Thursday, May 07, 2009

Not for the novice to attempt.

Emily Post, the 1920’s guru of etiquette, was quite clear on the point that dinner-giving was not to be entered into lightly. Actually, Emily was quite clear on everything to do with the social graces. Wouldn’t it be wonderful, to be so certain of the rules, so sure that one could follow them with ease, that one would never, ever , commit a social gaffe of any sort? Is anyone ever so certain, in real life?

Emily was certainly certain that dinner parties were …

Not for the novice to attempt.
If the great world of society were a university which issued degrees to those whom it trains to its usages, the ‘magna cum laude’, honors would be awarded without question, not to the hostess who may have given the most marvelous ball of the decade, but to her who knows best every component detail of preparation and service, no less than every inexorable rule of etiquette, in formal dinner-giving.
To give a perfect dinner of ceremony is the supreme accomplishment of a hostess! It means not alone perfection of furnishing, of service, of culinary skill, but also of personal charm, of tact. The only other occasion when a hostess must have equal--and possibly even greater ability--is the large and somewhat formal week-end party, which includes a dinner or two as by no means its least formidable features.
There are so many aspects to be considered in dinner giving that it is difficult to know whether to begin up-stairs or down, or with furnishing, or service, or people, or manners! One thing is certain, no novice should ever begin her social career by attempting a formal dinner, any more than a pupil swimmer, upon being able to take three strokes alone, should attempt to swim three miles out to sea. The former will as surely drown as the latter.

Even a “normal” family dinner would have been quite an intimidating production for a novice, if we are to judge from the recommended meal for May 6, from The Practical Daily Menu, by C.B. Peacock (1926).

Lentil Soup
Beef Olives, Savoury Cabbage, Potatoes.
Marmalade Pudding OR Blancmange; jam; custard.

From the same book, the recipe for Marmalade Pudding.

Marmalade Pudding.
4 oz. flour; 4oz. bread-crumbs; 4 oz. suet; 2 oz. sugar; pinch of salt; 1 teaspoonful baking powder; 2 eggs, 2 tablespoonfuls marmalade; a little milk if necessary.
Rub the shredded suet into the flour; add breadcrumbs, sugar, salt, baking-powder. Add the marmalade, well-beaten eggs, and, if necessary, a little milk. Mix well together, and steam in a greased mould for an hour and a half.

Quotation for the Day.

Marmalade in the morning has the same effect on taste buds that a cold shower has on the body.
Jeanine Larmoth


Shay said...

This is a meal (lentil soup, beef olives, cabbage, etc) that was probably quite welcome in the UK in early May.

The Old Foodie said...

Yes, it would be a pretty hearty meal - even without the pudding!