HOW TO-Casual Entertaining

Excerpt from "Joy of Cooking"
Original copyright 1931

Tray meals can be a delightful stimulant if they include a surprise element in the form of a lovely pitcher, a small flower arrangement, of some seasonal delicacy. Make sure, especially if the recipient is elderly or an invalid, that needed utensils are present, that the food is hot or cold as required sufficient in amount and fresh and attractive looking.

 A cookout, whether a mere weenie roast or a luau, can be - although it seldom is anymore - one of the least complicated ways to entertain. Unless your equipment is equal to that of a well appointed kitchen and you can assure your guests of comparably controlled cooking we suggest that you choose menus that are really enhanced by outdoor cooking procedures. Have enough covered serving dishes on hand to protect food from flies. Give your guests a tray or a try-like plate if there are no regular places set or normal seating arrangements. And prepare an alternate plan of accommodation in case of bad weather.

 We recall an informal party that was really too big for our quarters and whose pattern might provide a substitute for a weather-beleaguered barbecue. The guests arrived to find no evidence of entertaining, only a most gorgeous arrangement of colchicum, those vibrant fall blooms, 25, that resemble vast, reticulated crocuses. After drinks were served and hors d'oeuvre passed, the host circulated a cart with soup tureen and cups. In its wake followed tray baskets containing white paper bags, each filled out with individual chicken salad, olives, endive filled with avocado, cocktail tomatoes, cress and cheese sandwiches, bunches of luscious grapes and foil wrapped brownies. Coffee was served, again from the circulating cart.

 In order to get an informal after supper party rolling, young hostesses are often so eager to present the fruits of their labors that refreshments are served too early for the comfort of the guests, most of whom have rather recently dined. Instead of hustling in solid food and alcoholic or carbonated drinks, it might be pleasant to open the proceedings with a tisane.

 Here are a few parting reminders on entertaining. In cooking for more  people than you are normally accustomed to, allow yourself enough extra time for both preparing the food and for heating or cooling it. Be sure that your mixing and cooking equipment is scaled to take care of your group, and most important that you have the refrigerator space to protect chilled dishes and the heated surfaces to maintain the temperature of the hot ones. Do not hesitate to improvise steam tables or iced trays. Utilize insulated picnic boxes or buckets either way, and wheelbarrows or tubs for the cracked ice on which to keep platters chilled.

 If you often entertain casually, it may be worth while to make - as one of our friends did - a large rectangular galvanized deep tray on which the dishes of a whole cold buffet can be kept chilled. Or try confecting an epergne-like form for chilling seafoods, hors d'oeuvre or fruit.

 For camping trips or boating parties, consider the safety factor when choosing the menu. No matter what the outing, do not transport perishable foods in hot weather in the even hotter trunk of a car.

 Not all types of entertaining - formal or casual or in-between - can be detailed here. But, whatever the occasion, assemble your tried skills in menu planning so as to reflect the distinctive character of your home. Flavor the occasion with your own personality. And keep handy somewhere, for emergency use, that cool dictum attributed to Colonel Chiswell Langhorne of Virginia: "Etiquette is for people who have no breeding; fashion for those who have no taste."