Culinary no-no began on Father’s Day 2007, a beautiful summer day, when I wrote about grilling brats. And eating brats. And topping those brats. I was inspired by my wife, Jennifer who, in my admittedly unscientific opinion, ruins brats by squirting ketchup on them. Other dining taboos quickly came to mind. The original idea was to take this concept only a few months, till the end of summer and then pull the plug. Then the unexpected happened. People started reading Culinary no-no. Lots of folks. So we keep doing the no-no.
THIS WEEK’S ENTRY REPRISES ONE OF OUR EARLIEST INSTALLMENTS: CULINARY NO-NO #30. AND WE TOSS IN SOME STOCKING STUFFERS, TOO!
How not to throw a holiday party.
In the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, there apparently was a cottage industry of resource guides on gracious living, usually written by Hollywood stars or those who viewed themselves as lifestyle experts.
Over the years, New York Times writer Jancee Dunn has collected these books and still uses them….not for handy-dandy advice, but for comic material to read at get-togethers she hosts. Her recent article inspired this Culinary no-no.
The counsel given in these books is pretty laughable by today’s standards and would no doubt have your party guests wondering if you’re in desperate need of psychiatric intervention.
Consider “My Way of Life,” written in 1971 by everyone’s favorite mom…
Pre-party jitters? Nonsense, Darling!
Crawford advised that to get over your nerves the night before your big soiree, you must treat the party as if it were opening night on Broadway: rehearse.
In Crawford’s view, a “superb hostess” is one who, “a hundred times practiced walking around her living room chatting with imaginary guests. Introducing strangers with just the right phrase to interest them in one another. She practiced moving gracefully, going to the door, offering canapés.”
Most folks call them, “crackers.”
Once the party starts, Crawford suggested the hostess wear a lovely gown.
Crawford, herself, would do so in a dress with matching turban (turban??!!) and shoes.
Make sure guests have hard chairs to sit in.
“Soft ones spread the hips.”
Never serve a red vegetable next to a yellow vegetable.
“Looks unappetizing,” Crawford wrote.
I think it would depend on the dip.
Crawford’s book included a recipe for meatloaf that had four hidden hard-boiled eggs.
Would that be a “meatloaf surprise?”
Crawford would prepare dishes like the meatloaf, pot roast, beef bourguignon, lobster Newburg, and creamed chicken all ahead of time and then freeze them in case of emergencies.
Eating unfrozen creamed chicken would be an emergency in my book.
Helen Gurley Brown is remembered for her 1962 guide, “Sex and the Single Girl.”
Having guests over?
Gurley Brown recommended Romanian Gypsy music, “chloroform cocktails” (boil six cups of coffee down to one, add a fifth of gin and a quart of vanilla ice cream) and a racy party game in which players guess the various garments a guest is wearing.
Gurley Brown’s rule: “No feeling or pinching allowed.”
In 1965, Luella Cuming wrote “The Luella Cuming Studio Course in Social Awareness, Poise and Gracious Living.”
Cuming told readers they should fill their homes with exotic conversation pieces. She gave an account of a reporter friend who “has a pet duck who often sports fascinating jackets and hats and struts around his master’s domain chattering madly.”
Yeh, I could see that generating some conversation.
The authors of these books all possessed a common belief: you should attempt to live an upper crust life all the time.
Cuming wrote that, “Those who live graciously only when there is an audience present are phonies. One charming woman I know who lives alone wears her most beautiful chemises with high-heeled satin mules when she is alone. Sometimes she adds a pearl necklace or a zany cocktail hat.”
Imagine the look on the UPS guy when she answers the door.
Gurley Brown told her readers that if they wanted a sexy apartment, they should put out, “an enormous brandy snifter filled with dozens of loose cigarettes, opened whole packages of many brands and ‘name’ book matches from good restaurants.”
Alexandra Stoddard in her 1988 book, “Living a Beautiful Life,” wrote that, “Surprise pleasures delight the most.”
So she’d place flowers inside her refrigerator. When she sat down to write out her bills, she’d dress in a fresh blouse and skirt, putting Brahms on the stereo and flowers on her desk. All in the quest to make life more…..what’s that word again…..oh, yes, gracious.
Joan Crawford said if your “fella” wants caviar, don’t immediately concede that you’re not Joan Crawford and can’t afford it.
Sacrifice a little!
In Crawford’s opinion, that meant fewer trips to the hairdresser and foregoing the purchase of a hat or two you don’t need.
My wife’s “fella” would be happy with beef jerky.
More Crawford advice to live graciously: Make sure your jacket is lined in the same fabric as your blouse, and never buy a dress unless you can afford all of the appropriate accessories. (Somehow, I seem to think that tidbit has endured long past Mommy Dearest).
These are the old ways. Live graciously. (If my wife pulls any of this junk, I know she’s been in the holiday punch).
Today we live in a Martha Stewart-Rachael Ray world where you make the most of what you have by being yourself. (Is that why Martha never shampoos her hair before a TV taping?)
Compare what you’ve just read to a contemporary idea list on throwing a great holiday party. Joan Crawford (See first photo) would not be pleased.
CULINARY NO-NO BONUSES
And this could be the no-no of the year, maybe the decade