How to Entertain at an Evening Reception

This is the second article in May of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on May 12, 1907, and is the last discussion on entertaining at meals.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Washington Times.

How to Entertain at an Evening Reception

NOBODY calls it a party nowadays. The word has been appropriated by politicians and “personal conductors” of voyagers, until the social flavor has been entirely dissipated.

A hundred years agone what we knew as a “reception” would have been called a “rout.”

I happened the other day upon a sentence in the “Life of Sydney Smith,” by his daughter, Lady Holland, that tickled me amazingly. It might have been printed in 1907, in the satirical critic’s corner of the Morning Trumpeter, of Chicago, Philadelphia, or New York.

The biographer of the clerical wit tells of his dissuading invited guests from attending a certain “rout” by “painting and describing in glowing colors the horrors of a dumplin rout—the heat, the crowd, the bad lemonade, the ignominy of appearing next day in the Morning Post.”

Cynical Views.

A blunt husband once defined his wife’s semi-annual assemblage of all her acquaintances as “saying grace over the whole social hogshead.” It is not unusual to hear sporting Benedicts allude to the big function as “wiping off the slate.”

The average omnium gathering, christened by society leaders “the reception,” deserves all this and more. It is no compliment to be invited to one, and seldom anything but a bore to the givers of the “rout.” In former papers I have spoken of the knack of bringing together congenial spirits as the very genius of successful hospitality. This selection of harmonious elements is impracticable when invitations are issued by the hundred. Somebody is bound to feel out of place and ill at ease. Host and guests are lucky if the “somebody” be not in the plural and do not include most of those present.

So well is the difficulty of entertaining a motley throng of acquaintances understood that the necessity of providing other forms of amusement than conversation is universally acknowledged. To this end card tables are laid in one room, a band of music a cleared floor for dancing in another, where the entertainers can afford space and money for these preparations.

So much for the general reception that clears off a multitude of social debts and leaves the mind of the hostess easy on the score of slights and affronts conceived in the minds of some of her dear 500 “friends.”

If, however, you, my reader, a woman of fair means and hospitable disposition wish to bring together under your roof fifty or seventy-five friends in the evening, perhaps, to mark the debut of a daughter, or to introduce to your circle of acquaintances a guest whom you delight to honor, you may make the function a pleasant memory to all who take part in it.

The dining table should be drawn to the utmost length that will allow free passage to the crowd that will troop into the room when supper is served. Chairs are set back against the wall leaving as much space as possible for the waiters and the men who supplement the hirelings in caring for the wants of their partners. If you have a handsome embroidered cloth of sufficient length to cover the table fully and hang gracefully over the edge at each end, use it. If not, dispose the prettiest centerpieces and doilies you have over the polished surface, leaving little bare space. The light should come mainly from candelabra and lamps. The supper table must be more brilliantly lighted than that laid for a dinner. A low bowl of flowers has the place of honor in the middle. Smaller bowls are nearer the corners, and dishes of fruit, tastefully arranged and garnished with leaves, flank the central ornament. For eatables have glass dishes of salads—lobster and chicken—sandwiches, boned and jellied tongue and chicken as substantials, and between them saucers or plates of salted nuts, bonbons, olives, candied ginger, small cakes, etc. Forms of ice cream and ices should be at the top and bottom and near the edge at the sides of the table to be accessible to the waiters. Annoying accidents to gowns and table furniture have been the consequence of carelessness in the placing of creams. The waiter should not be obliged to reach over intervening dishes to get at the fragile and treacherous sweets.

Receiving the Guests.

Hostess and daughters, with the master of the house—if there be one who is willing to bear his part in the reception—take their stand near the front door of the drawing room at the sound of the first arrival.

Dressing rooms are provided for men and for women. Wraps and hats are laid off in these, one or two maids being in attendance in the ladies’ dressing room to assist in removing mufflers and cloaks, and lending a hand in whatever rearrangement of toilettes may be required. The appointments of the dressing table should be complete and in order. Hand-glass, shoe and glove buttoners, hairpins, powder-puff, pins—and even a work basket, from which the maid may draw, at a minute’s notice, needle and thread to repair an unforseen rent—are little things which are no trifles in the time of sudden need. While women wear trains and cobweb draperies, and other people’s discarded hair, and renew damaged complexions with cosmetics, the provident hostess must cater to their infirmities.

Punctuality Not Necessary.

The hours during which the house will be open to arrivals are named the card of invitation. Punctuality is not a desideratum at this function. In fact, few make a point of being on time. If the hours be from 9 to 12 the rooms do not fill up until 10 and after. Supper is usually served about 10:30. The dining-room is then thrown open, and some member of the family, or friends who assist the hostess in her task, make the motion to enter. After the first installment of eaters has found the way to the table, the rest follow at their free will. Many partygoers make it a rule never to go into the supper room. There is nothing invidious in the refusal to partake of salads, creams, etc., at a late affair. As the veteran society woman sometimes takes in three receptions in one evening, the propriety of abstinence at one or two is obvious.

Says a social arbiter: “So long as guests are arriving, the hostess has no right to leave her post for food, or drink, or rest.” The justice of this cannot be denied, since the newest comer has the same right to attention as the first. Yet strict obedience to the rule leaves all guests to their own devices in a way which destroys, root and branch, the ostensible end of the reception. A brilliant woman, who is a figure in the best circles of the city where she is at home, told, in my hearing, the other day, the story of her experience in a house to which she was invited:

“I have what may be called a ‘calling acquaintanceship’ with the mother of the debutante in whose honor the evening party was given,” she said. “I had also met the daughter—a pretty and well-mannered girl. She stood at her mother’s side as I entered the splendid drawing room, bowed gracefully, smiled sweetly, and spoke my name as an echo to her mother’s cordial ‘Ah, Mrs. Blank! How very good in you to come.’ To her formula the hostess subjoined, ‘Louise feels highly honored that have paid her the compliment of attending her debut reception.’

