Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A White Dinner.

Most of us don’t do formal dinner parties anymore, do we? A shortage of time, money, and domestic help, I suppose. It used to be the way to socialise with friends - no movies, one couldn’t do take-out, and it was not seemly for ladies to dine in public. But one can easily have too much of a good thing, and in the late nineteenth century there appeared to develop a sort of dining ennui amongst those with what my mother would have called more money than sense. So, what could one do when when one wanted dining variety? One could hold a dinner with a colour theme, of course!

Out of necessity, the idea was interpreted quite broadly in respect of the food (there are not too many yellow meats or pink salad vegetables), but hostesses could go all out with the flowers, napery and decorations – and anyway, it was the idea that counted. According to the Jessup Whitehead, the author of The Steward’s Handbook and Guide to Party Catering (c1889), ‘White Dinners’ were fashionable during Lent, and he gives a menu for one such dinner.

I have looked long and hard at this menu, and - maybe I am particularly dim this evening - but I missed the sense of abstinence that I understand is a feature of Lent.
And surely the pursuit of fashion in respect of dinners is inheritently un-Lenten in itself?


During lent dinners au blanc, or white dinners, are fashionable. In many housesthe fair, white damask tablecloths replace the covers of colored velvet, satin, plush,or sateens with their exquisite surcloths of laces, or, if colors are used, it is the soft violet shade, so beloved by the adherents to the third empire in France and the highchurch party in England. This is the menu of a white dinner recently given.


Hors d’Œuvre.
Huitres en Coquille.
Potage au riz. Purée de Morue.
Brochet au Citron. Alose à la Marrons.
Poulette au blanc. Filet de Veau à la Pere François,
Œufs Farcies. Rissoles de Bœuf. Filets de
Canards aux Navets.

Agneau. Carré de Porc Roti.
Crème de Noyau. Pannier de Roseblanc.
Frangepane de Moëlle.
Canapees de Fromage à la Diable.
Citron. Cerises Blanc.

At least desserts are never a problem at colour-themed dinners.  There is a Bavaroise (Bavarian Cream) to suit every colour theme:

NOYAU CREAM: Whipped cream flavored with noyau and set with gelatine.
NOYAU: A liqueur or cordial flavored vith nectarine, bitter almond and peach kernels.

CREMES (Fr.) Creams. Bavarian creams. A class of gelatinized cream compounds; a more elaborate sort of blanc-mange, whipped while setting on ice to make it spongy and delicate. CREME A LA BAVAROISE Whipped cream with gelatine dissolved in syrup mixed in; about ½ oz. gelatine to 1 qt. BAVAROISE AU GINGEMBRE Ginger cream. Preserved ginger pounded, mixed with syrup and gelatine, mixed with whipped cream; set in moulds on ice; served with cake. CREME BAVAROISE A LA PRASLIN Almond nougat-candy pounded and dissolved with boiling milk, gelatine and whipped cream added; moulded on ice. CREME AU CHOCOLAT Chocolate cream ; some chocolate dissolved in hot milk, mixed with whipped cream, sugar and vanilla.

Quotation for the Day.

I prefer to regard a dessert as I would imagine the perfect woman: subtle, a little bittersweet, not blowsy and extrovert. Delicately made up, not highly rouged. Holding back, not exposing everything and, of course, with a flavor that lasts.
Graham Kerr

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