The Case Against Mid-victorian Severity - The Joys of Early Morning Tea - Fruit as a Substitute-hints for the Housekeeper

It is a truism, that all food should be served daintily, but the little meal presented on our first awakening should, above all others, be perfect in appetising freshness.

By our mothers and grandmothers the indulgence of an early cup of tea was not permitted, and the daughter who would have asked for such a thing would have been brave indeed. Even to the present day the little breakfast upstairs is considered in some households to be a decided luxury, and indulged in only by the infirm and the lazy.

Fetishes are mercifully easily knocked down by commonsense, and the strenuous life we lead tends to the modification of old ideas; the woman whose household or social work make great demands on her strength finds that the early hot drink, with ten minutes after for reading her letters while still in a recumbent position, has a very tonic effect. Certainly, the woman who suffers from faintness before breakfast should never rise without eating and drinking some small and very simple meal.

In the eighteenth century the cup of chocolate is constantly mentioned as the beverage brought to the bedside of the woman of fashion. This nourishing yet unstimulating diet may have been extremely wholesome, but few women nowadays would care to drink so clogging a food, although its excellent qualification in long retaining its heat is an advantage.

Only those with very strong digestion would find chocolate as soon as one awakens to be acceptable. Perhaps we are degenerates, but the fact remains that the beef-and-beer diet, with other heavy food, is not now to the taste of ordinary women.

There is nothing more delightful than a small tea-pot of rather weak China tea, served on a dainty tray, with cloth to match the china, and tea-cosy on which the pattern of the teapot is reproduced in needle-craft. Some like a dry biscuit served with it, others a wafer slice of bread-and-butter; but never should the food be substantial.

Some Real Advantages

A small vase of flowers is added by some housekeepers on the tray of a guest, but nothing fussy is desirable, so perhaps the tray is better ungarnished with flowers.

If the postal arrangements permit, the letters for each individual should be sent up on the tray, unless the mail be very heavy. The addition of a morning paper is welcome, and for the strenuous worker, a ten-minute scanning of a news-sheet while resting, before getting up, saves half an hour's dawdle over a paper later in the day.

So many people have to rest after their bath and do physical exercises before completing their toilette, that quite a lot of newspaper and letter reading can be got through if letters and paper are sent to the bedroom.

For the light sleeper a small electric kettle

K by the bedside is a real help. Those who suffer from insomnia will be wise to try what a hot drink of milk with boiling water added, or very weak tea, will do, before they fly to a drug, which will probably increase the insomnia trouble, or which, if alleviating it, will bring others in its train.

The woman who is worried or overtired often falls into a profound sleep for three or four hours, and then has a wakeful interval. She should always have a box of biscuits by her bedside, as a few mouthfuls may induce sleep. Many have experienced the inconvenience of hunger in the night, which banishes all possibility of sleep. Heavy suppers are a thing of the past; light dinners the rule, so that after lying awake for twoor three hours it is natural to want food.

Fruit Versus Tea

Those who have travelled much, often prefer a plate of fruit to the early morning tea. On most of the great shipping lines oranges or grape fruit are brought to the cabin before breakfast, as a matter of course, and a glass of iced water usually accompanies such a little meal. This form of the before breakfast snack is highly approved of by the medical faculty.

Coffee is preferred by some on account of its effects on digestion, but this is merely a matter of taste. The hostess will do well if she is entertaining a guest who is naturally delicate or a faddist, to ascertain over night if any special early morning meal is desired, that she may give her orders to her maid. In these days of food fads and cures a guest may be inconvenienced seriously for want of some very simple food or drink.

It is a moot point whether the extreme food faddist should ever be invited as a guest. The burden of entertaining is already sufficiently heavy; it is a strain on the busy hostess to search for abnormal foodstuffs difficult to get in any but well-stocked shops in large towns.

The Faddist

There are those who require strangely prepared brown or rye bread with the early breakfast, and the writer has known enthusiasts to have their special supply sent down to them every day in the country where such things were unobtainable.

This plan commends itself to the invalid or hypochondriac who has arrived at the stage of obtaining the right food at any price, but it is not a course to be indulged in by anybody.

The hostess is likely to resent the arrival of special food addressed to her guest each day as a reflection on her hospitality, and it were better on the whole to remain at home if strange things are so necessary for health.

Except in special cases, or for aged or sickly people, the modern hostess will be quite safe in supplying for her guests a dainty tray such as is shown in the frontispiece.

The before breakfast cup of tea must on no account be confounded with the bedroom breakfast, which is quite a different affair.

Breakfast in the bedroom is no longer the breakfast in bed of the mid-victorian invalid.

When visiting at an up-to-date house, the family breakfast table is by no means a certainty. Family breakfast is, as a rule, more honoured in the breach than the observance, and most members of the party will suit themselves as to the mode of breakfasting, being, in all probability, asked by their hostess if they would like breakfast in their rooms.

There are many arguments for and against this, breakfast-as-you-please, policy. From the guest's point of view, it is a great comfort not to have to face the ordeal of this first meal in company, when vitality is at its lowest, and few can be said to be at their best. Even if some members of the party are up to the mark, those grumpy ones who cannot even pretend to be sparkling while the day is young resent the good spirits of the few - the very few - who "feel jolly in the morning."

So it makes for the good temper of the whole party if those who desire it breakfast in their rooms. In such a well-laden tray goes upstairs with tea or coffee, hot bread or scones, fish or meat; a conveniently-sized table is spread by the bedroom fire, and the guest breakfasts at her ease after her bath and exercises, reserving the intricacies of a complete toilet probably until after the meal, and the answering of the most urgent matters in her correspondence.

The Ways of Men

Men, as a rule, prefer breakfasting downstairs, and the golfers, or those who are going to spend the day in shooting or hunting, assemble in the dining-room, more or less punctually, at a given time and, after tea, coffee, and the hot dishes are handed, usually wait upon themselves.

A separate tea or coffee-pot and supply of hot or cold milk is usually ready for each guest, and they pass to and from the sideboard selecting such hot or cold food as they desire.

Such breakfasts are very substantial affairs, for men who will spend the day strenuously in the open-air require plenty of solid food, especially as they will probably take with them only a packet of sandwiches and a flask to supply the mid-day meal.

From the hostess's point of view, the multiplicity of detail in the arrangements of breakfast is considerably lessened if each guest partakes of the meal in her room; then, with the despatch of the well-laden dishes, the matter is at an end, and the long waiting, with the elaborate spread in the dining-room, with servants occupied about half the morning in bringing fresh supplies of hot tea, bacon, toast, etc., is entirely done away with.

Women are constantly immersed in detail, and, if on the small duties the success of the house running depends, certain. it is that the care and perfection lavished on the early morning meal will not be wasted, and will result in the comfort of all.