One of my little pleasures in food history is finding an interesting ‘themed’ menu. There is no shortage of examples, and I have featured a number of them here over the years: meals based on a particular ingredient and meals inspired by a historical period or a specific historical event or a celebrity have appeared on a number of occasions, as have some of the rather bizarre ‘Freak Dinners’ held by the over-wealthy and under-employed of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.
One popular theme is that of a meal inspired by a particular colour, such as the Pink Tea on the Bottom of the Sea which was the topic of a post last year. These colour-themed meals were popular amongst the ladies of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, particularly for ladies’ lunches and other girlie events. I have one of these for you today – a lovely luncheon for the bride-to-be, at which I suspect the rather risqué elements of the modern bridal ‘shower’ were entirely missing.
From The Washington Post of June 5, 1910:-
Flowers and Simple Menus for Attractive Luncheons
A green and white luncheon is very appropriate for a bride, and both the decorations and menu may be carried out with the same effect. There are many kinds of flowers one could use for this decoration. The calla lily is stately and pure looking, and the bride roses are most appropriate and graceful as well. Still, to one of moderate means these flowers for decoration mean quite an expenditure, so, if one is artistically inclined and willing to go to some trouble, the beautiful field daisy can be gathered in large quantities and most effectively used for this purpose. Girls are so willing and ready to help at such times that by calling a number together long daisy chains may be made that, when tied to the chandelier with a large bow of white ribbon and drawn down to the four corners of the table, a suggestion of summer and the sunshine of happiness is given. Small pictures of the bride may be used for place cards, with white linen frames embroidered in daisies. Bank the mantel with daisies and moss, and use the daisy chain over the doors. The menu for this luncheon may be arranged as follows:
White cherries served in mint.
Cream of clam broth.
Crab croquettes, green peas.
Fried chicken, a la Maryland.
Rice balls, scallop potatoes and parsley.
Nasturtium salad. Wafers.
Pistachio ice cream Angel food.
Crème de menthe.
In making the clam both do not thicken it, but make of all cream, if possible, cooking the clams in another kettle until tender. Add a few bits of parsley before serving. The crab croquettes should be molded into pyramids, and a tablespoon of green peas with cream sauce placed on the same plate. Fried chicken a la Maryland is a dish most housekeepers have long since learned to cook and boast about. The nasturtium salad is one of the daintiest that can be made; tender, pale green lettuce leaves are first put in the dish with a few of the nasturtium leaves, the bud and the seed of the nasturtium are mixed with pecan meat and a few chopped plain olives. French dressing is the best seasoning for this salad. At the last moment before serving place a few of the petals of the blossoms on the salad and plate, trying to have it appear as if they dropped there, carelessly. In carrying out the green and white idea, the pistachio ice cream is very delicate, and may be ordered in different kinds of molds, corresponding to the decoration, such as calla lily, daisies, pond lilies, &c. Should forms of hearts or darts and arrows be preferred, these too are in keeping with such an occasion. The angel food can be iced with green, and cut in the shapes of hearts, diamonds, &c. Dainty flowers for such an occasion are the lilies of the valley, for they can be gathered in great quantities at this season of the year.
I have another, quite different version (actually several versions) of the salad for you today too:-
To make such a salad, take as many of the fresh blossoms as will line and border a low, roomy salad bowl, choosing a cut glass receptacle if possible. Arrange the leaves around the outer edge, with the blossoms alternating with and leaning against them. Throw a few more leaves and flowers into the bottom of the bowl, heap with chopped celery, cold beans, potatoes, peas, or other green vegetables, and pour mayonnaise dressing over all. When serving, see that each person receives several each of the leaves and flowers. Meat salads are equally good treated in the same way; nuts take very kindly to the nasturtium flavor and become more easily digestible, and water-cresses, chives, radishes, or even plain shredded lettuce gain much from the addition of the pretty yellow flowers. An entire salad may be made of them, if liked, the pungent beauties being merely heaped in the salad bowl and treated to a lavish dressing of mayonnaise, or well-mixed oil and vinegar, but the addition of some mild-flavored salad stuff is preferred by most people, excepting in very hot weather. At such ties the biting taste of the nasturtium is better than cayenne or chutney as a toning agent for the jaded digestion.
Another way of serving the nasturtium salad, and the prettiest of all perhaps, is to toss a few blossoms on each plate, add a large leaf or two, and pass the dressing around. Or again, the pretty flowers are exquisitely artistic and lovely when embodied in a jellied mayonnaise. Make the mayonnaise as usual, adding sufficient dissolved gelatin or cornstarch to make it set, and when it is congealing, whip lightly in the freshly plucked and washed flowers and leaves. When turned out of a prettily-shaped mould upon a dainty dish, surrounded by a border of the flowers themselves, and served delicately this dish is certain of appreciation. The mayonnaise may be colored a light green, if liked, with pistachio coloring, and the effect is enhanced greatly, but the clear amber of the natural jelly is also very artistic and lovely.
Monmouth Evening Gazette (Illinois), October 18, 1898.
P.S. In a previous post (here) I gave you Nasturtium vinegar and Nasturtium Pickle