Wedding Wednesday: How Much Food To Serve

Cherished readers, two of The Lady’s correspondents in the past few weeks have asked this question (not a carbon copy but the general idea) so it must be a timely topic. Below you will find one of the emails.

Dear Lady Hooper-Brackett

My son is being married at the church of his fiancee, which happens to be in New York City. We live in Boston as do many of our friends and family who are invited to the wedding and reception. We will all be carpooling or taking the train to NYC (which you can imagine is costing the group of 48 both time and money) The bride and her family have decided to serve only “light refreshments” at the reception. And by light she means tea-time finger sandwiches, champagne, and small dainty desserts in addition to the wedding cake. Am I wrong to feel that they should serve something a little more substantial? Especially with the groom’s family numbering so many and traveling such a distance. I’ve offered to contribute and they politely refuse.

Starving Mother of The Groom

Dear Starving Mother of The Groom

First The Lady will say what you want me to say: HOW AWFUL! They should be ashamed at serving such meager cuisine.

Now The Lady will say this:

Traditionally, the bride’s family hosts the reception and provides the apres-nuptial bounty. In our modern times, there seems to be more cost-splitting going on, but this is the traditional role that the bride and her family play. Basically, what they are serving is perfectly acceptable. Even if they chose to serve only the wedding cake and punch or champagne, that is entirely correct.

NOW, with that being said…as you have been rebuffed in your efforts to contribute to the food kitty, The Lady advises this:

Since all of the starving Bostonians are traveling together anyway, after the wedding reception, find a restaurant in the city where you can play hostess, pay for the cornucopia of vittles, and eat as much as you like. Your relatives will have full tummies and can travel home in comfort.

Best Wedding Wishes

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

 

 

Food Friday: Decorum at The Table

Cherished readers, in the past week The Lady has gotten two questions  about dining away from home. Rather than answering them separately, this week’s Food Friday segment answers those questions about how to comport yourself, be it in a restaurant or at a friend’s home.

  1. Should you be a smoker, do not smoke at the table. The Lady is not sure any restaurant allows smoking anymore, so she will say that it is important to remember not to do this when in a friend’s or family’s home.
  2. Should you be in a buffet restaurant or at a party where there is a buffet line, do not fill your plate to epic proportions the first time around. You can always go back for more. (The Lady once saw a patron at a salad bar fill up their plate in an attempt to resemble Mount Everest!)
  3. Your dinner napkin is never tucked into the neck of your shirt. The Lady goes so far as to say that those plastic bibs they give you at New England restaurants when you order lobster are also a no-no.
  4. No fixing makeup at the table, or heaven forbid…combing the hair!
  5. Using at a toothpick at the table is frowned upon.
  6. Do not pick up a dropped utensil or anything else that may have fallen to the floor. Ask your hostess or waiter for a new one. Think how picking up the dirty implement will sully the table with all of the germs from the floor.

Best Dining Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Food Friday: Six Course Formal Dinner

Cherished readers, today rather than looking at individual foods, let us examine the courses to serve at a formal dinner. The Lady realizes that these occasions are few and far between for most folks, but there is certainly nothing wrong with a little knowledge on this fine Food Friday. The Lady bases her thoughts here on the advice and training she received from numerous etiquette books and applies these guidelines to her own entertaining.

Six courses is the maximum number to serve at even the most formal of gatherings. More than this and your place settings will be huge and your guests confused.

  1. Choose one: Fresh fruit cup, soup, shellfish or melon. The shellfish selection may include oysters, shrimp, or clams.
  2. Fish course (which you would omit if you served shellfish in the first course) or a dish such as sweetbreads (not sweet breads. Google if you don’t know what this is. As an aside, The Lady prefers to serve the fish course as a matter of courtesy for those who will not eat sweetbreads.)
  3. The entree, which may be chicken, turkey, or roast beef. You may also consider a vegetarian option for those who are not meat eaters.
  4. Salad. The salad may also be served with the entree in a separate side dish. It is entirely correct to serve the salad after the entree, despite the custom to serve it first in restaurants.
  5. Dessert
  6. Coffee (or tea, port wine, brandy)

A well-balance menu is imperative and should be easy to achieve with this number of courses. Strike a balance between rich dishes and the more simple ones.

The appearance of the food should also be considered. Think of color…don’t serve all white foods with white sauces on white plates (Ohhhh how boring!) Don’t serve all sweet or all savory dishes. Aim for a beautiful balance so that the foods may be enjoyed thoroughly.

Arrange vegetables neatly in the serving dish. Arrange the meats neatly, also, rather than just piling them high on a platter. Make it interesting for your guests. Appeal to all of the senses!!!

Best Dinner Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

Food Friday: Okie Dokie Artichokie

Cherished readers, because my posts about Food and Table Manners seem to be the most popular, I have designated Fridays as Food Fridays. Today’s post deals with artichokes, because people seem confused about how to eat them and also because we Hooper-Bracketts like to eat them here at the estate.

