Thursday, September 24, 2009

Reminiscing: Good Housekeeping's Party Book

Before I get to my latest victim, I want to share a story with you gentle readers. This evening, I had a visitor. A young man from the local middle school who was hawking that horrible school fundraising crap (overpriced and cheaply made candles, picture frames, candy, popcorn, etc.). Our conversation went something like this:

Me: Hi, what's up?

Kid (speaking rapidly as though on speed): HelloIamdoingafundraiserformyschoolfieldtripdoyouwanttobuysomething?

Me: Well, I don't really need anything (at this point, he is dragging the catalogs out of an envelope), but I would be happy to give you a donation.

Kid: You'retheladywhodidthatlastyeartooaren'tyou?

Me: Probably--let me get my checkbook.

Kid: Okaybutyoushouldordersomething. Iorderedgummybears. They'reonly$9.18withtax.

Me: Oh, wow.

Kid: Canyoufilloutthisformandsayyoumadeadonation? IgetaprizeifIget25people! Idon'treallycareabouttheprize. It'sprobablystupid. ButifIget25peopleIgetaprize.

Me: Sure. (I fill out the form and give him a check for $10.)


Me: No, I don't need any gummy bears. I just had some cavities filled and I don't think that my dentist would be very happy if I ate gummy bears.

Kid: Ohokay. (Looking disappointed.) I'lljustputyoudownforsomegummybearsanywaysincetheyareonly$9.18withtax.

Me: That's fine. Why don't you just keep the gummy bears and eat them at your house?

Kid: (His eyes growing wide.) Yeahokay!

He hopped on his scooter and rode off into the sunset, thrilled with his free gummy bears. I am thrilled that I do not have to expect a delivery of crap in the near future. It's a win-win situation ;-)

Now, onto Good Housekeeping's Party Book, published in 1949.

Wow how things have changed in the last 60 years. First of all, no one would be caught dead with this hairstyle, but I kind of like the dress.

This book takes you step by step through the party planning process. No wonder many women didn't work outside of the home in 1949. Following this process takes a Master's degree and substantial overtime. Part of the initial planning process is, of course, the sending of the invitations. I particularly love the Scrabble party example below:

I know that I always love to be commanded to "come for dessert and coffee." Also, doesn't that sound like a fun party? Does the coffee include Bailey's?

This is the section that gives advice about how to set the scene. The authors make it a point to remind you to make sure that "cigarettes and matches are in evidence with plenty of ashtrays--big ones, please!" At most parties today if people are smoking, you will find them huddled on a porch or sidewalk somewhere near the house where everyone else is enjoying the party.

The next part of the book has to do with the various kinds of parties you can consider hosting. One of the most popular of the modern day is the buffet. "It is the answer to our servantless age..."

...and then there are the color photos. I guess they made the kids go outside for this party since they are visible through the frosted windows. This is not an unfamiliar scenario to me. In fact, my Grambi (who gave me this book), once made the "kids" (four of whom were over the age of 13) sit at a table outside by the golf course for Easter dinner. The golf course was a good quarter mile through my grandparents' backyard and it was early April. When one of us went back to the house for salt, we took orders from the others because it was so far. Grambi, of course, has conveniently forgotten this incident.

Anyway, this looks like some good eatin'. Punch with lumps of something floating around, cookies in a closed jar, and fuzzy napkins--yummy! The decor is also quite nice--fake frosted pine cones and cheap garland. Also, what's with the spoons? I don't see anything that requires a spoon.

With the fantastic example of decorations in the photo above, who wouldn't want more advice from these people about what has come to be known as "tablescapes"? Sandra Lee could learn a lot from these ladies. A few of my favorites include:

1. Lots of ivy in a copper skillet, with shiny pennies scattered here and there.
2. Phonograph records laid overlapping in center of table, with a flower in each center hole. Circle with candles.
3. Cake festooned with tiny flags; from either side of it, soldiers march to table edge.
4. Plants, in clay flowerpots on which you have made gay designs with crayons.
5. A clock made from a mirror, with short candles for hours, fork and spoon for hands. Set it on pine.
6. A Madonna standing in a graceful arrangement of carnations.

This page might include my favorite sentence in the entire book: "Then the world turned over; there were virtually no more servants, and formal serving suddenly became almost impossible." It sounds like the Apocalypse.

I really don't know what to say about this illustration. That poor bird. And you know that I rarely feel sorry for birds.

I know you've been pining for some new recipes (by the way, someone actually requested
Sunday Night Suppers from me on Well, wait no longer:

Honestly, how hard is it to make bread sticks? Who thinks of these ideas?

Another fantastic illustration to accompany a delicious menu:

Wow, that is a lot of kidney beans. I guess this is supposed to take place on a beach, but I think this might be a case of ancient photoshopping gone wrong.

More tablescaping ideas:

Sadly, the scariest part of this photo is not the food, but the demonic salt and pepper shakers.

Very clever illustration, Good Housekeeping:

The creepy kids finally get to come inside. I sure hope that Tommy and Katie watch out for the fire next to those asbestos paneled walls. That is a disaster waiting to happen.

Now this looks like a fun party!

I am so going to make this for Mother and Father of Ken and Grambi when they come to visit:

Oh, my.

There are no words--look at those "flowers" and the hearts--did a five year old decorate this cake?

Here's a good idea: the Paul Bunyan Promenade. Click on the image to read all of the details for yourself:

I do hope that you'll consider throwing your own Paul Bunyan Promenade sometime soon.


liddadog said...

All I can say is - people had to make their own fun back then, since there were no servants to do it for them! I can't wait for the toast!

Leah said...

Holy crap. I love this book. I want a dress like that too! And also, I think that Scrabble night sounds pretty cool, minus the demanding tone.

And why do the "boys" have antlers? Is it "dinner for the deer"?

And if you actually make Toasty Tim, I expect a blog about it!