Suppers – Novel Suggestions for Social Occasions is a small book, but one of my favourites. It was compiled by Paul Pierce in 1907, and is full of intriguing menu and party ideas. Even though styles of entertaining have changed drastically in the past 110 years, there are a few parties I’d like to host in there!
It’s dedicated to The Aristocracy of America, and the dedication is as follows:
“To that much abused, but very eminent class, the society women of America, this book is dedicated. It is with a realization that they constitute the better half of the best aristocracy in the world – probably the only real aristocracy of the present day. It is an aristocracy of real merit, entree to which is attained by achievement, not by mere inheritance. No titles are inherited there; they are bought with effort and accomplishments. It is an aristocracy of the fittest, not of chance birth. Out of the competition is growing a higher and higher standard for each succeeding generation, and hence it is an aristocracy of ascent, not of descent.
Suppers are the favourite social function of the American aristocrats. Hence, it is with the highest esteem of their station, and with honor they reflect on the nation that this humble volume is recommended to their especial protection and favor.”
In the introduction, the author complains that there is no information available on properly hosting suppers, which were essentially smaller meals later in the evening, perhaps after a party or a trip to the theater. With no clear guidelines on how to do a supper properly, the obvious result was “deplorable awkwardness.” What scant information there was “positively ridiculous.” Let’s have a look at some of Mr. Pierce’s ideas and see if they are any less ridiculous.
There are six chapters covering Chafing Dish Suppers; German, Dutch, and Bohemian Suppers; Entertaining in the Modern Apartment; Suppers for Special Occasions; Miscellaneous Suppers; and Toasts. I won’t go over them all in detail, but just give you some of the more entertaining party ideas.
One I sort of want to do myself is The Cake Walk Supper. “At this cake walk, there is no walking for the cake. The cakes themselves walk for prizes.” It’s a dress up party, where the invited guests each dress to represent a type of cake, without giving away what kind of cake they are meant to be.
The guests try to guess what sort of cake everyone else is, and the winner gets a pretty china cake dish, and the loser gets a small cookbook of cake recipes. There is a similar Birthday Party, where the guests dress to represent their month of birth.
For the Waffle Supper, you’re expected to sew and stuff ivory satin invitation waffles, tack them to make the waffle dimples, and then scorch them with a hot iron before using sepia ink to print on each one “Come and Eat Me.” Each guest is to have a job to do when making the waffles, so it become a collaborative effort.
The Bohemian Picnic Supper involves a lot of decorating, including setting up an indoor fishpond with “grotesque objects” which should, of course, include a live mermaid – “a man in a startling costume.” The meal is served on blankets on the floor from picnic baskets.
This charming little book ends with a chapter of toasts and stories to keep the party moving, and I have to say, humour seems to have changed a great deal. Here are some of the witty gems for your consideration.
While I love this book dearly, I have to say that nearly every party idea in here is both VERY labour intensive and utterly bizarre. It leaves me wondering what sort of ideas were circulating around at the time that were so much weirder than these that Mr. Pierce deemed them positively ridiculous. But positively ridiculous or not, I still want to host that Cake Walk Supper!