flowers placed equidistant from each other may form the decoration of a larger table. Other appointments depend on the number of persons to be seated and the dishes to be served.