A fierce thunderstorm is pounding all around me as I write. There was a flash followed by an almost instant bang a few minutes ago. I don’t know what it hit, but it was close.
It was lightning that put our internet off line the other day, so I hope it stays on after this storm so I can post this.
In this week’s scene Hilda enduring thunder of a human kind, she is worried she is going to feel the wrath of Lord Shirley’s French Chef.
‘You call zose pastry cases?’ Screamed Monsieur Marcel Glanville. Monsieur was Ettington Park’s French Chef. To have a French chef on one’s staff was the height of style and Lord Shirley certainly wanted to proclaim his style to his peers. ‘Zese are twice the size I ask for!’
He swept up the tray of pastry cases and flung the whole thing in the direction of the sink. Most of them ended strewn across the floor. There’s another mess for me to clean up, thought Hilda. Normally Hilda liked Monsieur Glanvile but when he felt under pressure he had a vile temper which she did not like at all. Poor Lindsay she thought, the kitchen maid who usually bore the brunt of the temper was already in tears. Lord Shirley had a party of guests so the pressure on the whole staff was as intense as it ever was. Lindsay wiped her eyes on her sleeve as she reached for another sheet of the puff pastry she had so painstakingly rolled out. She’d have to make up more now, she would not have enough. ‘No, no!’ Bellowed the chef, ‘You make more pastry. The scullery maid could do better!’
He gazed around the room, ‘You, ‘Ilda, yes you,’ He gestured at her, ‘come here.’
Unsure as she had ever felt she stepped over next to him. ‘See,’ he demonstrated, ‘we take ze knife and cut ze pastry in square like so.’
A few deft strokes across a sheet of pastry with his knife, ‘Now we take a square, and fold it around like so, and pinch ‘ere and ‘ere. Et voila a shell ready to bake. Do me a hundred like zis!’
Hilda gaped after him, she turned back to the table in front of her. What should she do? Well she had always been told to do anything Chef told her. The worst that could happen would be him shouting at her. That might make her cry, but it would do no worse. After all this wasn’t her job.
She laid hold of a square of pastry. Now how did he do it? She thought, he rolled it, then he pinched here, her tongue poked out between her lips as she concentrated. And he pinched here, she thought.
She set her effort down next to chef’s. Not very different, and it weren’t hard. She snatched a glance at Lindsay, would she be cross with her now? Lindsay’s face was down as she focused on the complex task of folding butter and flour together to make the puff pastry. Hilda breathed a sigh of relief and took up another square of pastry.
Half an hour later the chef came back to the table Hilda was working at. ‘Merde.’
Hilda didn’t know the word but she had guessed the way the chef used it that it was a swear word, she had felt proud of herself until that moment. She had found a rhythm and the task had gone smoothly, Lindsay rolling out the pastry and Hilda folding the shells. She felt her heart sink, ‘I’m sorry chef.’
‘No, no, zis is good! I expect a mess, but no, zis is good.’ He smiled, ‘We will use these. Thank you.’
Then he looked around the kitchen, ‘But now you must go back to your job and clean some of zese pots.’
Hilda sighed as she looked at the mountain of pots and dishes that cooking for such a large group was making. The only saving grace was with the weather so warm she would not have to clean the hearths of too many of the guest’s rooms in the morning.