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MARTHA SEZ: Garden party anyone?

May 8, 2014
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

A slow, grudging spring like the one we are experiencing does not inspire us to plan for outdoor entertainment.

When the warm weather finally arrives, we may find that we are woefully unprepared to host our annual garden party. For this reason, I will take time today to put before you some excerpts from "The Successful Housekeeper," published in Detroit by M.W. Ellsworth & Co. in 1882. I quote from Chapter XLIII, "Garden Parties." You will thank me for this in July.

"Except that it is arranged out-of-doors, a garden party would seem to have no relation to the picnic. The truth is, they really are cousins and represent ... two extremes. ... One is an escape from etiquette and philistinism, while the other is carrying hospitable display and social observances to an almost unreasonable extreme.

"Sometimes garden parties are excesses of extravagance. For those who are able to afford such hospitalities, they are all right enough, because to the florist, the caterer, and the laborer, they give extra employment. They disburse money throughout a community which might otherwise be lying idle. On the whole, costly garden parties are a blessing to business people, a pretty spectacle to guests, and perhaps one of the least objectionable of the many methods by which the rich indulge their fanciful tastes.

"The garden party requires a shaven lawn, shade trees, and seats with rugs and hassocks in front of them for delicate feet that have become wearied. Marquees in gay colors, or fancy awnings to flutter in the summer air, may be placed at proper intervals. A dancing floor is often laid beneath such a shelter, for those who don't wish to make the occasion altogether rural by dancing upon the velvety turf.

"Perhaps this distaste for whirling and gliding upon the lawn itself after the fashion of the peasant maiden, is because waltz and redowa, polka and cotillion are less easily performed upon a soft surface, and because the slippers of my lady of luxury have no affinity with the tidy and sensible buskin of the country girl.

"Umbrella awnings, planted here and there upon the lawn, are bright and tasteful in their different colors. With seats beneath them for two or more persons, they are not only beautifying to the garden, but provide charming retreats where a tete-a-tete may be enjoyed within sight of mama or a chaperone, but happily not within hearing.

"If there is no arbor hedge or natural cluster of shrubberies, beneath which the musicians may be hidden, it is customary to arrange for them a temporary retreat of freshly cut pine or hemlock branches fixed in the earth.

"If the party is to be from 3 o'clock until 7, the hostess provides only delicacies and light refreshments. There are salads of various kinds served in fancy paper cups or orange skins, mushroom patties with little sandwiches ... small breaded lamb chops en papillote, fancy breads, meringue a la creme, souffle aux marrons, charlottes, cream ices and sherbets, fancy cakes and fruits, with tea, coffee, chocolate and sometimes bouillon for drinks.

"As for other drinks, the good sense of the hostess will determine whether she should have stronger liquids than lemonade and sherbet for her guests, or, at the most, a claret punch. ...

"If the entertainment be fixed for late hours, then cold salmon with mayonnaise is usually added to the above list, and so are chicken wings ... these can be lifted by the fingers. Smoked breasts of ducks and pate de fois gras are quite frequently provided.

"Elderly people prefer the house, while younger ones delight in out-of-door feastings. Moonlighted sentiment harmonizes wonderfully well with birds' breasts and tutti frutti.

"The hostess sends out her invitations about 10 days in advance.

"The costumes for such a party should be as airy and gay as possible ... white mulls, French batistes, satins, surahs, etc., with gay flowers and ribbons, are the favorites. ...

"It has become as much an approved style for a lady to ride without a bonnet to a garden party as it is in Cuba for a lady to take all her summer airings with no other protection for her head than a parasol.

"If a guest leaves early ... she does not take leave of her hostess, but goes away quietly, in order that she not suggest departure to other guests.

"Garden parties seem to us to be the simple picnic hampered with the code which fashion imposes upon those of wealth and position."

Have a good week.



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