‘Indeed I do!’ smiled the echo.

“I am sure that neither mother nor daughter would have recognized me in my evening dress had not the footman’s sonorous enunciation of my name reminded them of my identity. I lingered near the door and the reception group long enough to hear hostess and daughter say the same things in substance to ten other arrivals. Then I drifted through, the rooms, idly seeing, at least, a hundred faces—all strange to me—and not speaking person. Not a creature seemed to see me until I landed in the crowded supper room.

The table was superb, and well tended, for a waiter asked if he ‘might bring me something.’ I said ‘No’ and strayed leisurely back to the drawing room. By now the crowd was a press and it took at least ten minutes to thread it. I had been in the hospitable (?) mansion thirty-five minutes. As I made my adieux to the smiling twain on duty at the door, the hostess said sweetly: ‘Ah, Mrs. Blank! Going already? How very good in you to come! Louise feels highly honored that you have paid her the compliment of attending her debut.’ And dutiful Louise responded, ‘Indeed I do!’

“I went home and marked against the ‘Reception’ on my engagement calendar—‘Done!’ In that ‘social’ half hour I had not exchanged one syllable with a human being except what I have repeated.”

A travesty upon hospitality, you say. Perhaps so, but what more could the urbane hostess do for a single guest?

To avoid the hollow pretense of entertaining those who honor your invitation, ask a few intimate friends to act as pudding-sticks to the incongruous ingredients. Let some belonging to your family circle—relatives, if not members of your household—distribute themselves through the rooms, and look out for the stranger within your gates.

You cannot afford to employ paid artists to make music, to act plays, and recite for the delectation of the assembly. You are poor in expedients if you cannot devise recitations, charades, jugglery, or music that will give people who do not know each others’ names a few themes of common interest.

Family Meals for a Week
Housemothers’ Exchange

How to Entertain at a Dinner

This is the first article in May of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on May 5, 1907, and is the second last discussion on entertaining at meals.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Washington Times.

How to Entertain at a Dinner

A DINNER is the stateliest if social functions. The acceptance of an invitation to dine should be regarded almost in the light of a vow. We are all familiar with the dictum of a modern arbiter elegantiarum, who was also a wit: “Accept an invitation to dinner with care. When you have accepted, go, if you are alive. If your die, let your executor go in your place.” It is ill bred, because inconsiderate to the verge of unkindness, to send a regret, unless for reasons that would hinder you from the fulfilment of a business engagement of extreme importance.

The law is based like the majority of social rules upon common sense. In making up her company, the sophisticated hostess selects the component parts as she would compound a cake, considering the effect of each ingredient upon the finished product. I called attention to this fact last week, in our 1uncheon talk. The composition of a dinner party is yet more important on account of the longer time passed at table. The orderly progress of an eight or ten course dinner occupies from an hour and a half to two hours. To be tied to one’s chair when one’s next neighbor has not an idea in common with one, and sometimes no ideas whatever, so far as his companions can discover, is purgatory, not pleasure-making. Invite people who would enjoy meeting their fellow-guests, making sure to have one or more good talkers, who will act like leaven in keeping up general liveliness. So well is the expediency of this ingredient in the social loaf understood that some hostesses who do not number many brilliant conversationalists upon their visiting lists, go outside of the pale of personal acquaintanceship for what may be classed as good table talkers. The subject of table talk is one that has engaged the thoughts and pens of able writers. It is full of interest. With it we have nothing to do today.

Eight the Perfect Number.

Some one has called eight “the perfect number for dinner.” One additional leaf in the family board will usually grant all the room needed for that number. One word on this head may be useful, Avoid crowding chairs together to an extent that will make seating the guests a matter of difficulty, or bring their elbows into contact in the course of the business of the meal. Leave room for the waitress to pass plates to and from each place. But avoid, as the other extreme, wide reaches of cloth that impart to the air of a waste and dreary wilderness. Without crowding the decorations and the dishes of olives, salted nuts, celery, etc., that are catalogued as “hors d’oeuvres,” see to it that no ghastly expanses of white damask make the feast seem scantily set forth. These are minor details, but disregard of them has marred the symmetry of many a dinner.

Dinner is announced by the butler’s or maid’s appearance in the door of the drawing room, with a bow to the hostess, and “Dinner is served.” Have I ever told in this column the anecdote of the new maid who had been duly instructed her employer as to the proper form of announcing the several meal? When told the cook to let company know that all was in readiness for eating, she horrified that mistress by droping her Old World courtesy in the doorway, and voicferating at a pitch that turned all eyes to ward her:

“Please, ma’am, breakfast is on; luncheon is ready; dinner is served.” The matter of her lesson was correct. In manner and in discrimination of times and seasons she was woefully astray.

Your dinner, then, is served. You have already signified quietly to each man woman he is to take into the dining room. The woman takes his right arm, the party moves toward the entrance, the host leading the way with the guest of honor, or the oldest women present or the greatest stranger This question is between host and hostess in advance In unofficial Amen can circles there is no Axed law of precedence in these matters.

Setting the Table.

