Friday, March 7, 2008

From Buttons To Bumbershoots

IMG entertaining chatelaine

One of the things I collect in addition to traditional cookbooks are books on entertaining and throwing parties (I also love old etiquette books and - well, all sorts of odd things, really). This one is probably from the 1950s and was written by Helen Campbell, who was the Director of the Chatelaine Institute in Canada. It's called The Art of Entertaining and was done under the aegis of the London Life Insurance Company, whose interest in stag parties and wedding showers and their ilk is beyond me, but there you go.

This booklet, it is only 24 pages long, so I guess the art of entertaining was not considered hard to master. Miss Campbell does not think so. Mind you, she thinks that entertaining is all fun and friendly people and good times. She says that the reader (female, of course) "wants to know the answers to the problems of entertaining as delightfully as possible."

Helen Campbell also thinks that my "own particular crowd" as she puts it, look like the people in the above illustration. Perhaps they have some delightful answers to entertaining problems, though I doubt it. They do have delightful hats, I can see that. Especially the woman, who looks like she got the hat from a St Patrick's Day leprechaun costume. And Ronald Reagan seems to be answering the door, I don't know what he's doing there.

Anyhow, there are party games on the last page, and one of them sent me to the on-line dictionary to find out what in the world was a bumbershoot. All of Helen's games are things people probably enjoy more if they are seven and at a birthday party, but whatever. This one is called "How's Your Memory?" ("Oh, fine thank you, Mrs. Bumbershoot, and how is yours?")

How's Your Memory?

Give each guest a pencil and piece of paper. On a table in another room spread out about twenty different articles, anything from a button to a "bumbershoot." Have the guests come in to look them over for one minute, then return to the living room to write down as many as they can remember - in five minutes. Then read out the answers and reward the winner.

A bumbershoot is an old slang term for an umbrella. World Wide Words says that it was derived from the first syllable of umbrella, more or less, plus the ending (more or less) of "parachute," the shape of which resembles that of an umbrella. The guests would not remember mine, I am sure, as it is cheap and small and black. It cost $1 in the loonie store, which is what we call dollar stores up here in Canada. The people in the picture would have elegant and memorable (and delightful) ones, though.

Once you have a winner of that exciting game, you will of course reward him or her - being the gracious hostess that you are - and you are, aren't you? You had better be, once you read this book. How about rewarding everyone - with a nice piece of Feather Cake, from the section on Showers (perfectly in sync with the umbrella theme!)

Feather Cake

1/4 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
2 cups pastry or cake flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
1/2 tsp almond flavoring
Cream the butter thoroughly, add the sugar gradually and continue creaming until the mixture is light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat well. Sift the flour, measure and sift two or three times with the baking powder and salt. Add alternately with the milk to the first mixture. Add the flavoring and bake in a greased square tin or in two greased layer cake tins in a moderate oven (350 degrees Fahrenheit) for 30 to 35 minutes.Fresh Strawberry Icing1/4 cup butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 Tb orange juice
1/3 cup (approximately) of fresh strawberry pulp
pinch of saltCream the butter thoroughly, add the sugar gradually until one cupful is combined. Add the orange juice, then the remaining cupful of sugar alternately with the strawberry pulp, beating smooth after esach addition and adding enough of the strawberry pulp to make of spreading consistency. Add the salt and spread on top and sides of the cake.

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