Typical Menus of Georgetown Cocktail Parties (Part 2)

a ladyNow it’s time to get down to the victuals served. Canapes were quite important but frequently ghastly. Usually they were centered around being little lumps of fat on greasy Ritz crackers. Garnish with anything from a bit of cod to a sprig of dill and that was that. Much more effort was put into presentation than into the taste of the thing.

On the other hand, there were the hot hors d’oeuvers. Ewwww. Cocktail sausages soaking in a thin mustard sauce. I hope that the Department of Health oversaw the contents of the teeny weenies. You fished them out with toothpicks and devoured them if they didn’t splat merrily on your clothes first, just being secured by a toothpick. Vienna Sausages were the real low class variety.

Then there was the vile Hot Crab Dip, this is where you might find a dead goldfish on the end of your Fritos. Bacon wrapped “stuff” was always passed around. Bacon wrapped liver looks a lot like bacon wrapped turds, the presentation suffers from the materials used. Then bacon wrapped scallops were good (if not cooked to the consistency of a white rubber eraser). And there were bacon wrapped water chestnuts for adventuresome souls.

Now, on to the main meal. Usually, it was little bits of meat cut up into chunks and combined with some uber rich sauce laced with cream or wine and loaded with canned mushrooms. Coq au Vin, Beef Stroganoff, and other stews were popular because you didn’t need to cut it up and it went on top of rice saving plate space. This was usually the highlight of the food service and was garfed down with gusto. The rice over which it was served was invariably white long grain, in my story Mother walks on the wild side serving her pheasant in wine sauce over wild and long grain rice. Talk of the town, that. Brown rice did not exist, or was only eaten by commies and savages.

Vegetables were an after-thought. Overcooked and yellow, they were not very popular. Cooking only to doneness was a French idea which caught on slowly among the good citizens of the US. Back in the day, people thought that asparagus did have to be boiled for at least half an hour. What was done to spinach was criminal, it was usually boiled into a slimy mass and stirred into a thick and ugly pasty white sauce and seasoned with old nutmeg which rendered it a truly revolting mess. Eating raw spinach wasn’t done until way later when people were sure it wasn’t poisonous. In fairness, a lot of the vegetables were highly influenced by people eating canned veggies and so they thought that was the way they should look and taste.

And dessert? Chocolate mousse was ubiquitous in high society. If you were dining out, you might get The Pastry Tray which was a huge silver platter covered in many different pastries  including: Napoleons, small tarts, slices of torte, surprisingly flavorless tuffits of dense cake armored with flavorless frosting. Merange pies were so popular, as were chess pies and Frenchified fruit tarts.

The queen of them all was the Triffle, imported from England and gave you the opportunity to show off your huge cut glass bowl. You soaked lady finger cakelettes in sherry and lined the bowl. Then you filled it with layers of whipped cream and fruit. It was a “rich melange” of high calorie fluff made wholesome by the addition of berries.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring the Spring Collection for 2015 whose theme is The Last Great Georgetown Cocktail Party. The collection will center around a short story I wrote about the adventures of my mother, her social life, and how she was a wonderful symbol of the heyday of Georgetown. The party will begin now and celebrate the last collection on my old website. For this bon voyage I have concocted twenty-one new fragrances and on whopping great short story to go with them. I think you will be amused! In this blog, I will be filling you in on life and manners in the days when ladies wore gloves, furs, and jewels in midday; smoked cigarettes with impunity, had pink gins at lunch, and generally put on the most amusing airs. So come along and be one, too. It’s a blast.

Cityblis

Typical Menus of Georgetown Cocktail Parties (Part 1)

a ladyThere were two things one needed for a good party: food and drink, and what appealed back in the halcyon days of G’Town would not be considered today’s fare. Read on and find out how tastes have changed.

First, the sorts of drinks served. Everyone drank back then, not to do so stigmatized you as either a “party pooper” or a person who was so bad off that they had become a drunk. Also, alcohol wasn’t as regulated as it is now and driving while drunk or buzzed was simply a naughty (not a deadly) thing to do. Times have changed in all these regards.

But what was offered? Typically strong liquor based drinks and often those which had to be mixed. Old Fashioneds were very popular (lots of bourbon and sweet vermouth, a fruit punch-like mix and a maraschino cherry for garnish), Manhattans (like a martini with bourbon with the maraschino cherry), Martinis (lots of gin with a little vermouth often shaken with ice but strained and poured into a saucery glass and garnished with an olive). Gimlets were gin, lime juice, and a splash of soda garnished with a lime. The Pink Squirrel consists of several liquors (sweetened fortified and flavored thick things): Creme of Noyaux (nut flavored), Creme of Cacao (chocolate) and heavy cream.  Straight liquor on the rocks was popular, so put straight booze of any sort directly on ice cubes in the bottom of a glass and that is that.

Drinking things without ice was pretty rare, and usually marked you as a “European” type. Beer was for the merry-dog/golfer/outdoorsman sort, and not often drunk by ladies. There was a lot of bourbon, gin, and Scotch about and Vodka was not very popular due to its association with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Pinkos drank vodka, pal; whiskey was for True Americans.

Wine was an exotic European drink which was too esoteric for the average American to suck down  with impunity. No one knew anything about it, you didn’t mix it with anything, and you didn’t put it over ice; all those things made it “weird”. There were lots of rules about wine, and no one knew what they were, the year it was made made a huge difference in how good it was, and there were rules about which region it came from! Argghh, who wants to remember all that to drink sour grape juice?!?

Differences also showed up in soft drinks. Ginger Ale was very different back then. Canada Dry was spicy! Really, it was a hot and sweet drink with serious ginger kick. Now it’s bland and sweet only. Moreover, it contained rose water back in the day! You could taste it as a lovely counterpoint to the hot ginger and fizz. I know that is true because I spoke to a man who used to develop formulae for Canada Dry and he told me that secret. I am sure they don’t do that today, too expensive.

There was a Diet Coke-like drink called Patio at first, it was vile. Tasted more like sweet-tangy Moxie than anything I would want. It evolved into Tab and was even more loathsome. There was no similarity to cola and yet people drank it by the gallon because it was diet.

Speaking of diet drinks, there was Fresca, which I think still exists. It was a white cloudy vaguely lemon and grapefruit thing with serious toxic saccharine tingle to it.

No one drank soda water straight. So the most popular drinks now, were the least popular then: wine, beer, soda water, and vodka were the drinks of the out crowd. Gin, bourbon, Scotch, Rye were the in-crowd drinks.

And the most refined of all the drinks was rye. You have probably never had anything made with rye and its fall from grace was astonishing. It was a brown liquor and tasted identical to bourbon to me. It was considered more sophisticated just by urban myth and cherished belief. So it was. Ladies were very put out if they asked for a Manhattan made with rye and they could only get bourbon. Rye just fell out of fashion and now it seems to be enjoying a re-entry into the world of party.

Next time, let’s talk about typical cocktail party foods.

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring the Spring Collection for 2015 whose theme is The Last Great Georgetown Cocktail Party. The collection will center around a short story I wrote about the adventures of my mother, her social life, and how she was a wonderful symbol of the heyday of Georgetown. The party will begin now and celebrate the last collection on my old website. For this bon voyage I have concocted twenty-one new fragrances and on whopping great short story to go with them. I think you will be amused! In this blog, I will be filling you in on life and manners in the days when ladies wore gloves, furs, and jewels in midday; smoked cigarettes with impunity, had pink gins at lunch, and generally put on the most amusing airs. So come along and be one, too. It’s a blast.

Cityblis

The Scene Of The Last Great Georgetown Cocktail Party

The address was 3336 Reservoir Road, N.W., Washington, D.C. It’s a town house, more narrow than it is long. A great piece of property which my mother bought for around $20,000 in the good old days. There were some rip-snorting parties given in that house, some amazing poseurs, some elegant people, some tears, and a great many memories.

The house was brick with a pretty fan window over the front door. Our door was painted black with a large brass door knocker with a lady’s head on it. Some people say it was Athena, others say it was a generic Bacchante with grapes in her hair.

I remember there was a white picket fence in front of the house. It didn’t really add anything except my next door neighbor, Danny Nossiter used to play snow fort or cowboys and Native Americans with me and use the fence as part of the structure of the igloo or fort.

There were a lot of happy Halloweens launched from those steps, one of the best birthday parties I have ever had with scads of neighborhood kids attending. We only had one Christmas in that house, usually we went to the farm for that occasion but one year it snowed so hard we had to make do with a small pink fake tree from Costos on M Street.

On the day we moved in, I remember resolving to be perfectly good all day long, and I succeeded! I am sure that is the last day when I was ever “perfectly good”! I went to second and third grade while we were living there, saw a huge storm which descended on D.C. on Good Friday one year (complete with unearthly green sky) coinciding with the exact time which Jesus was supposed to have died (we children thought it was a miracle). Springs were blissful, summers were hot and humid, falls was filled with hilarity, and winters were cozy and fearless.

The day of The Last Great Cocktail Party was almost unbearable. Mother was certainly “fit to be tied”. Dad kept away from all “the palaver”, my brother practically hid under the bed. I was fascinated, like a moth to a flame. It was going to be The Apotheosis of My Mother and I had a ringside seat! This was going to be her entree into the world above the bourgeois (demimonde wannabe), the ticket into the lower rungs of the upper classes. You don’t need unlimited funds to accomplish this; pluck, imagination, and style would carry the day (according to mom). Would this be a case of her reach exceeding her grasp and would she fall like Icarus from her upward trajectory? Or would she rise to the dizzying heights on gossamer wings? Was it all or nothing?

This blog is brought to you by Possets Perfume which is featuring the Spring Collection for 2015 whose theme is The Last Great Georgetown Cocktail Party. The collection will center around a short story I wrote about the adventures of my mother, her social life, and how she was a wonderful symbol of the heyday of Georgetown. The party will begin on April 24th and celebrate the last collection on my old website. We are giving it a fitting send-off! In the meantime, I will be filling you in on life and manners in the days when ladies wore gloves, furs, and jewels in midday; smoked cigarettes with impunity, had pink gins at lunch, and generally put on the most amusing airs. So come along and be one, too. It’s a blast.

Cityblis