In 1946 the Westmoreland Sterling Company put out a free booklet teaching newly married women how to be a perfect hostess. and since my parents had supplied us with a full assortment of their silver, I set out to learn the rules of perfection.
Setting the stage was important, and the first pages were filled with pictures of table settings which used their silver and china, appropriate centerpieces, decorations and menus. Pages were devoted to what to serve at various functions every young wife might be hostessing. Luncheons, Bridge, When friends drop in for tea, midnight snacks, After Theater suppers, and of course an afternoon tea party.
It included a section on ways to serve: family service, which was all either of us knew, Russian service, which they hastened to tell was seldom if ever, used in the typical American home today except for strictly formal occasions when the host and hostess assume no responsibilities whatsoever. This section was difficult to accomplish anyway in a tiny three room apartment on the third floor when one of the rooms was a bathroom.
They even suggested games one might want to play to entertain their guests, such as Battle of the Sexes, Balloon Race, and I’m sure you get the idea. Times were simpler in many ways in those far away days. I was amused even then at the choices of party suggestions, considering that I, as well as all my friends, were working wives, with no time to create these marvelous parties.
However, since we were now grownups, and since family and friends had gifted us with lovely knick knacks and more silverware, I chose to show them off with an afternoon tea party. My mother did not do tea parties, but as a child while living in Bremerton WA, she took me to tea parties put on by the Admiral’s wife, where large silver coffee and tea pots sat at either end of long tables, and important looking ladies filled cups as people moved around the table grabbing cookies on their way.
I felt confident having read the Westmoreland Silver Company’s brochure though, so after preparing all week long, our little apartment filled with female relatives from both sides all marveling that someone who had shown no interest in the culinary arts, had somehow pulled the affair together. A free booklet from the Culinary Arts Institute in Chicago provided the dessert recipes.
Yesterday we were guests at an afternoon tea party hosted by our good friend from England. Her garden, abloom with roses and butterflies flitting amongst various flowers, was a hubbub of happy friends fortunate to see how a delightful English lady presents a truly authentic afternoon tea party—liberally laced with wine and spirits of course.
A mainstay for afternoon tea parties, or any other time is a good cooky recipe, and cookies happen to be one of my fortes. This recipe was one I served at my initial tea party, and every Christmas since then. It has been called by many names: Mexican Tea cakes, Russian tea cakes, etc. but I use its most basic name; Butter Balls.
BUTTER BALL COOKIES
1 cup butter
4 Tbs. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans. I toast them a little first, it brings out the flavor)
Cream butter, add sugar, and continue to beat until light. Add vanilla. Add sifted flour and mix well. Fold in nuts. Shape into small balls. Put on ungreased pan. Bake at 350, only 7 – 10 min. Butter burns quickly so watch them. Roll in powdered sugar wile hot, and then again when cooled.
10 thoughts on “AMAZING GRAZING~~~~The Perfect Hostess”
Love the story and love the tea cakes. My favorite cookie.
It’s always the first one I make at holiday time. Melts in the mouth!
No matter the name, butter balls are a wonderful cookie. Tea is such a lovely tradition, isn’t it? A lady has opened a small tea house down the road from me and serves assorted tea sandwiches and sweets with various teas. I must go one of these days.
We have a little shop called “Tyme For Tea”. Lots of antiques and goodies, and of course tea, sandwiches and cake! They even have an old trunk filled with old hats for those who want to pretend they come from a long ago time. Cute idea.
I can’t recall ever having been to a tea party, let alone an English tea party with spirits. We just had parties and drinking tea was probably last on the minds of most when we were young. The butter balls was also my mother’s favourite but only when she could spare the time.
I do remember going for ‘tea’ when I was in Yorkshire but it involved having ‘pudding’ which was not a real pudding but a cake and there was no tea. Go and figure that one!.
I remember one of the Admiral’s Lady’s tea parties where I escaped into the garden, climbed and fell out of her cherry tree onto a rusty nail, which sent me promptly into the Infirmary. So it must not have been a very exciting tea party.
I’ve never understood the British “pudding” either, and their “tea” would be called supper here. Nevertheless, we have a cup of tea every afternoon to wind down here.
Crikey, Kayti – you’re a dangerous woman ! 🙂
Not really—I’m a pussy-cat.
We (that is, my mother and her friends) never had teas, per se, but they certainly gathered for sweets and little sandwiches. Often, the bread would be cut out with cookie cutters: hearts for Valentine’s Day, and so on. And always, the crusts were gone.
That cookie was known in our house as Christmas Pralines. I’m looking at my recipe card right now:
1/2 pound butter
1/4 c. sugar
2 1/2 c flour
1 cup chopped pecans (yes, toasted!)
Of course we usually quadrupled the recipe. Actually, we would double it twice, just so it would be manageable. I just turned the recipe card over, and on the back it says, “Kalpana,” “Saniquelle,” and “Nimba.” Clearly, I had the card with me in Liberia, and probably made the cookies there, since the ingredients could have been found. No nuts, though. And butter only in a tin, from Denmark!
The good Doctor loved the fact that the butter came from Denmark!
Whatever your mother and her friends called it, they were tea parties! Thinking about cutting the sandwiches into hearts, etc., I once had a neighbor whose child was a poor eater so she also cut sandwiches into cute shapes and made faces in the pudding just to get food into him. My girls always wanted to eat lunch there.
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