The Sunday Night Tea

This is the first article in October of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on October 3, 1909, and is an article on Sunday night dinner and families having to do without their maid-of-all-work.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

The Sunday Night Tea

THE Sunday night tea is a memorial feast.

I have said that in effect before, and I repeat it now with emphasis. It is a standing and visible token of the respect paid by the great middle class of America to the wishes and privileges of the hired girl. That is what we called her in the day when the Sunday night supper was instituted for her express benefit. She is a “maid” now, and there are three where there was then one. But the institution stand sure and fast.

Let me guard that phrase—“the great middle class.” It has not the invidious meaning on this side of the water attached to it as in England. It signifies the backbone, the thews and red blood of the nation. The men who are hewing out their own fortunes; the women who are building and keeping homes; the architects of the best future of our land—make up the ranks. To come to practical details, I include in the term families of moderate means, in which regard for education of children is a duty; in which the expediency of laying aside a “Rainy day fund” for those who have no inherited wealth is a judicious economy. These are the households where the maid-of-all-work (a species that is growing rarer and dearer with every passing year) represents hired labor, the rest of the work falling upon the mother and her daughters; or, where the family is larger and the income justifies, there may be two maids.

Her Own Way.

Be her nationality what it may, the maid must have her Sunday afternoon or evening “out” or “off.” I append that last monosyllable advisedly. I know of more than one household in which the “hired help” sometimes elects to remain within-doors on Sunday evening or afternoon, when the weather is bad—or she is not feeling “quite fit.” She takes her half day off, all the same. Sometimes she retires to her bedroom and sleeps or lazes away the rest hours. I have seen one, at least, who dressed in her Sunday best and sat with a book in the orderly kitchen while her reputed mistress got up the evening meal, the maid never lifting her eyes from the book or paper on the table before her. When the china and glass were out of the way—washed and wiped by the employer—the real sovereign of the small realm was ready to receive “company.” If the fragrance of tea and toast ascended to the drawing rom later, blended with the cackle of Milesian mirth, the (alleged) mistress was conveniently deaf. “Norah is a treasure—neat, industrious, a good cook, honest and willing. And it is not easy to get a really general housemaid nowadays.”

So much for the reasons that have bound the Sunday night tea upon us as irrevocably as custom and tradition have decreed the Fourth-of-July fireworks.

Some blessedly optimistic housemothers assure us that they “rather like it. It is a relief from the hot dinner or supper to which we must sit down six evenings in the week.” Now and then one adds that “John and the boys enjoy it. It is fun to have me cook for them. And they like the unceremoniousness of it all.”

Personally (and I suspect if others were as frank I should hear many an “Amen!”) I look forward to the cold or semi-cold supper of the first day of the week with decided disfavor. It is right and humane and Christian that it should hold a place among our national institutions, and I make the best of it. That “best” is contriving that some especial delicacy shall invariably grace the board, and that there shall as invariably be one hot dish. The English call it a “cover,” signifying that there is heat to be kept in.

For a term of years, thanks to my self-freezing process, ice cream was the children’s Sunday night treat. We still have it in hot weather when the grandchildren visit us. Salads are the regulation dish, and of these there is endless variety. If the piece de resistance be cold meat, it is made as unlike as possible to the pallid chips and chunks and slabs that usually pass under that name. Pressed or moulded or jellied into comeliness, and garnished tastefully, it graces the foot of the board appetizingly to eye as to palate. Baked cream toast is a frequent and welcome visitor; likewise baked Welsh rabbit. “The boys” like both.

The chafing dish in the hands of an expert does wonders to alleviate the chill and cheerlessness of our First-day night supper. Among the almost countless delicacies the elder daughter or the mother may prepare before the gloating eyes of those who are as hungry on Sunday evening as one weekdays, I name as popular and “comforting” to the inner man Spanish eggs, olla podrida omelet, creamed oysters, shrimps and eggs, panned oysters, broiled mushrooms, cream cheese, golden buck, corm omelet and creamed fish.

