Upstairs Downstairs

flowers and glasses

I am a sucker for Masterpiece Theater. I don’t consider myself an Anglophile, but when it comes to watching period pieces, pretty much anything from the other side of the pond commands my attention: Emma, North and South, Wives and Daughters. The two mini-series that I watched most recently—Downton Abbey and Upstairs Downstairs—were unique in that they both portrayed the daily lives of households consisting of the elite (“Upstairs”) and their servants (“Downstairs”). Unlike many dramas where only the lives of the aristocrats are explored, these two series dig into servants’ day-to-day dealings with each other and with their superiors. Though the social chasm between the aristocrats and servants appears unbridgeable, we learn that ultimately people are people, and no matter what social strata one comes from, we experience life alike: happiness, pride, melancholy, loss and everything in between.


Bruschetta: grilled bread rubbed with raw garlic, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with fresh herbs.

What does my little advertisement for Masterpiece Theater have to do with cooking and food? A few weeks ago my mom, sister Laurel and I stepped into a role that reminded us of the servants in Upstairs Downstairs and Downton Abbey. My mom volunteered to host a dinner for my cousin and his wife’s church group who were in town for a retreat. Instead of going to a restaurant, they’d pay us and we would cook for them.

Thus commenced a flurry of emails regarding planning a meal for 12 people. We three would help each other cook, but ultimately Laurel was responsible for appetizers, my mom for the entrée and I for dessert. When the big day arrived, my sister and I headed over to my parents’ house to begin cooking (she lives 2 hours away, I live 45 min away). Between skewering chicken pieces, whipping egg whites and choosing the perfect serving pieces, we three were blessed with quality time together while accomplishing a mission. And in our effort to make everything “just so,” we recalled the kitchen staff of Upstairs Downstairs who perfected dishes and table settings for the families that employed them. It was a fun day: we worked hard, laughed hard, ate good food and imagined that for one afternoon we were living in Upstairs Downstairs. All I can hope is that our guests felt like they were at home.

This is the menu we served:

Bruschetta with Fresh Herbs

Moroccan Spiced Yogurt Chicken Kebabs
Grilled Bell Pepper and Vidalia Onions
Brown Rice
Spinach Salad with Walnuts, Blue Cheese and Golden Raisins

Homemade Chocolate Souffles

Here are a few photos from our afternoon of working together:


The table setting.


Laurel was the grill master for the day.


Tulips make a lovely centerpiece.

grilled veggies

Grilled bell peppers.


Muhammara, a popular hummus-like dip made of red bell peppers.


My parents' lovely deck.

6 Thoughts on “Upstairs Downstairs

  1. ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!??!?!?!??!!!!!!!

    No, seriously, are you kidding me?

    I’ve been totally consumed these past two weeks with Masterpiece Classic and BBC!!!!!! I’ve always loved the old BBC Pride and Prejudice… but I hadn’t watched many of their productions. But then one day I saw “Wives & Daughters” on Netflix instant. Since then I’ve been totally hooked and having a blast getting sucked into: “North & South”, “Downton Abbey” (can’t wait for the next season!!). and “Wuthering Heights” (Have you seen the Masterpiece Classic “Wuthering Heights”? The book is one of my favorites, but I have to say that I liked the movie even better!!).

    I’m sorry to go on and on about this… but I just love that we’ve both been living delightfully British parallel lives. My thoughts have even adopted a British accent! :)

    I love this post… and I think we should develop some kind of related theme for The Explored Life. :)

    • andrealein on May 13, 2011 at 9:26 AM said:

      No way! I’m so glad to have found another Masterpiece Classic kindred spirit! Netflix has certainly been amazing in introducing me to all these shows. I really love them b/c there is so much substance each series and they are so realistic (even if they took place years ago). I have not seen the Masterpiece Wuthering Heights. The book kind of weirded me out, but I should still watch it. I’ll add it to my queue. Did you know the next season of Downton Abbey isn’t coming out until 2012? Seems so far away! Also, the 2010 BBC Emma is my favorite film version of the book. And yes, let’s come up with a related theme for The Explored Life!

  2. Pingback: Thinking in a British accent « LAYERS & LAYERS

  3. Crescent Rainwater on May 12, 2011 at 7:51 PM said:

    Beautiful! I miss you. And, not only do I now want to try some Muhammara, I also want to watch some Masterpiece Theater.

    • andrealein on May 13, 2011 at 9:28 AM said:

      Aw, I miss you too! Definitely make some time to watch Masterpiece Theater–it’s so fun! And the Muhammara is very good. It was a big hit with everyone. :)

  4. This was a happy day- so nice to have it told with beautiful photos

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