Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A “Pink Tea” on the Bottom of the Sea.

A reporter at the Los Angeles Times in 1912 appeared almost breathless with excitement at the sheer novelty of an upcoming society event.  I give you part of an article which appeared in the edition of February 1 in that year.

Oh, Splash!
Strangest Fete in History Planned at Catalina
Eighty Social Leaders to Sport With Fishes.
Dainty Buds in Diving Suits in Deep Green Water.
Details of the most remarkable social function in recorded history became known yesterday with the announcement that eighty of the most prominent society women of Los Angeles, Pasadena, and San Francisco are planning a submarine fete, to be held on the bottom of the ocean, off Catalina Island, in the early part of March.
The guests are to be attired in diving suits, each provided with individual oxygen tanks or air tubes. Dainty debutantes, their tresses tightly bound about their heads, and their heads enclosed in huge copper helmets will promenade in the ocean’s floor with six pounds of lead on the sole of each pink foot and their fetching selves encased from top to toe in thick, close-fitting suits of rubber.
Bejeweled society leaders, whose names, at least, are familiar to the readers of every Sunday newspaper on the Coast, with foregather under forty feet of green water and exchange social amenities in sign language, while amazed minnows peer through the windows of the ladies’ helmets and friendly dolphins bump to and fro amongst the members of the party, and goldfish bubble about in an excess of enjoyment of the occasion.
… Instead of the stereotyped roses the favors will be shining sprays of sea-weed and sea tomatos, made into neat rosettes by impaling upon the spines of  the sea porcupine. To those whose tastes run in the direction of natural history, crumbs will be provided wherewith to feed bigger goldfish than most of the party will ever have seen before.

“Pink Teas” were a fashionable form of entertaining at the time for society ladies with large amounts of disposable income, too much time to fill, and many other society ladies to impress. The fun was ensured by the pink theme – the ladies wore pink, the flowers and décor were as pink as could be, and for extreme theme interpretations, the food was also pink. Sadly, very sadly, I have been unable (so far) to find out any more details of this particular underwater event – always assuming of course that it did in fact take place as planned.

We briefly considered Pink Teas in a previous post (here) but you will need more than a single recipe for raspberry fritters if you are to hold your own pink event. I cannot help you with advice about under-sea venues, but I can give you some suitably coloured foods.

Pink Cream Soup.
Put into a saucepan one and a half tablespoons each of butter and flour; stir on the fire until smooth, then add by degrees three pints milk and boil up. Season with a level teaspoonful of salt and a pinch of grated nutmeg. Color pink with one and one-half tablespoons boiled beets run through a sieve. Marrow balls: One tablespoon finely cut marrow, three tablespoons fine bread crumbs, one teaspoon chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Work into a smooth paste, adding a raw egg to help render it smooth; form into a ball size of a filbert; drop into boiling water; cook fifteen minutes. Serve in the soup five balls to the plate.
Los Angeles Times Cook Book No. 2 (c1905)

Pink Cream Cake.
Take three eggs and one cup of pulverized sugar, two cups of flour and two teaspoonfuls of baking 
powder, sifted twice. Color with fruit coloring. Bake in three layers and fill with whipped cream, sweetened to taste and flavored. Must be eaten the same day. Keep in ice-chest. Use about a teaspoonful of Dr. Price's fruit coloring, and if not sufficiently colored, add more. Color the dough only.
"Aunt Babette's" Cook Book: Foreign and domestic receipts for the household: A vaulable collection of receipts and hints for the housewife, many of which are not to be found elsewhere.

(Cincinnati, c1889)


Mantelli said...

Pulverized what? Recipe just says "one cup of pulverized"!

The Old Foodie said...

Hi Mantelli - thanks - another reader just pointed this out and I have fixed it. The ingredient is sugar.

Peter Hertzmann said...

I strongly doubt if the undersea event took place. Equipment, safety, and experience issues would probably be insurmountable. The piece reads to me like a satire.

It's still fun to image.

The Old Foodie said...

"Freak Dinners" were all the rage a the time - and some were pretty outrageous (zoo dinner with lions roaming about - and there is a pic of that one!), but I did wonder if some idle gossip on the part of some socialites as to how novel they could be got to the ears of a reporter and was accepted as a firm plan. I could not find any report of the actual event taking place though!