I could fill the page with the titles of other dishes suitable for the memorial feast. Recipes for a few of these I have named will be found below. Tea and coffee *hot) are made on the table; likewise cocoa, iced tea and coffee are kept in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve them.

A Sunday Night Frolic.

If there be but one maid in the household, and she be “off,” the waiting is done by members of the family. One wise mother has trained her boys, lads of 10 and 12, to wait quickly and dexterously on Sunday night.

They make a genuine frolic of it, and vie with one another in the display of their skill. The plates are changed noiselessly by the little mock footmen, each girded with a white napkin while on duty. They are as grave as the primmest of English butlers, and play the part to perfection. The smallest children may be taught.

Another mother has three young daughters, who take turns in serving and waiting, while even the smaller children help. The office may be made graceful. Perfect breeding preserves the most lowly service from any touch of vulgarity. No household duty is in itself menial.

Spanish Eggs.

Heat a great spoonful of butter in the blazer of the chafing dish or in the frying pan. Have at hand a cupful of tomatoes, peeled and cut up small, or a can of tomatoes, drained from the liquor; four green sweet peppers that have been seeded, parboiled, cooled and minced fine, and eight eggs. When the butter hisses put in the tomatoes and stir briskly together with the minced peppers. When they have cooked three or four minutes break in the eggs, stirring all the time. Season to taste, adding a teaspoonful of onion juice, and as soon as the eggs are done serve.

Olla Podrida Omelet, Another Spanish Dish.

Make a roux of a great spoonful of butter and the same of browned flour by stirring them together in a frying pan. When the mixture bubbles add a cupful of tomatoes, peeled and cut small; a half cupful of mushrooms cut fine, three tablespoonfuls of minced tongue or chicken or veal (cooked and cold) and a teaspoonful of finely chopped red onion. Sit to a smoking mass—about six minutes will do—and break in six eggs. Stir constantly, tossing up the “podrida” to incorporate the ingredients well, seasoning with kitchen bouquet, white pepper and salt to taste. When the eggs thicken serve upon rounds of toast.

Shrimps and Eggs.

Prepare a roux as in the last recipe. When it hisses and heaves all over the surface stir in three sweet green peppers, seeded, parboiled and minced fine, together with a teaspoonful of onion juice. Cook three minutes before stirring in a can of shrimps from which you have drained all the liquor. Wash the shrimps and cut each in half before cooking. Simmer four or five minutes and break into the pan six eggs. Sit until the eggs thicken to your liking and serve.

Cheese Golden Buck.

Rub a cream cheese to a soft paste with warmed butter; season with salt, a little French mustard and a dash of cayenne. Set over the fire in a double boiler and stir until hot all through. Beat three eggs without separating yolks and whites, and stir and toss into the cheese. Have at hand rounds of buttered toast and spread the “buck” upon them.

Green Corn Omelet.

Grate or shave the grains from six ears of cold boiled corn. Have in a saucepan a tablespoonful of butter, heated. Put the corn into this and set in boiling water, tossing it until very hot. Leave the saucepan in the water while you make an omelet of six eggs and three tablespoonfuls of cream. Dish; season the corn with salt and pepper, and when the omelet is dished lay the corn upon it and fold the omelet over the inclosed vegetable.

Marion Harland

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With a Chafing Dish

This is the second article in March of the School for Housewives 1909 series published on March 14, 1909, and is an article on the chafing dish for Lenten cooking.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of the The Buffalo Sunday Morning News.

With a Chafing Dish

“DO NOT leave Paris without visiting M. Frederic Delair. To watch him as he prepares, on half a dozen chafing dishes, the pressed duck to which he has given an international reputation, is an experience you cannot afford to miss. And to eat it after he has cooked it is a gastronomic event.”

With the admonition in our minds, we left our hotel one August evening after a wearying round of last sightseeing that disposed us for rest rather than for new “experiences” of any kind. Had we not been hungry as well as tired, I doubt if even the fear of losing the spectacle of M. Frederic and the international gastronomic exploit would have tempted us forth.

