The ingenuity of the genteel economist is as often taxed to contrive supper-things of scanty materials, as in arranging dinners, which admit of less temporizing. Economy, good taste, and neatness, can, however do much with slender means, where the chief organ to be propitiated is the eye; for the lateness of modern dinner-hours has now, almost universally, changed suppers from a solid meal into a slight shewy refreshment.
It is said that ladies are the best critics in suppers, while gentlemen are better qualified to decide on the more substantial business of the dinner table. However this may be, ladies are unquestionably more conversant with the things on which the elegance of a supper depends,—namely, the beautiful shapes and arrangement of china, glass, linen, fruits, foliage, colours, lights, ornamental confectionary, and all the natural and artificial embellishments of the table. These articles, so beautiful in themselves, cannot fail, if gracefully disposed, to gratify the eye, however slender the repast with which they are intermixed.
When a formal supper is set out, the principal dishes are understood to be roasted game or poultry, cold meats sliced, ham, tongue, collared and potted things, grated beef, Dutch herring, kipper, highly-seasoned pies of game &c. &c., with, occasionally, soups,—an addition to modern suppers which, after the heat and fatigue of a ball-room, or large party, is found peculiarly grateful and restorative. Minced white meats, lobsters, oysters, collared eels, and crawfish, dressed in various forms; sago, rice, the more delicate vegetables, poached eggs, scalloped potatoes, or potatoes in balls, or as Westphalia cakes, are all suitable articles of the solid kind. To these we may add cakes, tarts, possets, creams, jellies in glasses or shapes, custards, preserved or dried fruits, pancakes, fritters, puffs, tartlets, grated cheese, butter in little forms, sandwiches; and the catalogue of the more stimulating dishes, as anchovy toasts, devils, Welsh, English, and Scotch rabbits, roasted onions, salmagundi, smoked sausages sliced, and those other preparations which are best adapted to what among ancient bon vivants was called the rere-supper.
A supper-table should neither be too much crowded, nor too much scattered and broken with minute dishes. Any larder moderately stored will furnish a few substantial articles for supper on an emergency. A few sweet things readily prepared, some small patties, shell-fish, and fruits, will do the reset, if the effect of contrasted colours, flavours, and forms, be understood, and that light and graceful disposition of trifles, which is the chief art in setting off such entertainments.
French wines are lately become an article of ambitious display at fashionable suppers, even in families of the middle rank. Where they can be afforded in excellence and variety, nothing can be more appropriate at a light, shewy, exhilarating repast.
Introducing Mrs. Barlow
Mrs. Leah Barlow, mother of five lovely daughters herself, has graciously condescended to provide Susana’s Parlour with some of her tasteful advisements on housewifely matters, such as meal planning and the rearing of children, in hopes that our readers will find them informative. Having recently set up a Twitter account where she will be sharing her most treasured household tips, she hopes many of you will follow her: https://twitter.com/lucybarlowsmom
Much of her advice comes from this manual, which she insists should be in every housewife’s possession:
The Cook and Housewife’s Manual, Containing the Most approved Modern Receipts for Making Soups, Gravies, Sauces, Regouts, and All Made-dishes; and for Pies, Puddings, Pickles, and Preserves; Also, for Baking Brewing, Making Home-made Wines, Cordials, &c.
Mrs. Margaret Dods (Christian Isobel Johnstone), Edinburgh, 1826
About A Twelfth Night Tale
Without dowries or the opportunity to meet eligible gentlemen, the five Barlow sisters stand little chance of making advantageous marriages. When Lucy, the eldest, attracts the attention of a wealthy viscount, she knows she should encourage his attentions, since marriage to a peer will be advantageous to all. The man of her dreams was Andrew Livingston, her best friend’s brother. But he’s always treated her like a child, and now he’s betrothed to another. Perhaps the time has come to accept reality… and Lord Bexley.
Andrew returned from the Peninsular War with a lame arm and emotional scars. Surprisingly, it’s his sister’s friend, “little Lucy”—now a strikingly lovely young woman—who shows him the way out of his melancholy. But with an eligible viscount courting her, Andrew will need a little Christmas magic to win her for himself.
Such a lot of food. I could go some mashed potato balls. (I have made them for my children in the past.)