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Discussing the Menus with Cook

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posted by alias raaen99 on Friday 21st of May 2021 02:19:46 PM

Wickham Place is the London home of Lord and Lady Southgate, their children and staff. Located in fashionable Belgravia it is a fine Georgian terrace house. Today we are in the Salon, situated on the first floor of Wickham Place with views across the square. The grand room has much of its Eighteenth Century elegance in spite of the passing years and the changes to fashionable décor. The salon still retains its white marble Georgian fireplace and hand printed wallpaper featuring birds and flowers. The Marie Antoinette suite with its floral brocade is also original. The instigator of the original décor, Georgiana Lambert - a Georgian relative of Lord Southgate - hangs in a portrait above the fireplace. It, and her two favourite Meissen figurines of the Lady with the Canary and the Gentleman with the Butterfly have been moved from their original home in the Green Drawing Room into the Salon by the current Lady Southgate. There are perhaps a few more signs of the current lady of the house’s taste with two Limoges vases on the mantlepiece, a Queen Anne china cabinet filled with her porcelain collection and an Impressionist painting above the Hepplewhite bonheur du jour (ladies writing desk). It is at her bonheur du jour that we find Lady Southgate this morning, busily going over the household accounts as provided to her by the housekeeper, Mrs. Blackheath. As she looks over an outstanding account from Duncalfe and Company Corsetiers Mrs Bradley, the Southgate’s cook, knocks at the salon door. “Yes?” Lady Southgate calls out wearily. “Good morning Milady,” Mrs. Bradly says cheerily, stepping across the threshold and into the room. “Oh Mrs. Bradley, do come in.” Lady Southgate replies, looking up at her cook with a beaming smile. She sees a tray laden with tea things in her arms. “Goodness! Is it eleven o’clock already?” “It is Milady, and I’ve brought us tea to have whilst we discuss the menus for the week.” The older woman unpacks the tray onto a walnut side table on which stands a beautiful vase of purple foxgloves. The gilded Art Nouveau pattern of flowers on the Royal Doulton tea set glints in the sunlight pouring in through the full length windows. “Shall I be mother* then, Milady?” “If you would Mrs. Bradly.” Lady Southgate sighs. She gratefully takes the proffered cup from her cook and continues. “You and the tea are a welcome distraction from the household accounts.” “Trouble, Milady?” Mrs. Bradley draws up a salon chair and takes a seat alongside her mistress as she picks up her own cup. “No, but it does all mount up.” She looks at the neatly stacked bills across the marquetry inlaid surface of her bonheur de jour. “The Dowager may not like my American pedigree, but,” she picks up the Duncalfe and Company Corsetiers account and flaps it towards her cook. “She is happy enough to spend my American money. So too is Cecily.” She looks at a bill from Blameuser’s Florists in Mayfair. “I don’t know why she insists on ordering flowers from a florist when we have the greenhouses at Avendale Park that can provide any amount of flowers for the house. Not that she arranges flowers anyway.” She sighs with exasperation. “No Milady,” Mrs. Bradly responds awkwardly, looking down at her notepad and pencil in her lap to avoid the embarrassment of looking at her mistress. “Oh, I’m sorry Mrs. Bradley.” Lady Southgate apologises. “I forget myself. You don’t want to hear my woes. You’ve come to talk about the menus.” She sits back in her chair. “But whilst I’m on the subject of money, I must tell you.” “Yes Milady?” A frown clouds Mrs. Bradley’s usually cheerful face. “Mrs. Blackheath has been in my ear again about grate polish.” The cook’s face starts to redden. “I need that polish so Agnes can clean the range.” She starts to get angry. “Does she expect me took for you in a dirty oven? The cheek of her! Why I’ll…” “Please Mrs. Bradley,” Lady Southgate says with waving hands as she tries to calm her cook down. “I’ve already told her that you may have as much grate polish as you need, or anything else for that matter.” She shakes her head. “She’s obviously attempting to curry favour with me by saving us money. Goodness knows what she intends. Anyway,” She smiles at her servant. “I just wanted to warn you that Mrs. Blackheath is on an economy drive, so she may baulk at your requests.” “Yes Milady.” “And if she does,” She raises her teacup daintily to her mouth and takes a sip of tea. “Just send her to me and I’ll soon sort any concerns out.” “Yes Milady!” Mrs. Bradley breathes a sigh of relief. “Now, what do you have for me today?” Mrs. Bradley puts down her tea and takes up her notepad and pencil. “Well, I thought that since the Dowager and Miss Cecily were out today that you might accept a luncheon tray in the morning room, Milady.” “Yes, yes,” she flaps her hand again. “A selection of cold cuts?” “And some pea and ham soup, Milady.” “Fine. Fine.” “For dinner this evening I thought we might start with Potage Saint-Germain, followed by Lobster Thermidor.” “With duchess potatoes?” “Yes Milady. Then I was thinking beef tournedos de poulet à la clémentine, asparagus and Hollandaise, followed by lamb with mint sauce, then cheeses and finally peaches in chartreuse jelly.” “That all sounds splendid, Mrs. Bradley.” Lady Southgate says with satisfaction. “Oh, by the way, we shan’t be in Thursday night now.” She adds as an afterthought. “We’re dining at the Melville’s.” “Yes Milady. Are the Dowager and Miss Cecily still going to be in?” “Oh who knows what Lydia has in mind, Mrs. Bradley.” she mutters distractedly. “She probably will unless she receives a better invitation. Oh, and thinking of invitations, Lord Southgate and I received an invitation to a King’s Levée on Empire Day, so we shall be dining at the palace.” “Thank you for letting me know, Milady.” Lady Southgate turns back to her writing desk now that the business of the day’s menus has been dealt with. Then she stops, as if mid thought and