We took a couple of motor cars for the party. The absurdly low rates at which the tourist may ride through foreign city and country are a lure to the expenditure of all one’s loose cash in riotous motoring; one is ashamed to recall after one returns to his native land and home cab and hack fares. In ten minutes after leaving the Normandie we alighted, cooled by the rapid spin through street and boulevard, at a modest restaurant in a quiet corner that did not look “fashionable.”

“Frederic Delair, Sr.,” was on the sign above the door. Generations of seniors and juniors may have served the public and filled their own pockets at the same “old stand.” The sensible Parisian does not move uptown as soon as he has made his fortune in a particular locality.

The interior of the famous eating house was no more pretentious than the façade. Several long, low-browed rooms opening out of one another were neatly furnished with tables set with the exquisite taste that belongs to the humblest French café. The linen was glossy, the silver shone and the glass sparkled. Flowers graced every broad and filled jardinieres were set in the windows. Early as it was, but one table capable of accommodating our company of five was unoccupied. Groups of well-dressed, well-mannered guests had taken possession of every room, and we were at once struck by the general air of expectancy that pervaded the assembly. It was no ordinary and conventional bite and sup that had drawn us hither.

The August Chef.

Down the middle of each room was a row of service tables, presided over by “garcons,” spick and span in attire, irreproachable in clean-shaven faces and in coiffure. We had hardly settled ourselves to our satisfaction when a man walked slowly down the length of the suite of rooms in the aisle next the service tables. His movements were so deliberate that we had time to comment in idle amusement upon the incongruity of his appearance with the smartly dressed officials before we noted that he addressed some remark in passing to the occupants of the various tables. He may have been 55 years of age; a full beard, which left his upper lip bare, was lightly grizzled; he wore a long frock coat, sagging open from eh waist down; a wisp of cravat was white; his build was stocky, and he stooped very slightly in walking. He might have posed as Edward Eggleston’s Hoosier Schoolmaster, or he might have been the Parson Poundtext of 50 years agone, just off the circuit of a dozen Tennessee counties. Not until he halted at our corner table and “hoped that mesdames and messieurs would enjoy the dinner that would presently be served to them,” enunciating the formula in gentle, persuasive tones in French that had a plaintive cadence, did it down upon us that he was connected with the café. A major-domo, perhaps, or a superannuated head butler, kept for form’s sake, we concluded among ourselves.

Amused curiosity gave way to amazement, as, with the mien of a master, he took his stand by the central service table and accepted the glittering carver handed to him by an obsequious waiter. At the same instant six men appeared in the kitchen door, bearing as many lordly platters, each containing a pair of roast ducks, plump, smoking hot and savory. In a trice these were set beside six chafing dishes we had not observed before. Each chafing dish was flanked by an odd construction of bright metal surmounted by a wheel. Five assistants seized carvers, and with the precision of machines, the ducks were stripped down to the carcasses. I never saw such swift carvers elsewhere. The sliced breasts and the disjointed wings and legs were laid upon hot dishes; all that remained—bones and stuffing—went into the hoppers of the queer machines, and the shining wheels revolved as if moved by one man’s hand and will. From the tunnels at the bottom of the presses began to flow into vessels set to receive it a rich, ruddy liquid—the very essence of the juicy, flavorous meat. This was turned into the deep “blazers” of the chafing dishes, seasoned, and thickened with the same marvelous speed and dexterity that had characterized the preceding maneuvers, and the double burners below the dishes were lighted. Between the lazing lamps and the door were glass screens hinged to protect the flame from chance draughts. When the bubble began, the sliced meat was laid in the unctuous gravy; a few minutes sufficed to heat it through, and pressed duck was served and distributed to the waiting and watching crowd.

As soon as the ceremony began, every man and woman there had turned about to face the high priest and his satellites. It fell out that the portion assigned to us in the corner was that prepared by the hands of the august chef. To say that e partook of it reverently would hardly be an exaggeration. Not a word had been spoken by him or his lieutenants while the swift work went forward to complete perfection.

Anywhere else the performance might have been ridiculous. Scene, actors and accessories made it almost solemn.