The artichoke is a study in contrasting textures. You have the tender leaves,  the inedible fuzzy ‘choke’ and finally the soft heart. Did you know that the artichoke is in the thistle family? When we cook it and eat it, it is an immature thistle bud. Here is the artichoke in all of its blooming glory:

Artichike flower.jpg

But as we are not interested in growing it…let’s get back to consuming it.

When you are served an artichoke, you must remember that it is a finger food. You pull the leaves off (one at a time), dip the meaty base into the sauce that is served with the artichoke (usually a hollandaise or a lemon butter) and then pull the leaf through your teeth to scrape off the end dipped in sauce. You would then place the inedible part of the leaf on the side of your plate. (Be neat!) You will proceed with each leaf in this fashion until you reach the center where you will find the fuzzy ‘choke’. Remove this fuzzy layer with a spoon, but don’t scrape too deeply…you want to keep the best part intact: The heart. You may cut heart into small bits and dip in the sauce.

For those who need a visual, The Lady found this short video for your viewing pleasure.

Best Food Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

A Question of Asparagus

Cherished readers, The Lady was pleased to find this electronic correspondence while she sipped coffee this morning.

Dear Lady Hooper-Brackett, 

I am a busy mom with three young sons. I have tried to teach them correct table manners. During our weekly Try-A-New-Food night meal, I served asparagus to them for the first time. I had instructed them that they could eat the asparagus spears with their fingers, but my husband told me that he felt this wasn’t correct. Do you know?

Signed,

Trying My Best 

Dear Trying My Best,

You ask if I know the answer and The Lady humbly says….why, yes, I do.

You may use the side of your fork to gently cut the soft part of the asparagus spear, impale it on the fork, and then convey it to your mouth. This method is preferred in most conservative circles, especially if the asparagus is quite soft and has been covered in some type of sauce.

If, however, the stalks are firm with the sauce only applied to the tops, you may properly pick the spears up with your fingers and eat the soft edible part down to the tough part of the spear. You would then neatly place the devoured stalks on the side of your plate.

You did not reveal to The Lady how you served this noble vegetable to your family, so I cannot say whether or not your husband was wrong in correcting you. I do commend you most effusively for introducing your sons to new foods. I am sure they are on their way to being cultured gentlemen.

Best Mealtime Wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

 

 

Household Tips: Help, An Oafish Guest Spilled Wine on My Tablecloth!

Hello cherished readers, I’ve no doubt that in the course of entertaining friends and family, there has been an instance where someone with a bit of clumsiness knocked over a glass of ‘something’ onto your table linens. One hopes that it was only water…but if it was wine…here is something that may help. *

Firstly, never show by word or action that you are peeved at your esteemed guest. Though your teeth may be clenched so hard you are cracking your crowns, smile and tell your guest that all is well.

When your guests have left, you may then feel free to scream and curse and cry over your Great-Great-Great Aunt Catherine’s linen tablecloth that she sailed across the Atlantic with when she emigrated to our fine country.

This tip is for fabrics that are bit stronger, so please do not use on flimsy fabrics. Boil water, preferably in a kettle for ease of pouring. Cover the stain with salt and set your timer for five minutes. When your timer dings…fasten the stained area over a bowl with a rubber band. I would use as large a bowl as you can find. Put in sink or tub (can be messy!) and cautiously pour the boiling water over stained fabric from about a foot above the bowl. Please do not burn yourself.

Best tidy wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett

A word from The Lady:

*this tip has worked for The Lady Hooper-Brackett and her friends. No guarantee that it will work for you is implied. You assume all risk in trying.*

Serving and Eating Corn on the Cob

Summer is coming…and corn will be served.

Cherished friends and readers, as summer approaches we must be prepared for the variety of offerings we will find at outdoor entertainments and barbecues.

Corn on the cob is a delightful side dish that is served only at the most informal of gatherings. The very eating of the corn from the cob can be quite messy, so one would certainly NOT serve it to those wearing their most formal clothes. So how can one graciously consume this summertime staple?

Grasp the ends of the corn cob firmly and rather than eating it in large mouthfuls…be mindful of how things look and eat in neat little rows all the way across the cob. Also, when buttering or salting the cob, do just a few rows at a time. To do the whole cob at once will result in a slippery mass in your hand and quite possibly grease stains on your shirt.

It is proper to cut the corn off the cob with a knife, but a thoughtful hostess will do that procedure for you or send it to be done in the kitchen. Do not attempt at the table or your poor cob might slip from your grasp and make a unholy mess.

Toothpicks become a necessity when serving corn on the cob, so if you are the hostess have them available for your guests. And if you are a guest…remember…no picking the teeth at the table. Retire to the bathroom to do this procedure.

Best corny wishes,

The Lady Hooper-Brackett