“A rose is a rose” is among most famous quotations of Gertrude Stein. Here, however, we will talk about a tray, a fairly common object, with obvious use, practical, more or less formal, certainly useful. One day, strolling on a small market on the outskirts of Barcelona, I stumbled upon this bamboo tray. There it was, in a corner, almost forgotten, not even the many customers and passers-by had paid attention to it. The seller, eager to sell it, told me that he had owned it for years. For the time being I decided to leave it the there, with the vendor and continued in my wandering, not stopping to think about it. Finally I bought it, dusty and battered, full of years but also of who knows what and how many stories lived. Here you see it cleaned and waxed, dressed in an elegant Japanese cotton fabric but it was a real transformation to the “Poketful of miracles”.
It has certainly “served” in some merchants’ house, in the Far East or in Africa: a tea served on the veranda admiring the sunset in Ceylon or a breakfast in the garden of a colonial house, at the foot of the N’Gong hills, near Nairobi, like Karen Blixen. But I also think of how many waiters, cooks, nurses, gardeners, etc. have contributed to this lifestyle. Characters who remain blurred, at the bottom of this vintage photo, but have dedicated their lives to the service. Unfortunately, even today, for some, these professions are considered second grade, as if the veil of the etymological servus was still valid and wanted to bring them back to the bottom of that ancient albumin photograph. It is easier to break an atom than a prejudice said Albert Einstein: a rose is a rose.
It was by chance that I came across this diary one day, when I was browsing in a library: Margaret Powel “Below stairs” and I only can recommend it. In the first house where she entered to work as a kitchen chef, at the age of fifteen, Margaret Powell was astonished when she was told that, among her tasks, she included ironing the shoelaces. In the cellar, “they” (as they called the lords) were given “a kind of kitchen psychoanalysis, with no room for Freud…. a must read!