23 January 2009

Menus For Entertaining

I do love my cookbooks. Sometimes I wonder, what will all these enormous tomes filled with tightly cropped, close-ups of trendy food look like in 50 years? They will probably have the same nostalgic effect as leafing through Menus for Entertaining: 72 Parties and 400 Recipes for the Good Cook and Hostess by Juliette Elkon and Elaine Ross.

An entertaining guide for women in 1960, these detailed menus offer a retro look at what women we doing in their homes and kitchens in the "Swinging Sixties." The book features a Committee Breakfast for Eight at 10 A. M. in case you were worried as to what hour to schedule your committee breakfast. There is a Card Party for Eight Women and also a Card Party for Eight Men. Pre- women's movement I guess the men and women were not allowed to play cards together. For the card players, the women got Prune Bread Sandwiches and the men got Beer. It hardly seems fair! No wonder women burned their bras.

There is a Pique-Nique a la Francaise for Four and a Hamper Picnic for Six. Of course there is the Christmas Eve Open House for 100 or more. Christmas Eve seems to be the only time the guest list total has any leeway. Aside from that, every detail is pretty rigid!

The book is illustrated by famed graphic artist John Alcorn. Alcorn's illustrations are well worth pursing this title.

I'm rather fond of cooked cucumbers and this book has nice recipe included in a Viennese Dinner for Eight.

Braised Cucumbers and Peas

Peel 8 cucumbers and cut them in chunks 1 1/2 inches long. In a heavy skillet, over high heat, melt 3 tablespoons butter. Add cucumbers, season with pepper and salt, and saute for 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, then add 3 cups shelled peas and 1/2 cup stock, and continue cooking another 5 minutes for frozen peas, or 8 minutes for fresh. When the cucumbers have a glassy look, remove from the heat, sprinkle with 1 tablespoon chopped parsley and 1 teaspoon chopped chives, and transfer to a heated serving dish.

8 cucumbers
3 tablespoons butter
Salt, pepper
3 cups peas
1/2 cup stock
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon chopped chives

If you are not up to cooking Viennese for another 7 people, simply peel and slice a cucumber, season it with a touch of salt and pepper and saute the slices in a teaspoon of butter. It makes a lovely and quick side when you find yourself dining alone!

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