The French cook is an artist born. To Frederic Delair, Sr., the task laid to his skilled hands was as important as the rendition of a great musical opus to the maestro who plays upon men’s heart-strings as upon a well-tuned harp. If I had never comprehended until that night what has made his nation the banner cooks of the world, I would have learned the secret through the pantomime enacted in our sight.

The Lenten Chafing Dish.

As I have written once and again, we take cookery too lightly. If we do what is set before us, with our might, it is muscle and not spirit that performs the work. One and all, we might become humble learners in the Academy of the Fine Arts presided over by the grey-bearded genius who looked like a frontier circuit-rider, and felt himself to be a king among men.

An American author who has gained for herself an enviable reputation as a past-mistress in the manipulation of the utensils she praises, writes of the chafing dish:

“There are still a few people who have so little appreciation of cookery as a fine art that they are bored by the sight of the workings of this utensil. These persons are, happily, in a small minority. Nearly every one feels a keen interest in watching the preparation of the dish that is soon to gratify his palate, and the hostess who presides over the chafing dish is usually flattered (or fluttered) by finding herself the center of observation.”

In another chapter of the valuable little handbook of the chafing dish from which I take these hints she goes on to say:

“The housekeeper of either sex who cooks on a chafing dish should be careful to have all the ingredients at hand before beginning operations. Many a good dish has been injured, if not actually spoiled, because the cook has had to wait at the last moment while some one hunted for the pepper, or measured the milk, or rushed for the lemon squeezer. Most of the measuring should be done in advance, and each ingredient should be put in place by the hand of the one who is to do the cooking.”

I congratulate the members of the Exchange in advance upon the fact that the few recipes, which are all I have room for here, are extracted by special permission of the author from the dainty and practical handbook to which I have referred just now. I purposely select dishes suitable for Lenten luncheons and suppers.

Fresh Cod with Anchovy.

Flake cold boiled cod, and to two cups of this allow two hard-boiled eggs, minced fine, a tablespoonful of anchovy paste and a cupful of white sauce. When this last is cooked smooth and thick stir in the anchovy and the eggs, and then the fish. Toss up from the bottom, that the taste of the anchovy may get all through the fish.

Shad Roes, Sautes.

Prepare the roes by boiling ten minutes in salted water to which has been added a teaspoonful of vinegar. This may be done in the lower compartment of the chafing dish. When the roes are done lay them in cold water for five or ten minutes to blanch them; then dip them in flour. Put two tablespoonfuls of butter into the blazer and lay in the roes. They will cook more evenly and quickly if you will cut each into two or three pieces.

When they are done, take them out, melt a little more butter in the blazer, and serve this with each portion of the roes. Pass sliced lemon with this dish.

Panned Oysters.

Melt two tablespoonfuls of butter in the blazer, and when it hisses lay in it twenty good-sized oysters which have been drained and dried between two towels. As soon as the edges curl, dust with pepper and salt and serve at once on toast.

Oysters a la Poulette.

Thirty oysters, one pint of cream, one tablespoonful of butter, one tablespoonful of flour, one-half teaspoonful of salt, saltspoonful of white pepper, three grates of nutmeg.

Put in the butter, and when it simmers, add the four; stir smooth, and mix in the cream, stirring constantly. Boil up once and put in the oysters. Cook about four minutes. Hen they plump nicely, season and serve on buttered toast or on toasted and buttered crackers.

Panned Oysters a la Newburg.

Cook the oysters as directed in the last recipe, and when they “ruffle” or “curl” stir in two tablespoonfuls of sherry in two tablespoonfuls of sherry or madeira. Cook one minute longer and serve on toast.

Little Pigs in Blankets.

Drain large, plump oysters and wrap about each a very thin slice of corned pork or fat bacon, skewering them together with a stout straw or a wooden toothpick. Lay in the heated blazer and cook until the pork heated blazer and cook until the pork or bacon is clear and crisped.

Eggs with Black Butter.

Three tablespoonfuls of butter, half a teaspoonful of vinegar, salt and pepper to taste; three or four eggs as you have room for them in the blazer.

