I do not blame the cooks; if they can get paid for cooking ill, why should they trouble to learn to cook well?"
"I agree entirely," said Mrs. Wilding. "That saying, 'What I like is good plain roast and boiled, and none of your foreign kickshaws,' is, as every one knows, the stock utterance of John Bull on the stage or in the novel; and, though John Bull is not in the least like his fictitious presentment, this form of words is largely responsible for the waste and want of variety in the English kitchen. The plain roast and boiled means a joint every day, and this arrangement the good plain cook finds an admirable one for several reasons: it means little trouble, and it means also lots of scraps and bones and waste pieces. The good plain cook brings all the forces of obstruction to bear whenever the mistress suggests made dishes; and, should this suggestion ever be carried out, she takes care that the achievement shall be of a character not likely to invite repetition. Not long ago a friend of mine was questioning a cook as to soups, whereupon the cook answered that she had never been required to make such things where she had lived; all soups were bought in tins or bottles, and had simply to be warmed up. Cakes, too, were outside her repertoire, having always been 'had in' from the confectioner's, while 'entrys' were in her opinion, and in the opinion of her various mistresses, 'un'ealthy' and not worth making."
"My experience is that, if a mistress takes an interest in cooking, she will generally have a fairly efficient cook," said Mrs. Fothergill. "I agree with Mrs. Sinclair that our English cooks are spoilt by neglect; and I think it is hard upon them, as a class, that so many inefficient women should be able to pose as cooks while they are unable to boil a potato properly."
"And the so-called schools of cookery are quite useless in what they teach," said Miss Macdonnell. "I once sent a cook of mine to one to learn how to make a clear soup, and when she came back, she sent up, as an evidence of her progress, a potato pie coloured pink and green, a most poisonous-looking dish--and her clear soups were as bad as ever."
Said the Colonel, "I will beg leave to enter a protest against the imperfections of that repast which is supposed to be the peculiar delight of the ladies, I allude to afternoon tea. I want to know why it is that unless I happen to call just when the tea is brought up--I grant, I know of a few houses which are honourable exceptions--I am fated to drink that most abominable of all decoctions, stewed lukewarm tea. 'Will you have some tea? I'm afraid it isn't quite fresh,' the hostess will remark without a blush. What would she think if her husband at dinner were to say, 'Colonel, take a glass of that champagne. It was opened the day before yesterday, and I daresay the fizz has gone off a little'? Tea is cheap enough, and yet the hostess seldom or never thinks of ordering up a fresh pot. I believe it is because she is afraid of the butler."
"I sympathise with you fully, Colonel," said Lady Considine, "and my withers are unwrung. You do not often honour me with your presence on Tuesdays, but I am sure I may claim to be one of your honourable exceptions."
"Indeed you may," said the Colonel. "Perhaps men ought not to intrude on these occasions; but I have a preference for taking tea in a pretty drawing-room, with a lot of agreeable women, rather than in a club surrounded by old chaps growling over the latest job at the War Office, and a younger brigade chattering about the latest tape prices, and the weights for the spring handicaps."
"All these little imperfections go to prove that we are not a nation of cooks," said Van der Roet. "We can't be everything. Heine once said that the Romans would never have found time to conquer the world if they had been obliged to learn the Latin grammar; and it is the same with us. We can't expect to found an empire all over the planet, and cook as well as the French, who-- perhaps wisely--never willingly emerge from the four corners of their own land."
"There is energy enough left in us when we set about some purely utilitarian task," said Mrs.