This Month

WHEN household servants vanished, taking with them what was known as “the servant problem,” a new style of domestic service was promptly made available by the accommodator. In these circumstances the wife is fully occupied with the basic cookery and it often falls to the husband to deal with the accommodator.

Whoever thought up the term “accommodator" knew little indeed about housework, for the active voice was given to the wrong party in the transaction: it is the employer who does the accommodating, and the servant who is accommodated. But no mailer. The accommodator seems to be here to stay.

Every community has its roster of “reliable” accommodators; that is, elderly women who own a black dress, a while apron, and a pastry tube and who can be relied on not to steal or become spectacularly drunk at parties. Engaging one, like making an appointment with a busy ophthalmologist, must be done weeks in advance; and if her hourly fee is slightly less than what the medical man charges, it still compares favorably with the wage of a skilled watchmaker or even a plast erer.

The accommodator’s work usually consists of preparing a few canapes, serving, and washing up. A green employer will be dazzled at how quickly the accommodator can finish washing up; it would have taken longer, he realizes the next day, had she Included the roaster, scallopededge baking dish, and saucepans which he finds tidily put away, unwashed, in the oven.

A goodly pari of the accommodator’s time is used, on arrival, in learning from the employer where things are. (Later, the employer will have to learn all over again, for himself, where things are after she has chosen new locations for 1 he things and gone her way.) Once she has learned where things are, she explains to the employer why these particular things are unsuitable.

“Now at Dr. Bumple’s parties — ah, such lovely parties the Bum pies used to give!” the accommodator begins. She seems shocked to hear that the employer never knew D.r. Bumple. “And is that what you will be using for the cocktails?” she goes on, eying the employer’s best bourbon. “Dr. Bumple never used anything but Old Millstone for his cocktails. Nothing but the finest for him.” Her pensive sigh suggests that the guesls this evening will be dosed with straight hemlock. She declines the gravy boat; the Bum pics preferred a bowl. Butter plates? Deary me! (Or ditto for no butler plates.)

All hands are in for a grim evening, the accommodator feels, albeil the kind of people who would come to a party of (his sort probably won’t be worth worrying about anyhow. She shrugs il off and begins loading her pastry tube with cream cheese. Two hours later, brealhing noisily and considerably more florid than when she began, the accommodator has arranged several dishes of canapes.

In addition to the cream cheese items — Dr. Bumple must have suffered from a craving for bland dairy products with his drinks — the accommodator will offer two hot canapes; chopped mushrooms on toast, and ordinary New York cheese melted on crackers. The accommodator will promptly forget her first run of the hot delicacies as soon as she has slid them under a high flame in the broiler. By the time the blue smoke begins drifting into the front hall and living room, the employer will visit the kitchen, opening windows and closing doors as he goes. A light haze overhangs all the rooms for the rest of the evening, and the employer will need a hammer and chisel the next day to chip away what he finds fused to the broiler.

The second run of hot canapés are correctly toasted, but because the accommodator has once again become engrossed in rosettes of cream cheese, she lets them cool off and serves them stone-cold.

Employers are advised never to allow a new aecommodator to carve a roast. The craft finds in carving an outlet for a peculiarly puckish form of self-expression in which the guests can be made to seem incredibly awkward while serving their plates; this enables the accommodator to stand by as a paragon of patience, the model servant in an uncouth company, while the guest wrestles vainly with the meat.

The trick is simple; the accommodator cuts off a large chunk of ihe roast and slices it ingeniously so that each slice remains joined to its neighbors. The hostess will get a normal slice. The others are arranged around the platter in such a way that the guest, spearing in all innocence any slice with the serving fork, finds that he has picked up a paper-dolllike sequence of most of the slices on the platter.

Once the tensions of the meal are over, the host indulges, briefly, in the fantasy that he is at ease with his company for an hour or two. He can think of nothing more to be set on fire or spilled by the aecommodator. He is even able to forget her altogether until, around midnight, he goes out to the kitchen for more ice. There isn’t any more, because the aecommodator has unaccountably used it all up.

Thus, instead of the ice, the host finds the aecommodator, with her hat, umbrella, coat, and shopping bag, waiting for him to drive her home. She has been waiting for two hours, he learns.

Trolley? Bus? At this hour? Deary me!

The host calls a cab for the accommodator, who always lives on the far side of town. Her total cost, he judges, was roughly enough to support a French artisan and family for a week, wine included. It will not be until the next day that he enlarges the estimate to include breakage.