Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Pink luncheon at the White House.

The mention of ‘pink teas’ in the recent story The Day of the Sandwich intrigued a number of you. Colour-themed meals were indeed very popular in the last few decades of the nineteenth century, particularly in North America. Pink teas or luncheons were particularly popular for brides-to-be, coming-out parties, and other girly get-togethers, and in a previous post we did give the concept some coverage (here) , albeit with a far different motivation. We have also in the past enjoyed a White Dinner, and more recently, an Orange dinner for Halloween.   

No food topic is ever fully exhausted, I believe, and today I want to show that a colour-themed meal is not considered too frivolous even for the leaders of our society. In 1891, Anna, the wife of President William Harrison held regular ‘entertainments.’ Here is a report of one such event, as told in The World, of Saturday March 13, 1891

How Twenty-One Ladies Were Entertained at the White House.
WASHINGTON, March 13. – Twenty-one ladies were the guest of Mrs Harrison this afternoon at a pink luncheon. It was spread in the private dining room and made one of the prettiest pictures the White House has presented to its guests during the season.
The table to accommodate the number had to be stretched cross-wise in the room and so the point where the prettiest floral decoration was massed was at the west side of the apartment, where the two cabinets were lined with begonia plants in pink blooms. All around the tall mirror and between the windows and the mantlepieces there was a fragrant garden of pink blooming plants. The dainty pink and white coloring of the table was the central point of the attraction.
The centre piece of the oblong spread of damask was a large oval plaque of pale pink tulips set in maidenhair fern. Flanking this at either end were wheels of deep pink tulips. The candles were pink, the shades pink, and all the sweetmeats arranged in the silver dishes were pink also. Between each two covers was a small glass pitcher of water resting on a round mirror.
A section of the Marine band, stationed on the stairs, played a sparkling programme of musical gems during the meal.
Like the luncheon of last week, that of today was quickly served, and while there was a feast of beauty for the eye the menu presented every reasonable delicacy. It ran through ten courses – Little Neck clams, radishes, olives and celery, bouillon in cups, shad roes, Saratoga chips, fresh tomatoes, creamed Spring chicken, asparagus, fruit, sorbett, terrapin, omelet, bisque glace in fancy cases, strawberries and cream, bonbons, fancy cakes, green fruit, coffee.
[there follows a list of the guests, and the seating arrangements]
The ice-cream was served in pretty pink boxes tied with pink ribbons, and under the knot of each ribbon lay a single pink tulip. On the top of each box was stamped the National emblem, and “March 13, 1891.”

As you will have noted, the colour theme at this luncheon seems largely to have been expressed via the floral arrangements, with the food trying not to clash. Other pink-tea or luncheon hostesses of the time went to considerable trouble to keep the dishes at the pinkish-reddish end of the spectrum.

Now, what to give you as the recipe for the day? We have had Saratoga Potatoes before, and nothing much else jumps out at me – except the shad roe. 

Our recipe source for the day is How to Cook Fish (1908), by Olive Green (pseud. of Myrtle Green.) The author has ninety-five ways to cook shad, and a very large proportion of these are for the roe. I have selected a couple of the ‘pinkest’ones for you today.

Shad Roe baked with Bacon.
Cover the bottom of a baking dish with thin slices of bacon, lay the shad roes upon it, cover with bacon, and bake in a very hot oven. Squeeze lemon juice over and serve with bacon as a garnish.

Shad Roe Baked in Tomato Sauce.
Boil the roe, drain, cool, and skin. Cook together for ten minutes one cupful of canned tomatoes, one cupful of stock or water, a slice of onion, and salt and pepper to season. Cook together two tablespoonfuls of butter and one of flour, add the tomato, and cook until thick, stirring constantly. Rub the sauce through a strainer. Put the roe on a buttered baking dish, season with salt and pepper, cover with the sauce, and bake. Serve in the dish in which it was baked.

Other colour-themed food posts:

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