A few years ago the leading comic journal of the day had the following graphic little sketch :—A middle-aged gentleman, leaving his house-door in the morning, inquires—
" What is there for dinner to-day, Mary ? " " Cold mutton, sir."
" Then you can tell your mistress that she need not wait dinner for me."
Now, although this sounds exceedingly selfish, yet perhaps the blame is not entirely due to one side only.
There can be no doubt that, just as among the lower orders there are hundreds of wives who, from ignorance and stupidity, drive their husbands to the public-house, so among the middle classes there are as many who from the same causes too often drive them to the " Club."
Now, the increase in the number of these luxurious establishments in the present day is something wonderful. It has already had a marked effect upon the restaurants in the metropolis, some of which now do not dine half what they did formerly; but it remains to be seen how far the clubs will in time affect the Registrar-General's marriage-returns. As this latter point is of the greatest importance to that large and charming portion of the population, the young unmarried ladies, we trust we may be pardoned if for one moment we pause to ask them a few questions.
Did you ever consider how your future husband is accustomed to dine every day, and contrast it with the way in which he will dine when you will have the management of the household? We will suppose him to be accustomed to the ordinary club dinner, or say the regimental mess. Do you not feel how entirely dependent you will be on your cook ? Should she be clever and honest, you may do very well. Should she, however, be idle and dishonest, what will you do ?
Now do not, pray, think that to get a good common-sense cook is by any means an easy affair. If you only inquire of your friends and relations, you will soon find out the difficulty.
You have all probably read that exquisite little sketch in "David Copperfield," who mildly addresses his "child-wife" as follows :—" You must remember, I am sure, that I was obliged to go out yesterday when dinner was half-over, and that the day before I was made quite unwell by being obliged to eat underdone veal in a hurry; to-day I don't dine at all : and I am afraid to say how long we waited for breakfast, and then the water didn't boil. I don't mean to reproach you, my dear, but this is not comfortable."
Unfortunately, this is only a slight exaggeration of what goes on every day in many houses throughout the country. What housekeepers should strive at is to get a nice little savoury dinner, and yet at the same time to be economical. We will now take a simple case to illustrate our point, and suppose that the larder contains the remains of a cold leg of mutton, which leg has been decently cooked, and did not the previous day appear as a ghastly sight after a few cuts, like one of those horrible pictures in the penny journal that disgraces some of our shop-windows.
We will suppose the time of year to be early summer. A good many young wives under these circumstances would simply order a cucumber—possibly a shilling each—and think that everything had been done that was necessary ; or some, still worse, would order the cook to hash the remains of the mutton—and a nice hash they make of it, in another sense of the word; for who has not at times seen that dreadful dish of immense size, covered with often hard slices of mutton, the whole swimming in a quantity of thin broth—we cannot call it gravy—in which slices of onion vie with sodden sippets as to which shall look the least inviting? Now, when such a dish appears, probably the husband, accustomed formerly to his club or college dinner, or the mess, says nothing; but he feels—" I don't mean to reproach you, my dear, but this is not comfortable."
Now, as the cookery-books say, suppose we give " another method." The cook in the morning early has cut off all the meat from the leg-of-mutton bone, and put it by in the larder. She has then chopped up the bone into small pieces, and put it on the fire to make stock, with the usual etcetera—viz., some onion, carrot, turnip, celery, and parsley. We will also suppose the house to contain some frying-fat, bacon or ham, and eggs.
The first dish we would recommend would be some rissoles. Take three or four small slices of the mutton, picking out those containing most fat, and one slice of bacon containing twice the quantity of fat to lean j chop up finely a small piece of onion rather larger than the top of the thumb down to the first joint, sufficient parsley when chopped fine to fill a teaspoon, about enough thyme to cover a sixpence, or rather less if the thyme be strong; add a little cayenne pepper and salt. Chop the whole ingredients very fine, or, still better, send them through a sausage-machine. When thoroughly chopped, the whole mass ought to be sufficiently moist to be capable of being rolled up into balls. If this is not the case, it only shows that there has not been sufficient fat put with it. These balls should be about the size of a large walnut. Dip each ball into some well beaten-up egg, and afterwards into some fine bread-crumbs. Fry them in some boiling fat for two or three minutes, which will generally be found sufficient to make them of a nice golden-colour. Next, for the gravy, which ought to surround them, take about half a cup of stock, add to it a little brown thickening—i.e., some flour fried a light golden-colour in an equal quantity of butter—some of which thickening ought always to be kept in the house, as it will keep good for many months. Enough of this brown thickening should be boiled in the half tea-cup of stock to make it a good colour, and a little thick. Add a tea-spoonful of sherry to give it a nice flavour, and, if liked, a tea-spoonful of mushroom ketchup. Pour the gravy round the rissoles, which will be found none the worse for being warmed up in the oven. A little piece of fresh green parsley may be placed on each rissole, by way of garnish.