Over the summer I bought a cool old book called “Esquire Party Book for Entertaining Around the Clock” You could call it ‘vintage’, but I’ll just call it old. First printing 1935, my copy is from 1965. I bought it because I’ve always loved Esquire Magazine. And I have a fascination with the era of my youth. (In 1965 I was 3) I thought it would be fun to see what was recommended for menus & drinks in 1965. There are menus and recipes for breakfasts, brunches, lunches, cocktail parties, dinner parties and supper. Yes. In those days people knew the difference between dinner and supper.
Don’t we still all secretly want to be our moms in the 1960’s – dressed up all beautifully, pearls and high heels and red lipstick? It was our first introduction to elegance and sophistication – watching our parents entertain or go out to a club for dinner & dancing. I think it’s why I love Mad Men.
That’s why I bought the book. I wanted a glimpse into that world of entertaining in 1965. I thought I might find those elegant and sophisticated ideas for menus & recipes & party themes. Alas, although I completely love this book, the ideas and recipes don’t translate well in 2013.
The Esquire book confirms that many of that era’s most popular dishes have not survived in this generation. Some are completely extinct. Some are still around but with much less popularity. Sausages in white wine. Creamed chipped beef. From the Esquire Hunt Breakfast Buffet: Beefsteak and Kidney Pie. Chicken livers in Sherry. Whole hominy. Smelt with Beer. From the Esquire Lunch Menus: Tomato aspic with vegetables. Chicken pickle aspic. Duck casserole. For cocktail parties: Swedish Meatballs. Creamed Oysters. Herring in Dill Sauce.
Crab Puree Mongole – 2 cans tomato soup, 2 cans pea soup, 2 cans consumme, 1 T curry powder, 1 lb. crab meat, sour cream & avocado. Ewww.
Now I know you might say “I love creamed chipped beef”. I do too. But I haven’t had it or made it for probably 20 years. It used to be part of every child’s food experience. Not so much anymore. And although meatballs of many kinds are still served for dinner and parties, when was the last time you had Swedish meatballs? And don't say IKEA - that doesn't count. I know that most of you have never had aspic, never want to have aspic, or even know what an aspic is. I have had aspic and I’m here to tell you that you’re not missing anything.
So the kids and I had a conversation about what foods from my generation will be extinct in theirs. They think meatloaf. Cole Slaw. And all mayonnaise based salads. I think they’re wrong about all of them – especially because in general none of them like mayonnaise. But meatloaf! Who doesn’t love meatloaf?
I still think it would be fun to have a dinner party with some of these old recipes – and I still may. But there won’t be any aspic or smelt with beer. I promise.
The illustrations are FABULOUS though - at the left - the illustration on the cocktail page for a sidecar.