Thursday, July 28, 2011

How To Entertain At Home (1952)

Well, bust my buttons! If it isn't the old blogger crowd! How-dee-do? It's been more than a week since I've taken MCM pop culture under the microscope. Between the crazy schedule at the library, marathon viewings of Rupaul's Drag Race (BEST. SHOW.), Wii Fit commitments (29 days straight...and counting! I'm going all Conan the Barbarian on you all), thrift store rounds (mostly successful), and a winning night at Drifter's trivia (team "Touch My Butt" for the fifty dollar gift certificate! What now!), I've been M. and I. and A. But that doesn't mean I haven't still been nosing through fifties' hostess manuals for hot tips... no sir. I submit, for your approval, Today's Woman's How to Entertain at Home, published in 1953.

While I wasn't initially impressed by the cover, the inside of this book proved to be a lavishly illustrated treasure trove of quasi-candid party photos, hints and helps, etiquette to keep in mind... just right up my Eisenhower-influenced alley. I love the subgenre of "You needn't be afraid to throw a party!" hostess literature, because it really does speak to the fundamental fear of those lacking a state representative in the family or a family tree that dates back to "Washington, George"... simply said, "What if I do the wrong thing and people hate it!". The tone of How to Entertain at Home reminded me a little of the indispensible Entertaining is Fun by interior-decorating doyenne Dorothy Draper. The tone of both texts share the constant reassurance that you, the timid hostess, are perfectly capable of throwing a ball or a barbeque, if only you set your heart and mind to making it so. And you follow through with a few helpful guidelines set forth in the text. Cue weeping, thankful me, poring over party set ups while skewering cocktail weenies.

I! Want! To! Be! Unharried! In my regular life as well as in my hostessing duties. Like I said earlier, a lot of the photos, while obviously shot on dummied-up sets in a studio, have realistically non descript models in realistically posed shots. You feel a little like a fifties' fly-on-the-wall in scrutinizing their living rooms.

We get a double shot of this lady's Jane Wyman-esque hair, and I can't say that we are the worse for it. While you check the ice box for more mixers, I'll be admiring your pert neckerchief and pretty white party dress.

In the photograph below, our Wymanite is emptying ashtrays and clearing party clutter in a (probably futile) attempt to nudge guests towards a departure. I always like the last group of people at the party... maybe it's the Rat Pack in me, but the last four or five people to go are usually pretty cool. Like that guy on the right. Get it, with those socks, mister! Get it!

I am deafened to all other commentary by my great and heaping jealousy of this lady's nineteen inch waist, excellent mid 19th century portrait above sideboard, her Sven-lookin', turtlenecked boyfriend, and XXL salad bowl. Where do you store that for occasion in which a mixed salad the size of New York is not necessary? Ah, nuts. To be the people in the book sometimes.

"The host will lose his suavity in the eyes of the guests if the equipment seems to be his master." And how! This "grillmaster" has turned into a smoky mess... sometimes, however, the epic nature of your failure to be master of your own party's destiny, with the right amount of panache and self-deprecation, can actually turn into comedy gold. By the bottom, they seem to have gotten a handle on the situation, and we the viewers are now at leisure to admire the ladies' Mexican skirts. And how!

Below: gonna need that couch. And that op-art skirt. This illustration reminds you not to let the life of the party turn into the death of the party by letting them go on and on about an uninteresting subject. I've worked hard to become an ace at interjecting to change the subject, coming from a Barbara Walters like- focus on getting everyone involved in the conversation. I've made it part of my life's ambition to make social gatherings just that... SOCIAL. How I hate people to feel shy and unwelcome at a party! And nothing better serves to alienate people at a party than a) cliques of people who know each other only talking to each other about things that only pertain to themselves or b) one person holding forth on a topic that is of interest only to himself, but in that regard, is INFINITELY OF INTEREST to him, and possibly verging on offensive or at the least insensitive to others. Stamp out bad manners, party planners!

Look at the one lonely little placard at stage right. I wonder what it is!

Do you see what I mean about the models looking like regular people for the most part? I'm really into the guy at right's t-shirt, slacks, and sunglasses look. I wonder if this would have looked needlessly casual when readers in the 50's saw it, ie, is this supposed to be an example of a half dressed, sunglasses-on-indoors guy who's bombed on Old Fashioneds, or is he INTENTIONALLY pulling a James Dean and actually looking pretty cool at it? We won't know, I guess.

All the different glasses you need to have a fully stocked set of barware. I have like 14 of these 17 glasses, and how often do I use them? Oh, about twice a never. Plasticware all the way at the parties... I can't have people thoughtlessly breaking my cordial glasses!

My bathroom has this same (I'm assuming) pink tile and black border tile as this bathroom! Also have a little vanity shelf like that. Wish I had the same sink.

Look. At. The. Dress. YES. Dear Lord, make me over as a wasp woman, so I can be my own Amazonian size but still fit into tiny dresses like this. Amen.