At each plate is the “service-plate,” and at the right of it as many knives as will be needed before dessert is served, each with the sharp blade turned toward the plate. Outside of the knives lies the soup spoon, with the inner side of the bowl upward. At the left of the plates the forks are arranged. Both knives and forks are laid in the order in which they are to be used, beginning with that farthest from the plate and working inward. If there be raw oysters, the oyster fork is placed at the right of the soup spoon or across the oyster plate itself. The tines of the forks are turned upward.

Spoons and forks intended for the sweets and for Roman punch or sherbet usually accompany the plates, saucers or cups containing these.

A glass of water stands just beyond the extreme tins of the knives. If wines be used, the first wine glass is between the knives and the tumbler of water, and the others are arranged in a curved line beyond the plate. Sauterne or some other light, sour wine goes with the fish; sherry with the roast, or other piece de resistance, and claret with game. If but one wine be served, it is usually sherry or claret. The waitress fills the glasses after each course from a bottle, about the neck of which a napkin is wound.

The table is lighted with candles in “fancy” sticks, or set in candelabra. If you have not enough of these to give sufficient light, supplement it by shaded gas or electric burners.

One cardinal rule in serving a dinner is that a plate must be in place in front of each person from the first to the last course. The soup plate is set down upon the service plate, and is taken up with it; the soup plate, in turn, is superseded by that containing fish, and so on. All the serving is done from the kitchen and side table, now called the “service table.”

The waitress sets down the full plate at the left of the guest and takes the emptied plate from the right. She also sets down clean plates from the right.

In serving, she begins first at the right, then goes to the left of host, or the right and then to the left of the hostess, thus going down, or up, until the master or mistress is reached last. Some still persist in the custom of serving the hostess first of all, but the fashion is passing away. The only excuse for it was that if there were anything wrong wish dish or serving, the blunder might be rectified before the food reached the guests.

Clear Table for Sweets.

Just before the sweets are brought on the relishes, salt and pepper are taken off on a tray covered with a napkin, that the removal may be noiseless, and the crumbs are brushed off with a folded napkin. For creams, etc., plates bearing doilies and finger bowls are set on from the right of the eaters. The are one-third full of lukewarm water. The doilies are transferred to the table by the guests, and the bowls set upon them, leaving the plates clear for dessert.

The water in the finger bowl is usually slightly scented, sometimes by a bit of lemon verbena or rose gerainum left floating in it, on which the fingers may be lightly rubbed. At a recent well-appointed dinner the finger bowls contained liqueur glass in which were a few drops of essence of wintergreen, which, just before handing the bowl to the guest, the waiter deftly tipped into the finger bowl.

Coffee is taken into the drawing room for the ladies. They withdraw from the dining room at a signal from the hostess, the men rising and remaining standing until their fair companions disappear, after which they will sit down for coffee and cigars.

If liquers, creme de menthe, benedictine or wild cherry are the sequitur of the dinner, they are passed in tiny glasses to the women in the parlors, to the men at the table.

It is not form for the latter to protract the sitting over “walnuts and wine,” coffee and cigars, beyond the conventional half hour of separation. Nor is it considered “the thing” to linger late in the hospitable mansion after a dinner party. If the hour for dinner be half-past 7, carriages should not be ordered for a later hour than half-past 10.

Menu for a Spring Dinner.
Clams     Cocktails
Consomme a la Russe
Baked Shad with Sauce Tartare
Fried Potatoes and Cucumber Salad
Sweetbread Croquettes
Crown Roast of Lamb with Mint Sauce
Green Peas     Asparagus
Roman Punch
Broiled Spring Chickens Lettuce and Tomato Salad
Strawberry Ice Cream (with the fruit frozen in)     Cakes
Crackers and Gorgonzola Cheese
Black Coffee

N.B. —Full dress is imperative at a dinner party. Sack coats, Prince Alberts, and skirts of walking length are inadmissible.

Family Meals for a Week
Housemothers’ Exchange

How to Entertain at a Luncheon

This is the final article in April of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on April 28, 1907, and is a discussion on how to entertain at a luncheon.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Washington Times.

How to Entertain at a Luncheon

IF IT be not the most delightful of modern social functions, it is likely to be one of the stupidest. As a rule, women are not gourmands. That her own share in what is cooked and served in her home is a matter of comparative indifference to the housemother has passed into a proverb. Where you meet with one woman who is addicted to the pleasures of the table, and like Watt’s sluggard.

“Talks of eating and drinking,”

you may count a hundred who, if each lived alone, would not have a regular meal cooked once a month. The epicure is a curiosity to her acquaintances. I was talking the other day with one of the gentlest and most charitable of her sex of the illness of her sister.

“The case is the more obstinate because the dietary is strict,” she remarked, lowering her voice, to a confidential pitch. “And” —here she glanced over her shoulder to make sure there were no eavesdroppers— “you know the poor dear loves good eating!”

What a Woman Enjoys.

The admission was a slur upon an otherwise well-bred kinswoman. Therefore, the enjoyment of a woman’s luncheon party depends largely upon the choice of one’s guests, and the disposition of the same in seating them at the table. When I find myself wondering secretly during the third course of the meal why I was invited to meet these people, and why, when there, I was seated next to a woman with whom I have not one idea in common, and who evidently is having hard work in the lame effort to be interested in what I am forcing myself to say—that party is to us two a dismal failure, no matter how elegant the appointments of the table, or how delicious the food.

