After the first few seasons of Downton Abbey exploded in the United States, books like this one started to be published and quickly became a dime a dozen. There’s nothing especially remarkable about this particular book, but I liked it nonetheless. Mollie was obviously a spitfire in her day and that spirit and sass comes through in her writing even though she was 93 at the time this was published.
This book takes place pretty close to the Downton Abbey period as Mollie takes up service just before the Second World War. Her memoirs detail the friendships she made (and kept) as well as the hardships she bore and the things she learned as she worked her way up from scullery maid to head chef in a manor house. The appendix also contains a number or recipes that are made reference to throughout Mollie’s writing. She writes about the importance of Mrs. Beeton’s Book of Household Management, a book I’ve become quite familiar with, and includes one of my favourite quotes, “Sauces are to cookery what grammar is to language.”
It’s a neat little read and while it doesn’t shed light on anything particularly new about the time period, fans of Downton Abbey will enjoy it.
This podcast about the food from Downton Abbey.
Merry Christmas Everyone, I have still decided to post a review today so enjoy!
Any fan of Downton Abbey will love this true story of what it was like to be a kitchen maid in an English estate in the 1920s. Margaret Powell details the events of her life, including her childhood living in poverty to her many years in service to multiple families. She points out that, as was the case with most other girls, often entering the service was the best option available.
The families that Powell worked for however, were not always similar to the Grantham’s in Downtown Abbey. She did work on some large estates, but also spent a number of years working for upper to middle class families that only employed a handful of people. Powell always knew she wanted to be a cook (as opposed to a kitchen maid) and was able to achieve this goal by working for families of the middling class.
Powell tells her story with humor that only years of time away from the job could provide. It clearly was not nearly as glamorous as Downton Abbey makes it out to be, and many of the families she worked for barely even knew her name let alone spoke to her like a human being. Fans of the show however, will appreciate this entertaining and more realistic view of what life was really like Below Stairs.