Cook the butter in the blazer until it is a dark brown—almost black. Break in the eggs then, one at a time, and carefully, lest they should run. Baste with the butter until they are done, adding the vinegar just before you take them up, and sprinkle with pepper and salt.

Marion Harland

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Individual Chafing Dish Course for a Woman’s Luncheon

This is the second article in April of the School for Housewives 1904 series published on Apr 24, 1904, and is a short article on the chafing dish.

School for Housewives – Individual Chafing Dish Course for a Woman’s Luncheon

Serve one course of your informal luncheon in chafing dishes if you would have a flavour of extreme novelty and up-to-dateness permeate the little function. Wee individual chafing dishes, just large enough to contain an individual portion, are now sold in the shops, and hostesses who appreciate the value of novelty are taking advantage of the innovation. The materials for a delicious dish – creamed sweetbreads o chicken or mushrooms, we will say – are found in the little silver cooker set before each guest. The alcohol lamp under the dish is filled ready for lighting, and seasoning as well as any additional ingredients are passed by the maid. New stories, witticisms and good humored gossip circulate around the board, while spoons stir and silver or nickel dishes emit tempting odors. Every hostess of experience appreciates the value of some little innovation in entertainment-giving. A single touch of novelty is often sufficient to insure the success of the whole affair and it stamp it with the seal of originality.

Marion Harland

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Creamed Sweetbreads a Chafing Dish Dainty

This is the third article in April of the School for Housewives 1903 series published on Apr 19, 1903, and is a short article on cooking with the chafing dish.

School for Housewives – Creamed Sweetbreads a Chafing Dish Dainty

A good chafing dish dainty for a late supper is creamed sweetbreads, served on toast; with coffee and little bread and butter sandwiches it is vey satisfying. Its strong point is that it is quickly done, requiring only heating at the time, as the creamed sauce and sweetbreads are prepared in advance, without in any way taking from the delicacy of the dish.

A pair of sweetbreads, one pint of cream sauce and a dash of sherry are the ingredients.

The sweetbreads should be cut in small discs. The cream sauce is first put in the dish and heated, stirring all the while. When the sweetbreads are added the stirring continues until the boiling point is reached. The lamp is then lowered and a wineglass of sherry added. This may be served on toast or in “patty” cups.

To make a pint of cream sauce take two tablespoons of butter, two of flour, one pint of cream or milk, half teaspoon of salt mixed with the flour. Blend the butter and flour until a smooth paste, then put on the fire and add gradually the cream. Stir constantly until the proper creamy consistency is reached, which should take twenty minutes. This quantity serves four.

The sweetbreads are simply parboiled.

To make the bread and butter into dainty little sandwiches is much nicer than to have the “spreading” of it at supper time, while the plate of prettily shaped sandwiches adds to the feast.

Marion Harland

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A Tempting Chafing Dish Luncheon

This is the first written article in March of the School for Housewives 1903 series published on Mar 29, 1903, and is a short article on luncheon.

School for Housewives – A Tempting Chafing Dish Luncheon

A spring time luncheon for two, which contains one hot dish, sandwiches, fruit, cakes and coffee, may be cozily served with the aid of a chafing dish, on a small table in the sitting room.

Creamed shrimp on toast is the hot dish selected. It is simple enough to be successfully prepared by a novice. Beat in a chafing dish the yolks of two eggs, half a cup of cream, a teaspoonful of anchovy sauce. Sit all the while with a wooden spoon; when the cream begins to thicken put in half a pint of boiled shrimp. Let the shrimp get hot, but do not allow to cook long enough for the eggs to curdle. Serve on strips of toast.

To make the lettuce sandwiches, cut the bread out with a sandwich cutter, removing all crust. The lettuce s cut into strips, not minced. These are put between the buttered slices of bread and well moistened with mayonnaise.

The strawberries are served with shipped cream; a tempting plate of macaroons is passed with them.

Coffee is large cups is served all through the lunch.

This gives quite a sufficient repast to invite a friend to enjoy with you, and yet involves so little fuss that it is in the reach of the college girl or bachelor girl, who has only a limited amount of room and convenience.

Marion Harland

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