And now, let us return to the rest of the lobster, which we left being pounded in the mortar, and to which have been added the chopped onion, parsley, and lemon-peel in the proportions we have mentioned. Mix in sufficient lobster butter to make the whole mass appear of a bright-red colour—about a brimming tea-spoonful is generally sufficient to a medium-sized lobster. After this add some ordinary butter— about two ounces—but, of course, the quantity must vary with the size and meatiness of the lobster, but sufficient must be added to make the whole quantity into a sort of thick pudding, which when struck with a table-spoon makes a noise like—slosh.
Next mould the mass into a quantity of small pieces, the size and shape of an oval pic-nic biscuit. This moulding is best done with the hands, by throwing the piece from one palm into the other. Dip each piece in a well-beaten-up egg—of course, one egg is sufficient for the whole quantity—and then into some fine dry bread-crumbs. Fry in some boili?ig fat or lard for about two minutes, and put each piece on a cloth to drain for a few minutes in front of the fire.
Stick a small piece of the end of the small claws of the lobster—say about three-quarters of an inch long —into each, to represent the bone of the cutlet, and the dish is complete, though it had better be put into the oven for four or five minutes just before serving.
When lobsters are cheap, the cost of these pretty little red cutlets varies from one penny to three-halfpence each. I once made twenty from a lobster that cost one shilling and sixpence. There are many ignorant people, who on seeing such a dish would imagine that it must be a very extravagant one; and yet these same persons would think nothing of having a dish of six or eight ordinary mutton cutlets handed round as an entre'e, costing at least sixpence each. Besides, there is no comparison in the appearance of the two dishes. There are, perhaps, few entrees more invariably passed by at dinner-parties than mutton cutlets, unless dressed ones, which, especially when truffles are used, are very expensive. A dish of bright-red lobster cutlets, neatly arranged in a silver dish, with a pile of crisp fried parsley in the centre, always looks nice ; and if economy is very much thought of, a few bread-crumbs added to the mass before moulding will increase the dish, but we don't recommend the method : we wish to be practical: and the probable result of the suggestion to the cook is that the cutlets will be spoilt, and the cook will have the best claw for her supper, served aunaturel—i.e., with the vinegar aforesaid.
It seems very dreadful, when one comes to think about it, but how horribly dependent we all are upon our servants ! and, as a rule, how far less regard have they to economy than we have ourselves ! This is probably owing to early education—for instance, the girl who in childhood has been accustomed to see her mother buy coals by the apronful. Yes, gentle reader, such is the fact, which you may see for yourself any day in some of the poorer neighbourhoods in London. I recollect a case once in which the apron-strings gave way, thereby causing the coal-cellar to make a sudden and unexpected appearance on the pavement, and calling forth the exclamation of— " Drat the thing I".
Yet this very girl, who, as we said, has been used to see her mother lay in coals in this fashion, when she goes out to service is so overcome by the inexhaustible supply, as it seems to her, in a cellar containing several tons, that from sheer thoughtlessness she is extravagant to a degree. In most houses the ashes are thrown up far more often in the dining-room than in the kitchen.
Another and ofttimes a more terrible difficulty that young housekeepers have to contend with, is the impenetrable stupidity of the women in her employ. I recollect a most amusing case that occurred many years ago in a house at Woolwich. An elderly lady —one of the good old sort, not above occasional interference in domestic matters—had personally superintended the preparation of that somewhat nasty creature in the raw state, a hare for jugging. The richest of gravy had been prepared, the joints of the hare had been neatly browned in a frying-pan without being cooked. Cloves, port wine, etc.—nothing had been forgotten, and the whole had been placed in a large jug, and only required being put to simmer gently in some boiling water. Now, the elderly lady wisely thought that the copper would be as safe a place as any wherein to stand the jug, the water reaching about half-way up, this method having the additional advantage of leaving more room on the kitchen fire, besides obviating the risk of its being upset by the saucepan—if the jug were placed in one—being hastily moved. Directions were given accordingly.
Imagine the elderly lady's face on discovering, about a quarter of an hour before dinner, that Mary Ann had put the jug in the copper by simply emptying it in !
But I fear I have rather got away from my subject, which is that of economy. Now, economy is the very soul of cookery, and can be alike practised in the palace and the cottage, and, unfortunately, is less regarded in the latter than in the former. It is wonderful how many really nice dishes may be made out of odds and ends. In a well-managed house there ought not to be enough left to keep even a dog ; whereas, if the truth were known, the contents of the dust-bins alone in England contain sufficient food to almost banish poverty from the land. This may seem a strong statement, but it is no more strong than true. Recollect waste is a crime; and were it in our power —which it is not—to be able to multiply food even to a miraculous extent, it would not the less be our duty to " gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost."