On Table Settings and Party Games

As the table of contents suggests, The Perfect Hostess covers a lot of bases: tableware, table settings/decor, menu planning, meal parties, and theme parties. I suspect 1946 was a popular year for entertaining, following the war. Since I am away at a conference this week (likely indulging in some good food!), I’m hoping the book will keep you all adequately amused…

With all the variety, I did chose to scan two specific types of pages: table decorations and settings and party games.

When it comes to table decor, we aren’t in new territory. We’ve seen strange arrangements with and without food, dolls and other figures, flowers, and candles. In The Perfect Hostess, we are given LOTS of details: which silver and plate settings one might want to own, how many candles a table should have at a formal event, the necessity for careful planning, sample menus, how to serve a multi-course dinner with only two trips to the kitchen…Many of these little details are the things that caught my attention. For example, when it comes to centerpieces:

Right: Few fruits chosen for their color relationship. Wrong: Too much fruit, too great a variety…Right: At least four candles tall enough to be out of the line of vision. Wrong: Only two candles, burned down so they shine in the guests’ eyes.

As regards this last point, we can only assume you must encourage your guests to eat quickly, before the candles burn down. Or hope for a lull in conversation while they burn at eye level.

While there are lots of details about creating table decor to match the party theme (and presumably you should own the tableware and linens to coordinate, as well), the “Special Decorations for Special Occasions,” I admit, sent me into some giggles (except for the clowns). I can’t decide if the Halloween scarecrows are involved  in an interpretive dance or if they’re just stepping over fallen corn. Who has this many wooden or porcelain dolls, waiting to be re-purposed for seasonal and themed displays? And if you are throwing a Mother Goose party, do you have artificial turf on hand, or do you dig up the lawn? Maybe that’s part of a game…

We haven’t talked too much about party games yet. We have a new acquisition for the cocktail collection that includes some drinking games, but this is the first discussion of party games for adults. But, as author Nancy Prentiss informs us:

Time was when party games were restricted to the teen-age group but grown-ups are rediscovering them as a sure fire method to keep a party going. In the following group you should find enough ammunition to pep up even the dullest affairs.

I’m not sure what kinds of the games the teen-agers were playing in 1946, but watch out for these grown ups! Card games, musical chairs (with music played on the piano–non piano owners, this may not be the game for you!), scavenger hunts, celebrity quizzes and more!

The post this week is a little indulgence in social history. While our party games may not be the same and our table decorations a little less creepy, the spirit is the same: A few guests and some good food can make for a pleasant evening. And if you’re lucky, those guests will be sure to compliment your exquisite taste in tableware and linens or your choice of games. Besides, even a game of “Know Yourself” is all in good fun…right?


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