Now 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.