"Who do? You do?" the dinner partners seem to be saying to one another. There's that cute dress from above again below at stage left. Taunting.


I always thought patio furniture like this was more of a 70's or even a 90's thing when I see similar sets at estate sales, but lo and behold! Of 1952 vintage, here's a set of wrought iron chairs. REEEALLY need to replace dumpster-dove wicker pieces (which are actually falling apart) out back with a MUCH less unsightly set. These would do! Craigslist, I'm looking at you.

I love the look on the bow-tied man's face. What exactly did the lady in the kerchief (kerchief #2! Yes!) say to be deemed by the author as "in bad taste"? "Have some smokes, Jim." "HOW COULD YOU?!" ((stamps away)).

Remind me to make my own card table over in this one's image at the next party. Could it be prettier? Possibly with the addition of decorative doilies, but just by a hair.

The woman above has surprisingly little hair even for a fifties' person. I wonder if she's the victim of a drastic "chignon"ing or what is going on. Her makeup looks great.

Below, the perfect table setting for me to burst forth with my silver pheasant shaped salt shakers (I have two like this one). Let it roll!

Sandwiches like a song!

As I continue to iterate and reiterate, if you come by my house after 10 pm on a weeknight, you will not be greeted by delicious po' boy sandwiches and hot chocolate. You will probably be greeted by a locked door and a sleeping Lisa. I am sorry for this, but it is the true state of things.

What to commend first? The wallpaper? The sylph like blonde in the cute shorts? The man rocking both a tocque AND a bowtie? Beauty #2's hair? You decide.

So beatnik of that gal to have those cute Carolyn Jones bangs. Do we ever approve.

My bar cart does full-time duty as a shelf to display all the glassware I won't let people use at parties... I really must loosen up a little and let it free! Look how cool this looks!

A girl that looks like someone James Bond would chat up in a bar is talking to the wasp waist woman's boyfriend Sven! Right in front of the 18th century portrait I was coveting earlier! For shame, Sven. For shame.

There is not one thing wrong with this picture. See the great deck chair? The portable cooler chest? The woman at right's perfect hair and family?Later, a swim with the neighbors on vacation. Framable.

I don't know how I feel about cutting out hamburgers as you would biscuits, but there you go.

There's a whole fifty page section on drinks and bartending I was too lazy to post... do I smell a sequel? :)

How's the summer treating you all? Any great party blow-outs to report? Will keep you posted on the hostess brainstorming I do before the hostess BARNSTORMING I do. Ciao for now!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

BHG Snacks and Refreshments (1963)

Oh, Better Homes and Gardens... you do right by me every time. Am I looking to throw another shindig in the not so distant future? Do you have booklets and compendiums for EVERY ONE of my cooking and entertaining needs? A resounding YES! is my answer.

I spy, with my little eye, bright. Green. Frozen. Beverages. on your cover. As if it weren't enough to impress me that you've assembled a sputnik style antipasto tray of shrimp and varied "dunkables", you had to go and make a neon green beverage look much more appetizing than it truly should. I want that drink! BHG'S Snacks and Refreshments, published in the year of our Lord 1963, is a true treat to the eyes. My little head is just swimming with hostess ideas, and menu planning. Wouldn't you like to take a look with me?

"Ribbon Alaska Pie- a dessert dazzler!"... and how. Just look at the names of some of these dishes from the table of contents page: "Grilled Cheese Italiano", "Sombrero Spread with Tostadas", "Grand Glorious Punch". Explaining to your hungry guests that we're not just having grilled cheese, but grilled cheese alla Italia... ah, BHG, you out do yourself.

I keep seeing cheese plate hostess sets at Goodwill but I'm holding out for one like this... simple, possibly Japanese influenced, with peg legs and an extension for kebab storage, and... do you see the warmer/grill to the left! Helllll-o. I haven't had any experience yet with chafing dish recipes at the parties I've had, but I look forward to doing it in the future. I always worry about slightly sauced guests burning either themselves or my treasured goods through unintentional insobriety, but it's worth a shot, right? I'll just keep my guest watch on high alert (roaring "Lemme get that fondue stick for you, pal...!" while advancing at a clipped pace towards the future scene of the accident).

I love these chicken dip holders! The feathered tails must serve as handle. Genius. I like to think of what this picture looks like in color with the painted birds and the green guac.

Remember the olive loaf from my last post on Better Homes and Gardens? The editors of BHG reeeeally favor salty dishes. Here's an olive cheese ball, to continue running with the olive theme. I resisted at first, but cheese balls are possibly (second to devilled eggs, but what isn't) the penultimate in buffet style party menus... I always make two, shape them in the form of hedgehogs, put one out at the beginning of the party and switch it for a replacement one about halfway through...they're killer every time. You wouldn't think something so simple to make would be such a big hit, but it always fares better than its more complicated contemporaries with regard to overall edibleness. Vive the cheese ball!

Speaking of, if you're going to make a cheeseball, you should probably "Know your cheese!" That's an order, soldier!

