Cleaning Out the Basement–What to Serve at Parties

whattoserveThis is the best cover ever!

The vibrating color combination, The paper’s subtle zig-zag texture, the signee ladies in slinky dresses and hats, and the graphic font layout.

This pamphlet-style publication doesn’t include a year, but from those dresses and font, I’m guessing the 1930s. It was “prepared by Sarah Field Splint, Director McCall’s Department of Cookery & Household Management, McCall’s Magazine, N.Y.” Her goal is to answer the “troublesome” question of finding “something different” to serve that is still in keeping with the “party plan.”

Ms. Field Splint was prolific magazine and cookbook writer, with works on Raisin Cookery, Table Service and Accessories, and Some Hints on Deep Frying. She’s even made it into the Library of Congress, in this picture, posed at her desk.

And while the cover may communicate a sharp modernism, the recipes are pure “ladies lunch,” with color coordinated gelatin salads for a Queen-of-Hearts Tea or St. Patrick’s Day lunch. Historic occasions like Lincoln’s birthday warrant a dinner, but the dishes are completely unmoored from a historical or geographical accuracy that we might search for today. In between holidays, these cooks seem to run from teas to bridge parties to luncheons, punctuated by a campfire supper or wedding breakfast.

Naturally, the ethnic recipes–Italian Tea Cakes, Japanese Dainties, and Russian Favorites–are vague reproductions. And ambitious recipes like Lobster Cutlets (heart-shaped), Blackberries in Shredded Wheat Baskets, and even Wedding Cake are presented in a brusque few paragraphs. I suspect someone behind the scenes or that this is aspirational cooking. My copy has not a single splatter.

Though delightfully dated, the pamphlet includes one prescient recipe–Iced Mochalate–so spelled. An iced blend of cocoa and coffee, flavored with vanilla. “Whipped cream may be added, if desired.”

About Appetite for Books

read, cook, eat, repeat
This entry was posted in cleaning out the basement, Culinary Historians of Washington DC, design, entertaining, full menu, history and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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