'Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.' -- Voltaire

Whisht! Hush now, will you, shhhh! Quick, over here, let's go in the hallway under the window ... outside the kitchen!

Oh, dear me, that's better! Have a seat, Miss Denise seems to be elsewhere, this is her favorite place to read, but we'll just sit out here for a bit, all right?

Whew! Thanks, darlin',didn't mean to rush you out like that, but Cook is sitting with her feet up, and none of us ever disturb her then. Not unless you like eating burnt meat and curdled custards for the next fortnight! Never visited the kitchens in the afternoon before, have you? I've nearly had a coronary, you coming in like that! I'll go and get us some tea in half a shake, how's that?

Cook has kept the staff on our toes, it's the season for it! Mr. Gus, the head gardener, has had a constant stream of his lads into the kitchens with lovely things from the gardens. Wonderful vegetables, the summer squash has certainly arrived, and, oh, the berries and stone fruits!

Late this morning they brought baskets and baskets of blackberries and peaches, ripe fit to burst, and I thought Cook would, too! Mr. Eldridge has asked for blackberry cobbler and vanilla ice cream -- made with Totonac vanilla -- tonight, for the staff dinner out on the back lawn. Cook let me help her with the cobbler! She says I've a nice light hand with the pastry and if I keep that up, I'll soon be head pastry chef! Wasn't that a nice thing for her to say! Her recipe for cobbler is wonderful; lots of sour cream and eggs inside. That's what you're smelling right now, the cobblers are cooling in the pantry.

Well, I say cobbler. Cook calls hers a crumble, and my granny would have called it a buckle. A grunt is covered with American-style biscuits, though, so it's definitely not a grunt.

Oh, I'm so sorry, my name's Kate. How d'you do? I'm the scullery maid. Sounds very Cinderella, dun'it? It's more sort of job title than a job description, though, even though I do help the dishwasher sometimes, and I'm a handy woman with a knife! It's a good way to start out in the kitchens, actually. Even though we call her 'Cook', Mrs. Clarke is really more of a chef -- you should see her putting the plates together for the fancy dinners! Such presentation.

At any rate, Cook has Mr. Gus's boys out churning the ice cream in the ice house -- lucky them. It's been so hot, I'd think they're quite grateful to be in the ice house! We'll have plenty of noise when they bring the tubs back down to go in the freezers -- are you staying for dinner tonight? Save room for dessert!

Would you like some tea? If I can manage it, I'll try for a few bites of one of the cobblers for a bit of a sneak preview, as well! I do love the eating in August, don't you?

Here, Miss Denise left this fortnight's issue on the seat, you can look at that while I boil up the pot ... be right back!