Are You Being Served?

By Tony Moorby September 21, 2018

Whilst hygiene was a consideration in the catering businesses of the ’60s, short cuts were often taken if it was seen as expedient and such was the case at BAC’s management staff kitchen complex.

The dining room, accommodating about eighteen 10 tops, was kept as clean as a whistle, as it was always on show.

The business end of the kitchens and storage areas were not always quite as salubrious.

Rice that was to be served with a curried egg dish had been contaminated with a few dead ants. Chef’s instructions were a curt, “They didn’t eat much! Put some black pepper in there and make sure there’s
plenty of sauce to cover it.”

No one was any the wiser. What the eye doesn’t see, the heart won’t grieve over!

The managers we fed had the choice of soup or a light salad as an appetizer.

The journey of the soup from Monday to Friday was something of a-little-goes-a-long-way miracle.

Starting out as a consommé on Monday it was a clear and elegant concoction produced in a large purpose-built cauldron with a sealable cover to be latched down when it was cooled and left for the next day.

The next day saw the addition of some tomato puree, some pasta and a few vegetables and herbs, now under the guise of Minestrone.

Wednesday it transitioned to beef and vegetable after chef cast in this or that like some Disneyesque wizard. Hearty tomato for Thursday and a heavy Brown Windsor goop rounded out the week on Friday.

It was conceivable that something that started out on Monday was still contributing after a week.

One morning, Arthur came shrieking into John, the chef’s office, expletives abounding, that someone had left the cover of the cauldron open and that cockroaches were now doing the backstroke in the bacon and bean soup. John, almost reduced to tears, had to abandon about four days’ handiwork and return to consommé.

The “automatic” dishwasher, a Victorian looking conveyor contraption, needed constant manual coaxing and human intervention.

While the steam was hot as the gates of hell, some detritus from the delectations of lunch was likely to have made it through from one end to the other.

A vigilant eye was necessary to ensure that an errant plate was re-consigned to the start of the process, otherwise a chisel was necessary for its removal if left to dry.

The final blow came when rats were discovered in the vegetable store, which then had to be cleaned out and disinfected from top to bottom.

Veg for the rest of the day had to be expensively sourced locally.

Everyone took it all in their stride and good humor prevailed when some of the stories became lore.

I can hear one of the girls now, “Ere Arfer, scream like you did the uvver day when you seen them roaches. Sounded just like a little gell, you did!”

And everyone would guffaw and fall about telling more and more ribald tales. Getting near the bone meant no reference to the butcher’s department.    

Such carryings on would seem in very bad taste for the workplace nowadays but as growing teens we saw sides of life that would have otherwise stayed in the dark.

All this stood us in good stead for ventures into the retail world of London department stores in the Swinging Sixties.

The show on TV “Are You Being Served?” was closer to the truth than you might imagine.

More next time.



Last modified on Friday, 21 September 2018 21:07

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