Orwell's Classic on Restaurant Life
December 04, 2010
I've mentioned here before my appreciation of one of George Orwell's lesser-known works, "Down and Out in Paris and London." It's the story of his time in his 20's living low and working menial jobs. It's a wonderful description of a rowdy Paris neighborhood and bistro. It also contains the best-ever description of work-life behind the scenes in the kitchen of a famous Paris restaurant as well as a smaller one. To me it's simply required reading for anyone interested in the hospitality biz. (As is watching Tati's "Playtime," and "Cook, Thief," "Big Night" and "Babette's Feast." It's a neat genre.)
I now note that textfiles of Orwell's work are online at http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks01/0100171.txt. (Does Australia have different copyright laws? It looks like it! Nothing by Orwell is in the regular Gutenberg.org.)
Now, the whole thing is marvelous, but if you wish to cut to the chase the sections on restaurant life are in the middle of the book -- about 70 pages of a paperback. You can do a text-search at the above link for section IX, which starts with:
For three more days we continued traipsing about looking for work, coming home for diminishing meals of soup and bread in my bedroom.
The restaurant world ends with this text at the end of section 22:
To sum up. A PLONGEUR is a slave, and a wasted slave, doing stupid and largely unnecessary work. He is kept at work, ultimately, because of a vague feeling that he would be dangerous if he had leisure.
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