Every good hostess knows that there’s more to throwing a good party than just great food.

You also need loads of booze.

No, seriously…you do.

But you also need to set your scene and today we’re going to at some suggestions on how to do just that from the authors of The Party Cookbook.

Let’s start with some dubious advice for hosting a dinner party given to us by Ted Moloney.

Dinner Party a la Ted Moloney.
Dinner Party a la Ted Moloney

“Paid casual help has become very expensive and few people can afford to employ more than one person.  Which should it be?… a waiter is the answer…find the right man and use him always.  Have him come early.  He will be able to give your glasses a last minute polish and set out the drinks for you…any party will run more smoothly when a man serves the drinks and waits on the table”.

Does anyone else find the sentence “Find the right man and use him alway” just a little bit smutty?  Particularly when followed by a sentence suggesting that you get him to come early?

I’m a little disappointed that Ted didn’t suggest hiring a buxom serving wench who may have been up for a bit of slap and tickle between courses whilst Yakety Sax played in the background.  (In my mind, the whole of the ’70’s was just one long episode of  Benny Hill). I’m also gobsmacked that people found it necessary to hire staff for a party for eight people!

Ted’s admiration of the male at the dinner table doesn’t extend to the host whom he seems to assume is some sort of simpleton.

“Give the man of the house his share of the spotlight.  If your first course is soup, let him serve it from a tureen at the table”.

“Give him a chafing dish and encourage him to take up table cooking. It is easy and fun”

He also provides a menu called the Man Takes Over which:

“Is an easy dinner menu…which any man can cope with successfully.”

Awww….now kiddies, can we spell patronising?  Is anyone else imagining the host as Cousin Ruprecht from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels?

How I imagine the host

Here is the photo of the “Man Takes Over”.

The Man takes over 001

Yep, it’s a cheeseboard.

And by the look of that Edam, maybe the man shouldn’t have taken over.  Did he go at that with a shovel?  No wonder they need someone to help with the drinks!

Moving from the bumbling to the utterly awesome, meet Greta Anne Teplitzky and her Summer Buffet Party.

Summer Buffet Dinner Party
Summer Buffet Dinner Party

How utterly amazing is this photo?  When I grow up, I want to be Greta Anne Tepliztky.  I want to live in her house with that awesome copper hood for the fireplace.  I want the colours on my kaftan to exactly match the colours in the flowers, the candles and the napery.  That kind of co-ordination doesn’t happen by accident!  Greta has planned this party to the nth degree and yet she looks cool, calm and collected.  Greta exudes a kind of European sophistication where you know that she will shortly be lighting a pink Sobranie and having a glass of champagne.  She’s not hovering over her food, nervously worrying that you won’t like it. Greta is content to sit back and allow her summer buffet party to speak for itself.  Greta is chilled out.  She’s zen.  I think I love her.

Just as Greta’s buffet says all the right things, the open house party says all the wrong things…

Open House Party
Open House Party

This table has a distinct lack of serving implements.  Bad enough picking up the bread and meat with your hands, what are you meant to do with the mustards and condiments? Stick your finger into the jars? And whilst we’re on that don’t leave your pickles in the jar they were bought in.  Do you want people to think you’re common?   Oh wow…I just channelled my mother.  However, not having serving implements isn’t just lazy, it’s dirty.  We’ve all heard about the peanuts in the bar containing nine types of pee.  This table may as well be lit with a neon sign that says “Hi folks, welcome to dysentery.”

And speaking of signs…If you are planning any sort of buffet extravaganza DO NOT EVER put up a blackboard that tells people to help themselves.  If your guests do not have sufficient wits about them to know that the whole idea of a buffet is for people to help themselves, you probably need a new set of friends.  Moreover, do not do this in faux olde worlde phrasing.  It’s not cute, it’s obnoxious.  And yes, I am perfectly aware I just used the same old-fangled wording I’m complaining about.  If you haven’t figured out by now that obnoxious is my stock in trade, welcome to Retro Food for Modern Times, I hope you’re enjoying your first visit, do come again.

Decorating your house for a party is also important. It not only provides something interesting for your guests to look at, it reflects your personality.  If you have no personality, one way in which you can still make your house interesting to guests is to copy interpret ideas from your favourite books and magazines.  Take this picture from The Party Cookbook, which is a sans chafing dish view of Ted Moloney’s dinner party. Ted was holding out on us because, this picture gives rise to the second best bit of decor in the entire book.

Decor
Decor

I love that vase with the twigs and the birds.

So much so that I made one myself!

The birds are Christmas decorations, the twigs came from the park next door and I had the vase.  Too easy!

I think this is very cute and if I had more space I would probably leave it in place permanently.  Unfortunately, wherever I put it, it’s in danger of taking someone’s eye out so it will shortly have to be dismantled.

Bird and Twig Vase
Bird and Twig Vase
Bird and Twig Vase 2
Bird and Twig Vase 2
Blue Bird
Blue Bird
Red Bird
Red Bird

I’ll be spending my week working on my craft skills by hammering a sheet of copper into a hood.  Have a great week whatever you do!

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