turns back to her cook, who is now picking herself up from her seat and preparing to take her own cup downstairs to the kitchen, leaving the remaining tea things with her mistress so that she may help herself to more refreshment when she wishes. “Mrs. Bradley?” “Yes Milady?” “What does Nanny usually order served for the children’s nursery tea?” “Oh,” Mrs. Bradley thinks, casting her eyes to the ornately plastered ceiling above. “Just the usual Milady.” The blank look she receives indicates that she needs to elucidate further. “Finger sandwiches, biscuits, blancmange and jelly. If you don’t mind me asking Milady, why do you want to know?” Ignoring the question, Lady Southgate continues, “What about cake? Does Nanny ever order cake for the children?” “Dundee Cake occasionally, but not usually, unless it’s a birthday like Miss Sarah’s last week.” Lady Southgate smiles winsomely as she remembers the lovely tea party that she covertly had with her children unbeknownst to her husband who would have been furious at the indulgence. “Yes, that was a splendid birthday tea you made for Sarah! That pink cake,” She gasps. “Oh, and those cupcakes!” “Yes, the children like them, Milady. I made them some especially at Easter time. After feeling so poorly, they were delighted. The…” “Do you know,” Lady Southgate interrupts the cook’s musings. “I’ve just had the most wonderful notion. I think I shall take tea with the children again on Empire Day. Do you think you could come up with a nice Empire Day afternoon tea, Mrs. Bradley?” “Well, I’m sure I could, Milady.” “Splendid!” Lady Southgate claps her hands in delight. “Something with a suitably patriotic flavour. Empire themed cupcakes and the like.” “Yes Milady,” Mrs. Bradley agrees before adding with caution. “Mind you I don’t think Nanny might be too happy, coming so soon after Miss Sarah’s birthday. She does like to keep treats to a minimum, just for discipline’s sake of course.” “Oh what poppycock!” Lady Southgate cries in return. “Am I not mistress of my own house?” “Well, of course you are, Milady,” the older woman hurriedly backtracks her perceived misstep. “Well then, I want to take tea with the children on Empire Day, and I will take tea with them on Empire Day. Patriotic cakes if you please Mrs. Bradley.” “Yes Milady.” “That will be all, thank you, Mrs. Bradley.” Lady Southgate turns back to her desk and takes up the Duncalfe and Company Corsetiers account in her right hand whilst waving her left hand dismissively at Mrs. Bradley. The cook bobs a curtsey, returns the salon chair to its original place and then retreats with her teacup. This upper-class domestic scene with its beautiful furnishings may not be quite what you think it to be, for is actually made up entirely of 1:12 size dollhouse miniatures, some of which come from my own childhood Fun things to look for in this tableau include: The Eighteenth Century Hepplewhite bonheur du jour, which is hand decorated with leaves and gilding, was made by the high-end miniature furniture maker, Bespaq. As shown in this photo, it has a fold down top and every drawer opens and closes easily: even the one in the apex of the desk. The Hepplewhite chair is also made by Bespaq. On the desk are some 1:12 artisan miniature ink bottles, stamps, a blotter, a roller and a bell, all made by the Little Green Workshop in England who specialise in high end, high quality miniatures. The ink bottles are made from tiny faceted crystal beads and have sterling silver bottoms and lids. The ink blotter is sterling silver too and has a blotter made of real black felt, cut meticulously to size to fit snugly inside the frame. The stamp is made of brass. There is also a silver pen with a pearl in its end and a letter opener also made of silver made by the Little Green Workshop. The bills and correspondence on the desktop were made meticulously by Little Things Dollhouse Miniatures in Lancashire. These include a Duncalfe and Company Corsetiers account and a bill from Blameuser Brothers Florists, as well as a tallied household account. The gilt Art Nouveau teacup, featuring a copy of a Royal Doulton pattern, comes from the larger tea set seen on the side table in the left-hand foreground of the photo. The Tea set has been hand decorated by beautifully Handmade Miniatures in Kettering. The foxgloves in the foreground are very realistic looking. Made of polymer clay they are moulded on wires to allow them to be shaped at will and put into individually formed floral arrangements. They are made by a 1:12 miniature specialist in Germany. They have been put into a 1950s Limoges hand painted vase which matches two others that stand on the fireplace mantle in the background. Each piece is stamped with a small green Limoges mark to the bottom. These Limoges treasures I found in an overcrowded cabinet at the Mill Markets in Geelong. The salon chair is part of a Marie Antoinette suite made by the high-end miniature furniture maker, Creal. Mrs. Bradley’s luncheon and dinner menu notes sitting on the seat of the salon chair was made by Little Things Dollhouse Miniatures in Lancashire. The pencil on the pad is a 1:12 miniature as well and is only one millimetre wide and two centimetres long. The walnut Queen Anne china cabinet has a mirrored back and glass shelves. It is one of the first pieces of miniature furniture I was ever given when I was seven years old. It is filled with an array of china pieces I have acquired from various places over many years. Two miniature diecast lead Meissen figurines: the Lady with the Canary and the Gentleman with the Butterfly, can be seen in the background on the fireplace mantle. They are cast from pewter by Warwick Miniatures in Ireland, who are well known for the quality and detail applied to their pieces. They were hand-painted and gilded by me. The impressionist painting hanging on the wall above the bonheur de jour was made by Amber’s Miniatures in America. The wallpaper is a 1:12 size version of an Eighteenth Century birds and flowers pattern and the carpet on the floor is hand woven by Pike, Pike and Company in the United Kingdom.

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