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.