The American Pictorial Home Book
or Housekeeper's Encyclopedia - online book

A reference manual of household management in Victorian times.

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38                     REMARKS ON DINNER PARTIES.
fish, sauces and fondue for the day itself. Of these, nearly all can be cooking while the hostess dresses to receive her guests. Any sauces that are not immediately wanted can be kept in perfect condition by standing in stew-pans in which they have been made, in sauce-pans of boiling water, or better still, in a Bain Marie, which is a shallow bin or copper trough made to stand at the back of the stove and holding boiling water. In this receptacle for hot water everything may be safely placed until it is required, for the simple reason that as the water can never get hotter than the boiling point (212 degrees Fahrenheit), and as the contents of every sauce-pan will always be 40 degrees cooler than the boiling water by which they are sur­rounded, no chemical changes can take place.
A neat, careful housekeeper who will take the trouble to read care­fully the directions given for each dish, and use her wits, will easily see how to manage her time and her dishes so as to serve her dinner easily with the assistance of one servant only, and tolerably well without any servant at all. However, before showing what to do with the remainder of the dinner, a word or two may be said about the vegetables proper to be served with it and the directions for cooking them. See recipes for potatoes, mashed and brown mashed, asparagus and green peas.
Christmas has ever been held a fitting season for creature comforts of all kinds. In cozy, good old-fashioned houses the'prudent matron makes bountiful preparation for half the year through. The pickles and preserves are made in the summer time, and are all carefully planned to be in good condition by Christmas. The home-made wine and beer are racked and fined and got ready for use on the same festive time, and for weeks before the day there is an air of pleasant anticipation of the occasion. It is indeed a time when extra care and extra plenty are truly desirable; it is the one period in the year when people in middle life, long parted from friends of their youth by the world's accidents, make sure of seeing some of them again. The children are home from distant schools; those who are married must needs eat their Christmas dinner under the old roof—at least until their own covers too many olive branches to be hastily forsaken; and hospitality on that day generally includes two or three of the lonely ones of earth, who, but for the fore­thought of friends, would have their sad recollections for company. So the kind housewife, on " hospitality intent," has much to per­form, to do the honors of her home, as everybody has some little individual taste she can gratify, and the more thoroughly she tries to do this the happier she will be.