It was a saying in my girlhood that passe belles had arrived at the “supper stage.” That is, that they consoled themselves with salads and sweets at parties where they used to enjoy the homage of admirers too much to care what they ate or drank.

The average woman of society gives the menu a third-rate place in her reflections upon dinner, supper or luncheon. Her husband easily consoles himself for the stupidity of his neighbors at dinner by devoting himself more unreservedly to the capital dishes for his acceptance. If the soup be clear and savory, the fish fresh and piping hot and served with tied right sauce; the ducks done to a turn and the venison tender and juicy; if the entrees be toothsome, and the coffee complies with each of Talleyrand’s stipulations, John is measurably compensated for temporary boredom. When he reports the affair to his wife on his return home he begins with a recital of the menu, and, this done, observes incidentally that “there was a somewhat dull lot of people there.” He “wonders where Smith-Jones picked up so many fellows who can’t talk.” Or—“A rattling good set of fellows, too!” as the sequel of the tale.

The Opposite of Men.

A woman tells, first, who were at the luncheon, how they talked and dressed; what good stories and lively chat went around the board; then, how the rooms and tables were decorated—finally, and casually, what they had to eat.

Too many guests at a luncheon party, or at any other function in a private house where all must sit down to table, is a mistake. I shall dwell upon this point when we talk of the dinner party. Twelve are not too many if the elements composing the company are congenial in tastes and in the same rank of society. To bring together the vulgar rich and the refined poor is a fatal blunder. I do not imply, of course, that a majority of the newly rich are vulgar, any more than I would intimate that most of the many who have not suitable luncheon gowns are refined. But you, the hostess, will be more at ease if no plainly attired woman suffers inward mortification from the contrast with the superb costumes of the rest of the party.

Hats Are Not Removed.

It should not be necessary at this day to observe that hats are not removed at a luncheon. Yet I have in memory sundry incidents that show the expediency of fixing this freak of fashion in the mind of the unsophisticated guest. The hostess and her daughters and the guest whose visit in the house us the occasion of the function are the exceptions to the rule.

Punctuality is absolutely obligatory upon the guests. It is ill bread to the point of rudeness to be a minute behind the hour named for the luncheon. It is also awkward to anticipate that hour by more than ten minutes. The butler, or the parlor maid, announces that “luncheon is ready” from the door of the drawing room, addressing the mistress pointedly, more in dumb show than audibly. The appearance of the man in correct attire, or of the maid, in her neat uniform of black gown, apron and cap, is the signal for a general rising—the hostess setting the example. She marshals the party in a pleasant, off-hand manner, coupling them as she has arranged thorn in her own mind, bringing up the rear with the guest of honor.

It is no longer the fashion to have decorated place cards. A simple card with the name of the guest written on it lies at her place.

How to Use Flowers.

In decorating the table, avoid strongly perfumed flowers, and, if possible, carry out a color scheme so well as to give harmonious character to the display. The boutonnieres laid beside the plates must be alike, and accord with the low bowl of flowers in the middle of the cloth.

If your dining room be well lighted by the natural illumination of day, do not, I beg, follow servilely a fashion introduced by dwellers in closely built blocks, where the blessed sunshine is unknown by the seeing of the eye after one leaves the street. If the rooms in which you entertain your friends open (?) upon shafts and courts, you must, perforce, light the luncheon table with candelabra, supplemented by gas or electric burners overhead. Shade all with silk or paper screens corresponding with your color scheme.

Cream of Celery Soup.
Fried Smelts with Lemon Sauce.
Stuffed Potatoes.   Broiled Sweetbreads.
Asparagus a la Creme.
French Chops.   Green Peas.
Tomato and Lettuce Salad with Mayonnaise.
Crackers and Cream Cheese.
Strawberry Mousse.   Cake.   Coffee.

Coffee and Bonbons.

Small dishes of olives, celery, salted nuts, and bonbons are on the table throughout the luncheon until the ice cream is brought on. Then all are removed except the bonbons. Coffee may be served at table or in the drawing room In the latter case the bonbons are also taken into the drawing room or into the library.

All the carving and serving is done from the kitchen—nominally, from the butler’s pantry. With a little training a tolerably competent waitress will learn to garnish such dishes as are to be passed for the eaters to help themselves, and to arrange tastefully the individual portions to be set down before them. For instance, the salad of this simple luncheon—which is easily within the ability of any housewife of moderate means and experience—is put on the chilled plates thus: A cluster of three crisp lettuce leaves is the bed on which half a tomato of medium size is laid. Just before the salad goes to the dining room a great spoonful of mayonnaise is poured upon the tomato. Minced chives are a piquant addition to mayonnaise, or to French dressing.

A sauce of butter, beaten to a cream with lemon juice and colored with finely minced parsley, is put into the emptied halves of lemons and set in ice until the fish is served. A half lemon accompanies each portion of fish.

Watercresses garnish the sweetbreads, which are passed on the dish, no carving being necessary. Asparagus is the accompanying vegetable, as the stuffed potatoes go with the fish, and green peas with the chops. Celery and olives go around in a desultory fashion at any stage of the luncheon after the fish course; crackers and cheese attend the salad.

Family Meals for a Week
The Housemothers’ Exchange

How to Entertain at a Breakfast

This is the third article in April of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on April 21, 1907, and is a discussion on how to entertain at a breakfast.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Washington Times.

How to Entertain at a Breakfast

“THERE would seem to be no leisure-class in this country of yours,” said an Englishman to his American host.

“What do you mean by a leisure-class?” asked the other.

