A Very Merry Christmas
Blithewold has thrown open its doors for the Christmas season, bringing the excitement of the season to all its visitors. After you have toured the elegantly decorated Mansion, soaking up the festive atmosphere within and without (perhaps enjoying a Christmas Tea in the Dining Room or Sparkle in the Enclosed Garden), maybe your thoughts will turn to preparing special holiday menus to entertain your own family and friends.
For those looking for inspiration, I offer Bessie McKee’s account of an elaborate dinner for twelve guests that she served the day after Christmas in 1901, as described in a letter to her sisters.
“First I will tell you how the table was decorated. I had a round top for the table. The color scheme was principally green and white. I used my Duchess lace center piece, and in the center we had the fern dish filled with ferns and orchids. The candle shades were white and silver … right on the cloth were ferns and orchids. The orchids were, of course, the real orchid color, sort of pinkish lavender… it was very dainty and we all thought very beautiful. I know you will be interested to know what we had to eat.”
White wine was served first, naturally, and champagne afterward. The meal began with oysters on the half shell, followed by clear soup. Next came fish in timbales (baked in a special pan) accompanied by celery and olives. The entrée was vol-au-vent chicken and sweetbreads flavored with truffles and nuts, “and it was very delicious.” The main course was fillet of beef with mushroom sauce, fresh string beans, and potatoes.
The next course was to be sherbet, and Walter, Bessie’s butler, set down the special plates and spoons. The sherbet was not to be, alas. To the cook’s embarrassment the ice had not frozen in time, and Walter had to quickly remove the plates, with the hope that no one would notice. Bessie was mortified, but her friend told her afterward that it was quite fashionable these days “to put down plates apparently just to be looked at. I suppose that is what my guests thought.” Without missing a beat, Walter brought in the next course, wild ducks served with Waldorf salad garnished with watercress.
After the duck came the “pièce de résistance”: an ice cream dessert molded “all in green and white, representing a sort of pond lily made out of white ice and filled with the cream and marron glacé. And looking over the edge was a realistic frog made of green pistachio cream. Under this was a pond lily leaf, and under that a bed of spun sugar.”
The very well fed guests then spent the rest of the evening around the open driftwood fire in the parlor, drinking coffee and cordials and enjoying a lovely evening with friends.
Blithewold wishes all of its visitors a very Happy Holiday, with good cheer and good food in abundance!