Piccolo pizzas, adorable moniker aside, sound easy and yummy at that same time. Pretty much "party pizzas" (a staple of mid century teenage cookery) but don't they turn out looking spiffy?

Clam dip... just seems like an invitation towards food poisoning. But your guests won't be able to stop nibbling! I really think this photo would have been more effective in color, BHG.

I'm continually mesmerized by the organization and sheer "wow" factor of the food layouts. While I usually just go for a smattering of paprika on my devilled eggs, next time maybe I'll hit them with a piece of pimento and a sliced olive... makes them look more substantial, somehow. My artichoke hearts always come out slimy, I don't know what I'm doing wrong. Do you see how the set here goes together, with three connecting trays? I'm after you, hosting trays. I won't rest til I find THE ONE.

You just shouldn't "sip" a snack. Lots of the recipes in these fifties' and sixties' recipe books call for consommes and aspics as a main course, or "refreshers" whose main ingredient involves bullion. Maybe it's my latter day, millenial upbringing, but it just seems to weird to drink a main course. Have any of you had any good experiences with these beverages in our modern age?

Why, and I repeat, why are people showing up at my house after 10 pm? I am sleeping! I have to get up at 6:15! Remember the Ten PM cookbook? Umbrage? Taken.

It's hard for me to conceptualize a world in which the international cuisine we consider to be de riguer was a new and exciting concept. In my lifetime, there has ALWAYS been a time when, even in sunny Tennessee, you could get a pizza, a taco, or a wonton with the flick of a phonebook. In the sixties', people had just begun to taste foreign food influences on a national level, probably with the proliferation of fast food restaurants...? (I need to consult the books of Jane and Michael Stern about this). Here, BHG makes the assertion that pizza "has become as American as apple pie!" Doesn't it just make you a little misty...

Scramble....essentially Chex Mix. Party food invention of the decade, I'm sure. I like their suggestion at the end of this blurb: "Nice go-with: fudge". With what is fudge not a nice "go-with"? :)

This "homemade doughnuts recipe" reminds me of a time in high school, during the summer, I called my mom at work. The conversation went something like this:

Mom: This is Barbara ________at the American Red Cross, how can I help you?
Lisa: Hey mom, it's Lisa. Sus and I were just doing some cooking and we were wondering if you could tell us how you fry doughnuts.
Mom: ((puzzled)) How you fry what?
Lisa: Doughnuts. We were bored so we were gonna try and make some doughnuts off the back of Bisquick box. ((unsure pause)) I mean, it looks pretty easy. How do you get them to fry, though?
Mom: ((mildly exasperated, and still at work))You don't! Well, you wait until I get home. Or you wait until you get your own home. DO NOT TRY TO FRY DOUGHNUTS UNTIL I GET HOME.

Owing to my having caught a paper plate on fire on my very first day inside our new home, I was on kitchen watch for pretty much the rest of my time living with my parents. I love looking back on the idea of Susan and I trying to MAKE doughnuts, as we had no means by which to get to the store and acquire already made ones. Sometimes, a hankering is so strong...

I want to belong to a club which I will in turn serve! How pretty are these plates and flowers and little cheesecakes?

Really, you had me at "hamwich".

This is a pretty serving idea for cheescake, look how the strawberries make it look like something of which Martha Stewart would approve.

In case you ever need to know, BHG shows you how to properly set a table. I know these rules aren't written in stone, but it's nice to have a playbook from which to work, especially when you're starting from scratch. How pretty it looks.

I want my punch bowl to look EXACTLY like this. I usually add lemon slices and orange slices not just to zest up the favor, but as you can see, to totally up the aesthetics ante. Lovely!

Fancy sandwiches, an old-time favorite of mine at parties. I try and collect tiny cookie cutters to make funny shapes (stars, hearts, dinosaurs, etc). Since I began my carb war, I'm less inclined to serve these, as I can't walk by a strawberry and cream cheese sandwich without just trying one, after all, I did make them, and just one couldn't hurt... but they make for gorgeous presentation.

Frosted sandwich loaf. Up there with the consomme under the category of things I do not understand. People who were around in the sixties who I often quiz on ideas I see in books (my mom, Babu's mom Deb, anyone over the age of forty) swear up and down that this was a thing that was done. Whereas I'm sure if I tried it, I might like it, the look of it...the FROSTINESS of it... just blows my mind in terms of unappetizableness. Which is not a word. But let's run with it. Have any of you had one of these? Are any of us brave enough to attempt the recipe on the left?

Some non alcoholic punch recipes that might be a nice change of pace from the diet ginger ale and berry concentrate I always make:


And last but not least, in a nice big scan, the recipe for the bright green drinks on the cover! Let's try 'em! Let's try 'em! You know you want to.

Anyway, hope you liked looking through these recipes with me. If I ever get onboard with scheduling this blamed party, and inviting people to it, I assure you, it will occur.

Do you have any fail proof sixties' party tips or recipes? If so, lay 'em on me! Your comments totally make my day.

Ciao for now!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...