“Oh, men who have no profession—no stated—ah—ah—employment. Who may dispose of their time as they like—ah—with no beastly sense of duty unperformed—don’t you know?”

“Oh, yes! we have plenty of that kind with us,” with an enlightened look. “But we call them loafers over here!”

For the lack of any other class of men who have time to take their pleasure early in the working day, the breakfast party is a rare function with us except on holidays, and in the summer vacation. That which I shall describe was given on Decoration Day by the happy possessors of a country house within an hour’s journey by rail from a great city.

As a matter of course, each of the two dozen guests who alighted at the station at 11 o’clock A. M. had had a light breakfast before leaving town. Equally as a matter of course, the last days of May were the hottest of a hot season. A thundershower had missed hopes of better things the previous afternoon, but, after the manner of May storms, had done its work in a half-hearted style. The air teemed with moisture on Decoration Day, and the moisture was steam.

“Breakfast in the garden, I suppose?” murmured an elderly bachelor on the drive from station to house. “The correct thing, I suppose. When I was a boy, my sister used to sing a song that expressed my sentiments concerning al fresco feastings. It was called ‘Tea in the Arbor.’ and told of

“Roses and posies to scent up your noses,
Lilies and billies, and daffydowndillies,”

and how spiders fell into a fellow’s cup and caterpillars crawled down his neck, and all that. This eating under the trees, and sprawling on the grass, with a teacup in one hand and a sandwich in the other, is a relic of savage feasts—of the stone age and cliff dwellers.” “Didn’t you enjoy picnics when you were yo—a boy?” queried a girl, her change of intention in framing the reply so evident that everybody smiled.

“Never did!” protested the bachelor, stoutly. “Give me civilized food eaten from solid mahogany, with knives and forks, and not with fingers and gnawed as the noble red man takes his victuals. It is a notable fact in this connection that your rural citizen never eats his meals in this barbaric fashion except when he has visitors from town. He knows better than to swelter in the hot outer air, tormented by flies and mosquitoes, when he could be comfortable in a shaded room with screens in every door and window. Of all modern humbugs, the playing at ruralizing is the most absurd. For we all know it isn’t rural at all!”

Had they been less oppressive an argument might have ensued. As it was, silence, felt by more than one to be depressing, lasted until the carriages discharged their respective loads at the foot of the steps leading up to the vine-shaded veranda.

The grumbler may have had the grace to feel ashamed of his unmannerly tirade when the company assembled in the great central hall through the wide folding doors of which the interior of the dining-room was visible. He made no sign of penitence unless that his admiration of the aforesaid interior was more pronounced than that of some of his fellow-guests.

A goodly sight was that framed in the arched doorway. Shadows that were faintly green and softly gray, and all cool, filled the long room. The blinds were bowed, and the light that found its way through the spaces left at the bottom and top of each window, was tempered before it entered, by vines and trees. The wistaria, enshrouding the house with draperies of pale mauve that looked like wreaths of fleeciest chiffon, lent perfume to the whole atmosphere.

With rarely fine taste, the hostess had banished other flower odors. No dying agonies of blossoms suffocated by the noonday heat and human breaths, would taint our food. The exquisite suspicion of wistaria-scent was sufficient unto us. The same just taste had ordered that the trailing vines relieving the snow of the table-covers should have their stems in water. The smell of withered smilax and ferns is especially disagreeable as the meal progresses and appetite is jaded.

The tables were round and of varying sizes. Some were laid for four, some for six, none for an odd number of eaters.

There were six waitresses, dressed in white from crown to toe—all attentive, and all so quiet that their gliding to and fro was like the passing of shadows through the gray-green spaces separating the groups of revelers.

Glasses, filmy with iced dews, and with a celestial compound of minced fruits, prepared parched palates for coming dainties. We named it “Decoration Day Ambrosia” on the spot, and by this name it is still known among those who tasted it then for the first time. Jellied chicken bouillon followed, accompanied by Virginia wafers, that melted in the mouth.

By now, appetite awoke to the appreciation that it craved something substantial at high noon after a thirty-mile trip on the railway, even on the hottest day of the (alleged) spring. Salmon timbales, masked by bechemel sauce, “did not,” as one connoisseur murmured to another, “mar the unities of the scheme.” Finger rolls went around with them. Cold tongue, embedded in tomato aspic, was the next course.

Then glasses of Roman punch revived the digestion for the more serious business of broiled spring chicken and the attendant asparagus a la viniagrette, laid within crisp lettuce-hearts. Cassava biscuits and cream cheese—homemade and delicious—intervened before strawberries, that had been gathered that morning — each a very paragon of its species in size, color and spicy lusciousness—were set before us. They were eaten in the English fashion—one we would well to adopt as a habit. Caps and stems had not been removed, and, holding the stems as handles, we dipped the beauties into fine sugar and made two bites of each. For beverages, we had iced coffee, tea a la Russe.

When we arose from table, we were at peace with digestions and the rest of the world and—stranger still! no hotter than when we sat down. I have eaten other summer breakfasts at which nothing hot was served. She was a wiser caterer who judged that one or two freshly cooked dishes appeal to the taste of really hungry people. She recollected, too, that some stomachs do not assimilate chilled food as readily as they accept warm; also that there is still with us a fair percentage of old-fashioned folk who do not affect “made dishes,” and account the serving and the eating of them as unpatriotic truckling to foreign tricks and manners.

Family Meals for a Week
Housemothers’ Exchange
Tasty Morning Dishes

Novel Ideals for an Afternoon Reception

This is the second article in April of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on April 14, 1907, and is a discussion on how to entertain at a afternoon reception.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of Boston Sunday Post.

Novel Ideals for an Afternoon Reception

IN THOUSANDS of American homes the habit of 5-o’clock tea is as confirmed as in the parent country, where the fashion is now hoary with age. It is a comfortable and a heartening custom. The tea-tray is brought into the family sitting-room—into the mistress’ sanctum—or, if the family be large, and the elements various, into the dining-room—wherever it is convenient to assemble the several members. The tea is poured by mother or daughter, a plate of bread and butter is passed, perhaps one of tea biscuits or light cake; there is cheerful talk over the teacups for fifteen or twenty minutes, if the household be busy, and the little party breaks up, each going her way until dinner time.

Should a visitor chance to call near tea time, the function is not altered. The tray is carried by maid or butler into the drawing-room, and the members of the family who are at home follow it.

In households where tea-drinking is dignified into a ceremony, and the quality of the beverage is made a matter of importance, the furniture of the tray includes teakettle and alcohol lamp, and the tea is brewed in the sight of the party. It is a graceful and a gracious “ceremony.” Stiffness and strangerhood melt before it, as frost under the sunshine. Talk is stimulated and good fellowship established.


The afternoon tea and reception is an expansion of the daily custom. An evening “affair” involves the necessity of a formal and a more or less elaborate supper. There must be music, and, nowadays, the hostess considers herself bound to provide some kind of “entertainment” other than dancing for the young people and cards for the elder guests. I make no pause here to bemoan the decadence of conversation as a lost art. Cards and dancing have taken the life out of talk. If a girl waltzes well, nobody asks if she can converse. If her mother, aunt or elder sister can hold her own at whist, or be an Horatia at the “Bridge”—what need of further social accomplishments?

Dancing and cards are varied by vocal and instrumental music, recitations, amateur theatricals—any novel fad that promises diversion to blase wordlings. The function is expensive, laborious and, to all save the debutante and the “young” beauty, tedious and trite.

“The only difference is in the caterer,” sighed a society girl in her third season. “I have been to twenty this winter. We say the same nothings; we meet the same set of people, and I know it all by heart before I go.”


The afternoon function is a happy combination of the best features of the two forms of hospitality. There must be a set table in the dining-room, or, if more convenient, in the back parlor. The hostess compliments two of her friends by asking them “to pour,” one at each end of the prettily decorated board. If the room be not well-lighted, have candelabra, and soften the gas or electric light by balloon-shaped shades of colored silk or crimped tissue paper.

I enter my protest at this point against the barbaric practice of receiving guests—fresh from the sun filled air of heaven’s own making—in rooms dim with colored shadows and reeking with the breath of drooping flowers, not to mention artificial perfumes wrung from gums and oils and patented as “French.” I know it is the fashion to shut out the sunshine and to steep the “chiaroscuro” left in the airless interior in color and (alleged) fragrance. I am told that complexions show to advantage in the “doctored” twilight. To my apprehension, the complexion that cannot stand before the light of God’s day is not worth the trouble of keeping.

A shaded light need not be gloomy. If your dining-room or inner apartment be insufficiently lighted, as is the case with town houses that back upon courts or small yards—make it cheerful with gas, lamps or candelabra, but do not shade it to such a degree that you cannot recognize your best friend, or discover by the seeing of the eye whether you help yourself to a sandwich or an eclair.

The tea equipage should grace one end of the table, a chocolate service the other. Sugar, cream and sliced lemon surround the teapot or samovar. A pretty fork lies across the dish of sliced lemon; sugar tongs accompany the silver or china bowl of cut sugar. The cream jug has a ladle. It also stands in a tiny silver saucer of its own that stray drops may not trickle to the embroidered teacloth. The apparatus for chocolate is less varied. A china pot, a dish of granulated sugar (cut sugar does not dissolve readily in the thick liquid), and a wide-mouthed jug of whipped cream, a spoonful of which is laid upon the surface of each filled cup.

The interval dividing tea and chocolate equipages is filled with plates of sandwiches, cakes, bonbons, salted nuts, fancy rolls, etc. — whatever goes to make up a bountiful “afternoon tea.” If you have the knack of making veritable scones—pronounced “skuns” — the introduction of these will vary the collation agreeably. The sandwiches should be small and the contents must not overlap the edges. The eaters do not remove their gloves, and the ooze of cream cheese or mayonnaise will soil finger tips. Another acceptable addition to the conventional menu is toast. Toast thin strips of stale bread to a delicate brownish tint, butter while hot, and wrap in a heated doily. In serving, open the corner of the doily, to show the crisp bits within. It is very popular. Hot relays should come in from the kitchen during the afternoon. You may spread some of the toast with anchovy paste or with caviare.

If you desire to give the function more the air of a “reception” than a “tea,” enlarge the menu by serving hot bouillon in cups, and have a side table on which is arrayed the paraphernalia of claret punch or tea—or mint—or strawberry punch. Iced sherbet or cafe frappe may be substituted for the punch.

The hostess and her daughters are content to leave the business of dispensing the refreshments to the friendly “pourers” and to waiters. Their duty is to receive the guests and to mix the social brew into a cordial which shall not pall upon any.

Introductions at this function are convenient and pleasant, but the truly well-mannered guest does not wait for a formal presentation to a fellow-guest in a friend’s house. That he, or she, is there, and on equal terms with herself, is a guarantee of respectability, and that she will not lower her social status by falling into easy chat with her neighbor if occasion offer. Americans are beginning to comprehend this sensible social principle better than of old. There is no longer any excuse for having a “stupid time,” when the stupidity is not in one’s self.


Sift a quart of flour three times with two tablespoonfuls of baking powder and one of salt. Chop into it a tablespoonful of butter and the same of cottolene. Wet with enough milk to make a dough just stiff enough to be rolled out. The softer the better, so long as it may be handled. Work the dough with a wooden spoon, not touching it with the hands. When mixed, roll out half an inch thick; cut in to rounds with a cake cutter, and bake upon a soapstone griddle, turning when the lower side is brown. Tear open, butter and lay within a heated napkin upon a hot plate. Eat soon.

Oatmeal Scones.

Mix in a deep bowl three cupfuls of oatmeal and one of white flour, two teaspoonfuls of baking powder and one of salt. Have at hand three liberal cupfuls of milk heated to scalding, into which you have put a tablespoonful of sugar and three of butter. Stir for a moment; make a hole in the centre of the flour and meal and pour in the milk. Stir it down into the milk with a wooden spoon, not once touching it with the fingers.

When you have a soft, rough-looking dough, roll it out about a quarter inch thick, cut into rounds and bake upon a hot soapstone griddle, turning to brown it on both sides.

Cream Scones.

Sift a quart of flour with two tablespoonfuls of baking powder and half a teaspoonful of salt. Sift all together twice, and chop into the flour two even tablespoonfuls of butter, as you would in pastry. Mix with half cream, half milk, to a soft dough; roll out into a sheet less than half an inch thick; cut into rounds and bake in a quick oven. Spilt and butter while hot.

Lettuce Sandwiches.

Cut the crust from white bread; slice it thin, and butter. Lay between two slices a crisp lettuce leaf dipped in mayonnaise dressing.

Lettuce and Cream Cheese Sandwiches.

Slice the bread very thin when you have pared off the crust. Butter smoothly and lightly. Spread one slice with cream cheese and lay upon the other a crisp leaf of lettuce dipped in mayonnaise dressing.

Mint Punch.

Melt a cupful of granulated sugar in the strained juice of six lemons. Then add three peeled and sliced lemons. Slice very thin. Leave all in a big bowl, set in ice until just Before serving. It cannot be too cold. Transfer to your punchbowl; mix in a quart of finely pounded ice; stir for a moment and pour from a height of two feet, upon the mixture three bottles of imported ginger ale. Lastly, add a dozen sprays of green mint, washed and slightly bruised between the fingers.

Tea Punch.

Make a good infusion of tea with four teaspoonfuls of the best mixed tea and a quart of boiling water. After it has drawn four minutes, strain it from the leaves and cool. Fill the punchbowl half way to the top with cracked ice; stir in a cupful of granulated sugar and the strained juice of four lemons. The tea goes in next, and just before it is served, a pint of some good table water.

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The After Entertainment Supper

This is the first article in April of the School for Housewives 1907 series published on April 7, 1907, and is a discussion on entertaining guests after going out to see a show.

This is the first in six talks that covers entertaining after a show, an afternoon reception, breakfast, luncheon, supper, and finally the evening reception. Reading this article late night receptions are really rather laid back with suggestions to prepare a simple meal before heading out during the evening. The meal does not have to be elaborate but it is always appreciated that something is provided.

Transcribed from the Sunday edition of The Boston Sunday Post.

The After Entertainment Supper

THAT a supper should follow theatre, opera, concert or lecture is a foregone conclusion. The evening meal, be it dinner or supper, is eaten at an earlier hour than usual, or hurried over, or abridged, that the pleasure-seekers may be at the rendezvous in season. The evening entertainment is a strain upon the strength, be it amusement or boredom. The party emerges into the outer air—which acts as an instant tonic to empty stomachs—full, it may be, of thoughts of what they have enjoyed or endured, but with one idea which overtops the rest in each mind.

That there are ways and ways of giving the indispensable supper I purpose to illustrate in this free-and-easy talk with my youthful, and, because of that youth, pleasure- loving constituents, by telling three perfectly true stories from my own experience.

The first is the tamely conventional tale of a rich man who got up a party of friends for an opera evening. He had a box for the season, and his wife assisted him in doing the honors of the occasion to six guests—three of whom were young. We were driven to the opera house in private carriages, and from it, when the opera was over, to a fashionable restaurant where a supper, ordered beforehand, was enjoyed by the juniors, and partaken of discreetly by their elders.


Chicken bouillon, mantled by whipped cream, prefaced an entrée of oyster-crabs.

Squabs and cepes a la Bordelaise were succeeded by a salad. Then came ices and cakes, black coffee and tiny glasses of Benedictine to reconcile the midnight feast to our gastronomic consciences—alias digestions. It was 1 o’clock when we entered the waiting carriages to be returned to our respective homes.

The second experience I shall record had in it an element that would have wrought chagrin but for the lively sense of humor with which kind nature had endowed the major portion of the participants.

Two young men—business partners, and credited with being “rising fellows,” asked me for permission to invite my daughters, my niece, my son, and my prospective son-in-law to see Booth in “Hamlet” on a given night. And would I chaperon the party when made up? All accepted, “with pleasure,” and on the evening appointed we were agreeably surprised by the arrival of the proposed hosts in two carriages, designed to convey the octette to the theatre. The weather was fine, and we could have taken the street cars conveniently; the hosts might be rising, but they were not rich, and our young people were not fastidious. Still, we were thankful for the goods the gods who preside over revelries by night had provided for us. We made no comment upon the unexpected luxury, and appreciated the evident intention of the pair to “do the thing in style.”

The play was long, and we were hungry when it was done. In comparing notes afterward all six of us confessed how we had settled in our minds that supper would be served for the party in a certain cafe that has an international renown, and which was delightfully convenient to the theatre—so convenient I caught myself sitting up in an expectant attitude as we approached the illuminated front of the stately building, and was conscious of a palpable chill at heart as we rolled rapidly by. With like rapidity we rolled past four other desirable—obviously desirable—stopping-places, and so on up to our own door. And never a syllable of supper had been lisped by the “rising” twain!

They ascended the front steps with us, but would not come in.

“It is late, and the ladies may be tired, etc., etc.” The usual polite nothings of thanks and deprecation were uttered; the hosts re-entered the carriages, and we went slowly indoors.

Once in the hall, we looked forlornly into one another’s faces—hungry-eyed and disappointed. Then our slang-loving collegian said:

“I suppose they didn’t have the price of carriages and supper, too!” and we laughed until the tears started. The servants were in bed, but we raided the larder in a body; bringing out treasures new and old, and sat over the improvised repast until the small hours were waxing larger.

The third party I shall report upon was of like size with the second. Eight is a jolly number for a theatre or dinner company. There were four “boys” and three girls, the chaperon making the eighth. Before we took the cars at the corner I had made arrangements for our home-coming. The night was blustering, and we felt as if we had been blown from the front porch into the hall with the unlocking of the door when we returned. The odor of coffee and oysters was in the warmed air that floated wooingly to us. Wraps and hats were tossed aside, and we trooped into the lighted dining-room, eager and happy. We were but human creatures, and to healthy mortals hunger is natural and commendable. There were stewed oysters, sandwiches, a delicious fruit salad, crackers and Swiss cheese, homemade cake, crullers, tea and coffee; and for those who dared not drink either so late in the evening, hot chocolate.

One word to the many who must partake of the after-theatre supper in restaurant and hotel:

If the host, pro tempore, be a young man, do not let him order in your hearing a sumptuous entertainment under the impression that he is doing you honor. Without the most remote intimation of a wish to save him expense, suggest the unwholesomeness of elaborate meals at that hour, and playfully check the disposition to “overdo things.”

I wish I could instil into the mind of Our Girl just appreciation of the position and capabilities of the average American man who is near the beginning of his business or professional career. At least two-fifths of our men “have their way to make in the world.” It does not argue stinginess in your escort if he does not invite you to supper on the way home from theatre or concert. In his code of morality debt is dishonesty. If your mother can contrive to have a little supper ready for the two when you get back, it would be a still better way out of the tangle, and earn his gratitude by sparing his self-respect.

In preparing an after-theatre supper there are many interesting yet inexpensive little touches you can give to a table to make it attractive. As time will necessarily be somewhat limited so late in the evening, it is well to have all preparations made beforehand.

In the first place, it is a mistake for the average hostess to attempt an elaborate supper; a simple welsh rarebit, creamed chicken or fish served in a chafing dish, with dainty sandwiches, a salad, cheese, nuts, candy, cake and coffee is quite enough. With welsh rarebit many people think they cannot get along without beer, but ginger ale makes a good substitute.

All of these can easily be prepared beforehand and the table set in readiness. Make lettuce or olive sandwiches, and also some of minced ham or chicken, mixed with a little cream. Cut some in crescent or diamond shapes and roll others. Tie them together with ribbons. Mass them neatly on plates, and set several platefuls on the table. Be sure to allow a plentiful supply, as hearty appetites are usually brought to these midnight feasts.

Instead of a cloth, use a centerpiece and plate doilies on a polished mahogany table and have it set early in the evening with all the plates, small silver and serving silver that will be necessary.

The chafing dish should also be in readiness on the main table. Some hostesses, however, prefer to have it on a separate side table. Especially is this the case if one is lucky enough to own the many new chafing-dish accompaniments, such as a glass shield to protect one’s gown from the flame, long handled spoons and forks, silver or cut glass cruets for vinegar and ale, and special little bottles for salt, pepper, mustard and the other seasonings used by the skilful chafing-dish cook.

There is also a new mahogany chafing-dish tray to hold these ingredients, which is really very convenient, as it means a great deal to the amateur cook not only to have everything in readiness, but to have it in one spot.

A delicious and appropriate salad for an after-the-theatre supper is made of pineapple cut in small squares and covered either with mayonnaise or French dressing. This is very attractive served in the scooped-out shell. The dressing can be made and the pineapple cut in advance, so all that remains to be done after the theatre is a hasty mixing together.

As a rule, a sweet is not necessary for a late supper. Cake, coffee and cheese make a very good dessert. If more is desired, however, use a gelatin or charlotte russe, which are easier to serve than ice cream.

A very attractive setting for a cake, and one which would really be decorative for the late supper, is to use a candle board. Such is made of ordinary pine, 18 inches in diameter, stained mahogany and furnished with a double border of tin candle pins, which should be set alternately to give a pretty effect.

An old silver snuffer or a plain wooden one should be on hand. When the hostess is ready to cut the cake she snuffs out the candles directly in front of her. At the close of the supper the hostess or maid, if she is present, passes the board, whose candles have been left lighted as a pretty decoration, and asks each of her guests to snuff out one or more. Such a board may do duty for all sorts of festive occasions.

The cake itself should be wreathed in smilax, clover blossoms, ivy, or any pretty vine or flower.

Marion Harland

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