Cleaning Out the Basement–The Family Book of Home Entertaining

book cover

The Family Book of Home Entertaining by Florence Brobeck, Doubleday 1960

This book has an undoubted retro-charm, recalling an innocent time of mailed invitations, teenagers willing to have a parent-planned party, and a time before evites and bridezillas. (And it can be yours for a penny at Amazon.)

It’s easy to scoff at, but in her introduction, Brobeck recalls her first “best party.” A stroll with her mother through a flower-filled field to visit aunts delighted to see them, who served lemonade and cookies on the front porch and offered a memorable taffy-pull to a happy, sticky five-year old.

Her description underlines that parties are ephemeral things, often made “best” by the perfect slant of light, the mood of guests, and other happy accidents that can be more important than polished silver and fancy china.

Like all details, they are simple but important. The smell of lemon oil in a house tidied before a dinner party. Welcoming drinks were served promptly, priming conversation, and dinner served without a fuss, because someone has thought ahead. You’ve got to pay attention, and it can all be accomplished without a glue gun.

Brobeck offers an encyclopedia of ideas for parties–families, engagement and bridal, holidays, children, teenagers, a whole chapter of costume dance parties (sigh), church parties, fund-raisers, parties where everyone gets in the kitchen to cook (uh-oh), folk-dancing and game nights, and how to entertain overnight and weekend guests.

So the pressure is on; what does she suggest for New Year’s Eve–the most heated party night of the year? Actaully, it’s pretty brilliant–a family song fest. Brobeck suggests sheet music and old English ballads, with a simple menu of coffee and sandwiches. I’d update for friends and family with alcohol and a karaoke machine. Let the uninhibited fun begin!

But it’s Brobeck’s New Year’s Day party suggestions that hold the most charm for me. A relaxed, single-pot lunch served in a sunny window to whoever is around and upright. Or an egg nog open house, with a big bowl of cold, creamy comfort, served with hot buttered corn sticks. Spike as needed.

annette joseph

Picture Perfect Parties by Annette Joseph, Rizzoli 2013, $39.95 hardback, 223 pages

If you’d like a more updated and visually themed approach, try Annette Joseph’s Picture Perfect Parties. She offers sensible advice, do-able menus, and for the ambitious, stylish theming.

Here’s to lots of celebrations in the coming year!





About Appetite for Books

read, cook, eat, repeat
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