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August 9th, 2013

August 9th, 2013 published on 41 Comments on August 9th, 2013

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 Widdershins Vol. One | Widdershins Vol. Two 

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  • Eyefish (formerly Sulzala)

    Now we only need to find out *when* we are.

    • danselhuntress

      I would assume the Victorian era of Harry et al., at least given the attire of the hotel staff woman.

      • Me-me

        Assuming she’s not just another chef. She was wearing an apron, wasn’t she?

        • Cromell

          She’s the BEST maid. ;)

  • Sir_Krackalot

    Now all we need is The Doctor.

    • Michael Brewer

      Yup, sounds about right.

  • SmilingAhab

    At least Rosie keeps positive!

  • Michael Brewer

    The thing that worries me is that there have apparently been more people there at various points, but, given the years the people have been pulled from, it seems like you don’t age while you’re there.

    So. What happened to the people who’re gone?

  • Damselhuntress

    “You can check out any time you like….but you can never leave.”

  • David Argall

    Now a point of interest is that we have 3[4?] female cooks, from a time period where the best cooks have been overwhelmingly male. Joe Average is likely wise to let Jane do the cooking, but she is still just an amateur, and the professionals are heavily male. Think “chef” and you think of a man, likely fat, but very definitely male.
    We have several possible explanations. Our sin may have a bias for the ladies. There may be a score of male cooks we have not met yet. Or a story of magic may just not pay much attention to “historical accuracy”.

    • billydaking

      Or, you may be just jumping to conclusions.

      1. Rosie is obviously based on Julia Child, who spent the 1950s gathering and working on recipes that led to her 1961 700-plus page bestseller Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

      2. Gladys is a flapper from the Roaring Twenties, and her specialty is cocktails. Fits like a glove.

      3. The hotel takes the best chefs “who come here.” Doesn’t mean work there. Doesn’t mean professional, either (if professional chefs working a specific hotel kept disappearing over the years, do you think anyone good would actually work there?). Best doesn’t always mean professional. See Julia Child.

      • Sanjay Merchant

        Also, I’d guess that Hotel Gula isn’t exactly a place professional chefs really seek to work. The result is, more often than not the actual staff are people who couldn’t make it in a bigger market like London and, as such, are mediocre. The hotel is left to pick off talented folk who come in for other reasons. And besides, we don’t know how big a staff the hotel has assembled anyway. There may be dozens of people of all genders toiling away in the kitchens.

        • =Tamar

          If we’re going to speculate… maybe the real reason that virtually all the famous chefs of that era in our world were men is that the hotel grabbed all the best female chefs before they had a chance to become famous….

          • Barium-Sulfate

            I like that!

      • David Argall

        So far I am just pointing out an oddity. I have not made a conclusion about what it means.
        Julia Child presumably knew her way around a kitchen well enough, but that she was seriously above “competent” and into “the best” is rather unlikely. She was a celebrity chef. While celebrities of this type are often good enough, they are rarely close to top of the class.
        Child was also a cooking teacher. While “those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” is hardly a law, our cooking teacher is busy trying to get the student to distinguish between sugar and salt, not deciding that 3.43 teaspoons of sugar is superior to 3.44 or 3.42. So while we likely would have been delighted to eat whatever she cooked, saying it was the best we had ever had would have likely meant we never had any really great cooking.
        Gladys also is an oddity. The bartender too is routinely male, the main exceptions being where the bartender is to provide eye candy. As with our other lady cooks, there is nothing impossible about her, but sheer numbers make her unlikely, and 3 such unlikelies is a strain.

        • billydaking

          I think you’re holding a little too tightly on the concept that the “best chefs” must be professionals, and that the hotel is completely capable of pulling whoever the best chefs are from wherever they are.

          First, Julia Child was a graduate of Le Corden Bleu (1951), so I think she knew more than just her way around a kitchen. The school she ran in the 1950s was with two other trained professional women. The idea that there were no professional female chefs during that time period is completely historically inaccurate on your part.

          Plus, you’re skating dangerously close to sexism. The fact that there were few female professional chefs in past times is because they simply weren’t allowed to hold those positions because of their gender. What you’re actually saying is something like this: the best professional baseball players from the 1920s and 1930s were white, because black players were regulated to barnstorming negro leagues, and thus they never faced the level of play. However, that does not negate the fact that many those black baseball players probably were most talented of anyone who played the game, and the same goes for female chefs. Talent is talent.

          The point I made that you ignored is that “best” does not equal “professional”; a liberated flapper in the 1920s would know as much about making mixed drinks as a bartender, if not more. Stop thinking about job descriptions, and start thinking about people’s obsessions and talents.

          • David Argall

            Graduation from Le Corden Bleu would have put Child in the 1000 best chefs of her time. A serious achievement given just the US has 100,000 chefs, but still a long way from even the top 10, much less #1. Her cooking school was for the tourist trade, meaning we are talking high school, not post grad. Again we are seeing no evidence of the top level cook here.
            When we look at lists of the best, we see a shortage of females. One list I looked at had 20 boys & 3 girls. And this imbalance extends down a long way. When we think of the cook at the local hash house, we think male. So the odds are heavily against this many ladies in the kitchen [unless we are talking about a lot of unseen men].
            Our flapper, while knowing enough about drinks to horrify her mother, was nowhere near as skilled as a bartender. He was doing hundreds a night, vs her dozen. As with the others, our drink professional was/is heavily more likely to be male.
            On the side point, the negro player of the 20s & 30s did have chances to face top competition, and beat them too. Much of this happened in the grapefruit leagues where the major league teams are more interested in tuning up for the season than winning [It’s not unusual for the winners of the grapefruit league to bomb in the regular season.], but any claim they were inferior at all, much less for lack of playing chances, has its work cut out for it.
            Our current evidence is that the cooks are being collected for being best, not for being best after getting some training or opportunity. That means our amateur of either sex is highly unlikely to be chosen. Talent is only a requirement here. It needs training too.

            • It should also be noted though that faced with prejudice, women with superior skill in the field might not make those ‘top 1000’ lists, or be allowed to preside over begrudging male competitors. But that’s in our world, and it’s already been pretty established that women have a better shot at a lot of professions in this world.

              I do agree that even if we assumed 50/50 gender balance in the profession in this world, seeing the first three be all girls may make one wonder if the hotel chooses only women, but I don’t think there -has- to be a reason.

              Now, in many cases noteworthy coincidences demand explanation in fiction, sort of a variant of checkov’s gun– why draw attention to the unusual if there’s no reason, yes?

              But in this case, (and with the understanding it is fantasy and shouldn’t be obligated to include historical issues it doesn’t have use for) it’s actually quite admirable to take the stance ‘this is the sort of coincidence that -should- be able to pass without comment’ just as the politician selecting three guys as malform busters went without comment. It would be nice some day if that was the norm, and they say ‘you have to be the change you wish to see’, after all, so good job Kate.

        • The simple answer is that making the characters all white dudes is kinda dull!

    • If women can be a Captain in the new Police force or a leading politician then getting to be a chef should be no problem. There are considerable differences between the alternative world of Widdershins and our 1833, especially in gender equality (but I do wish the women would wear more hats). Before you know it, they’ll be wanting the vote. We do have one male chef -Mr Ethan Booth, who did not make a good first impression. Bet he does the dead animals.
      Take your point about chefs being er… traditionally built. Never trust a skinny cook (except Saint Delia).

      • billydaking

        And honestly, this is the best answer. Why is David demanding historical accuracy from a story that has already established that women are obviously more liberated in the 1830s and holding positions they never would have had a chance to in reality?

      • David Argall

        In about all cases except with the most determined anti-female
        standards, there is/was the rare female who has prospered anyway. The
        reasons vary widely, but our captain is merely a rarity, not serious
        evidence of any sort of gender balance. Our female politician is even
        more common. Still rare in many cases, but as long as we don’t posit
        laws forbidding her, entirely possible [and actually existing in a number
        of societies where she was forbidden.] On the other hand Barber is recognized by a brief description by someone who says she does not know her. Barber in turn is not outstanding in her trade. [She deals with a clerk in the lobby, not some bigwig in his office, and stands as well.] Our captain may well be lying, or our author may not have noticed, or cared about the implications, but an easy conclusion would be that Barber is famous for her sex, and thus females are rare in her profession.
        But, to paraphrase, one woman is an accident, two women are a co-incidence, and three women is enemy action. We have our three women here in the kitchen, and so we can start to wonder about the “enemy”.

        • I don’t really want to wade too far into this debate, but I will say it’s a shame that, in a comic where someone just shoved Queen Victoria out of the way of an exploding magical peacock, having a woman be better in the kitchen than a guy is what’s twistin’ your melon, man.

          • I had to look up the twisting your melon man reference. It wasn’t as painful as it sounded.

          • David Argall

            Since I’m here for the comic, not for the debate [tho rather clearly I like that too, perhaps too much, ] I don’t want you wading in too far either. Both/All of us would be happier if your time is spending drawing the comic than defending it.
            But saving Queen Victoria is just the act of the hero, and having the hero female is largely no big deal. Ignoring the obvious, there is little that any but the most extreme males have done that has not also been done by some female. [Even in the matter of fisticuffs, the legend has it that the Philadelphia riot squad was named after Black Maria, an innkeeper who served as her own bouncer, and boosted her income with two-fisted riot suppression.]
            But one lass succeeding in a heavily male situation does not justify several. Once we pass one, the concentration of rare cases tends to be off-putting, and some “explanation” is useful.
            A lot of people find a lack of “accuracy” distracting in even the most fantasy fiction. I was just reading a column in the L.A. Times denouncing a movie for starring a male snail. [Each snail has both sexes.] A friend of the family once complained of a thriller that the writer knew nothing about construction. [The ordinary human was shown doing what required Superman to do.] Etc, etc. Even when we are considering the very unreal, we want the “real”.

            • You confuse the hell out of me. Let’s take this story as an example – the creature/house/gluttony/whatever is clearly pulling people from all time periods. That makes your comment that chefs were historically made completely irrelevant.
              Personally, I don’t find women succeeding off putting, but it says a lot about you that you do.

              • Somebody

                Historically, it kind of bugs me, too. If the women were from other time periods, I’d be scratching my head, too. It doesn’t seem all that strange, though: one woman is a baker in the modern day, and in the modern day, lots of women bake. One of them is a woman from the 20s; correct me if I’m wrong, but I doubt equality of any kind was much of an issue if you went somewhere where rebels went to get drunk. She’s pretty clearly a flapper, and flappers don’t care. This only leaves the fifties cook. It’s just one odd point, not three, and easily dealt with.
                I like history, and I like gender roles throughout history; it’s just a topic that interests me. Goodness, I hope I’m not sexist.

              • KaReN

                Robin, I’m cofused, too. This is a comic story that have brought up so many fantastical events that suspends reality. It’s not a mystery comic based on a specific era which requires historical accuracy.

                Wow. I’ve been a reader of fantasy (magic, wizards, witches, etc..) and sci-fis since a teenager. That’s like 32 years ago. I Know it’s not real, it’s stories. To enjoy these books, one has to suspend beliefs or everyday realities…. I put my foot down and refuse to read books when vampires can now walk in daylight. Now That pushes my imagination too far to accept in order to enjoy the book…. But nitpicking about these women’s background era…. Remember Alexa is not a Baker yet – but she was chosen. One doesn’t have to be a certified baker to be chosen.

            • BaronHaynes

              “Hey, it’s statistically kinda weird that all of the best chefs chosen by the hotel are ladies” seems like a fair observation. Where you lose me is in the frankly weird, repeated demands for justification that this many women could be skilled enough to be considered professional. You reference statistics and anecdotes of men being vastly more successful in a variety of fields throughout history without ever putting forth a suggestion for why that’s the case. You’re careful to point that that you haven’t made a claim for why, just that it’s always been like that across a variety of fields.

              So far we’ve seen the hotel pick four people, out of the presumably thousands that have come through it since the late 1800s. You characterize the odds that all four could be female as being astronomical, and suspicious, only attributable to author invention or as-yet unknown gender preference of the hotel. One female excelling in any given field is an acceptable anomaly, but several apparently requires justification, because it’s so unlikely as to damage the reality of a story. Even when those examples are being pulled from across more than a century, and limited to only who’s walked through a hotel.

              I think your premise about the likelihood of many women being at the top of their field throughout history is incredibly narrow and wrongheaded, but the parameters of the story make it completely irrelevant anyway. The magic hotel picked four people it liked best and pulled them through time into one place. Sorry that the fact that they’re all women destroyed the story’s realism for you.

              • David Argall

                The “demands” are “repeated” only in the sense the subject continues to be in discussion. But yes, the reader is “owed” an “explanation” anytime something strange happens. That explanation does not have to be direct [a common one is to have someone in the story say that X shouldn’t be happening.], but our suspension of disbelief is challenged when something strange happens, and the reader needs help in maintaining it.
                It can seen odd that the reader can have more trouble believing small things than large, but there are reasons. Our story has magic, so the reader just has to accept that, even when knowing it is false. The alternative is to reject the story out of hand. But when the “flaw” is lesser, we have uncertainty. Did the author make an error? Or is this a part of the story we just need to accept? We are uncertain, and so have to consider the point more, and the more we consider it, the more the challenge to our suspension of disbelief. So our small “flaw” becomes more of a problem than the large.

    • Number 27

      So this is a two year old debate but I haven’t seen this point raised, so what the hey.

      I think it’s worth evaluating what “best” means in this context. It does not mean “most famous” or “best professional record” or “best trained” or any kind of metric like that. It means “best” as magically evaluated by the personification of Gluttony.

      This matters in two ways. Firstly, part of the reason some fields are and were male dominated is not that men are or were better at them but that women’s accomplishments in said fields receive comparatively less attention and acclaim. Gluttony obviously wouldn’t care about that so the actual ratio of men to women among outstanding cooks may be significantly lower than any human collected statistics would suggest.

      Secondly, I would posit that Gluttony cares more about taste than presentation, raw skill, or similar. It may also lean toward simple excess over refined restraint. That pushes things further away from the professional end of the spectrum and fits nicely with Rosie and the flappers.

      • DavidArgall

        Now female efforts do tend to be undervalued, but that would not apply here. Even in fields that are dominated by women, the top ranks are heavily male. The case I am most familiar with is Bridge, where the players are heavily female, except at the top. The prime reason is that to be the best at anything, one needs to devote great, even absurd amounts of time and effort to that goal. And the women with children or the prospect of children [the vast majority] can’t or won’t do this. We can argue to what degree this is the fault of society or other factors [and speculate how much the decline in the birthrate will lessen this effect], but when “Jane” has a choice between a job that will teach her to be a really great cook or one that gives her time off to change Little Johnny’s diapers, she opts for the diapers, meaning that while the talent may be there, it will not get the training, and the best cooks will be male.
        And while our story Glutton does go in for quantity, quality gets a big play too, and the story makes clear these cooks are Good! We see them acting as very highly skilled. It is not merely that Glutton deems more is better.

  • Sanjay Merchant

    So, Gladys is supposed to be Scottish? (Also, Rosie’s voice in my head kind of sounds like Mrs. Doubtfire.)

  • McFrugal

    I noticed something. Gladys implied there was a baker here before Alexia arrived. If the hotel only wants the BEST baker, the previous one must’ve been better than Alexia, but died while in the hotel. Gladys also implied that Alexia might not last very long. Is the usual cause of death accidental, or suicide? Whatever the hotel wants her for must be either dangerous or incredibly stressful.

    • It’s also possible it is somehow searching over time relative to the time they all end up in and sometimes it ‘finds’ a superior baker or whatever to what it has, and boots one back home in favor of the next…..but yeah Gladys’ demeanor probably makes that unlikely, huh…

    • David Argall

      A possible theory, but highly speculative. An alternate might be …
      King was only grabbed after she nobbed her competition in the cooking competition. [She did nothing against the rules of course, but letting somebody fail, particularly when you benefit, is not approved behavior.] So the hotel might be seeking not just the best cooks, but the best sinful cook. This would mean the staff “escapes” when they repent of their crime, do some good deed to make up for it, or maybe time-travel to prevent their crime from ever happening. So the previous baker found one of the ways out, back presumably to a normal life, possibly with no memory of the incident. That baker may or may not have been better than King, but we can’t tell if the rules of selection are more complex than just best cook.
      I’m inclined to doubt this theory myself. The other stories all involve resolving the situation, not just the personal problems of the hero. So King will likely need to find a way to “defeat” the sin behind this hotel. But it’s possible the story will end with King losing her original cooking contest. [A version I rather like is King is somehow able to prevent the trip and returns to the contest to find she has been been missing for just a few minutes. She also finds someone has ruined her cooking effort, Some time after that the unpleasant rival vanishes and she is left enjoying the idea he will be at the hotel a lot longer than she was.]

  • Darkoneko Hellsing

    Wait, so they don’t age while they’re stuck in that place ?

    • TrueWolves

      It’s more that.. they were pulled from that time period, probably some-what recently in their own relative sense of time if they’re still mostly sane about it.
      I forget how hard it is to describe time travel.

  • Afrodiseum

    To the raging debate on gender equlity in cooking and so forth. Three words, people. “Suspension of disbelief”. Relax and enjoy the story.

  • Miniplane

    It’s occurring to me that the hotel management has to know about this deal, and I’m starting to wonder exactly why they were holding a baking competition here…

  • Nomi

    Isn’t “way to go” an anachronism for someone from 1957? … but I LOVE this comic. Archive-binging, reading all 3 tales at a go.

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