Mary M., of Cooking with the Junior League (go read it now! It’s awesome!) sent in photos she took of several pages from House Dressing, a cookbook published by the Windsor Square-Hancock Park Historical Society in 1978 (Hancock Park is a wealthy section of L.A.). The cookbook contains a section called “Kitchen Spanish,” which, as Mary says, “pretty much amounts to phrases you can use to boss around your help.” They are quite thorough, providing terms not just for cooking but for many other household tasks, and specific terms for wool vs. silk clothing. Here are images of a couple of the pages:

household spanish4

household spanish2

And here we have my favorites, “This is still dirty” and “Do it very thoroughly this time”:

household spanish3

And to think, when I first read the phrase “Kitchen Spanish” I assumed it was a geographically confused title for the Tex-Mex recipe section. Also, given that the pronunciation guides don’t include instructions on which syllable to emphasize, I can only imagine what kind of directions the employees actually received.

It made me think of the book Domestica: Immigrant Workers Cleaning and Caring in the Shadows of Affluence, by Pierrette Hondagneu-Sotelo. She discusses the tensions and conflicts that often arise between immigrant (largely Latina) housekeepers/nannies and their (mostly White and female) wealthy employers over how tasks should be done. Domestic workers generally expressed a wish to be told what to do, but not how to do it (and not watched while they worked), while employers felt they had to provide a lot of micromanagement if they wanted tasks done to their standards. Many instances where employees quit or employers fired them resulted from the conflict over this issue.

My guess would also be that many of the individuals contributing to and buying this cookbook would not be cooking anything from it themselves. The cookbook probably served as a form of symbolic domesticity for wealthy women to share recipes, while the women doing much of the actual cooking and cleaning in their households were present only implicitly as the recipients of the instructions on these pages. As Mary pointed out, something similar was probably true of all the “signature recipes” of First Ladies are often shown serving in photo ops–it seems likely that many of them had nothing to do with the preparation and may not have even supplied the recipe. Didn’t John McCain’s wife (I know, not a First Lady, but she was a hopeful) post a recipe on the campaign website that turned out to be taken from another cooking website?

NEW! (July ’10): Jason K. sent in another example, this one published in 1976: