I've decided to start a Wednesday segment called Wednesday Reads. For my first entry- I'm focusing on Betty Crocker's Guide to Easy Entertaining- How To Have Guests and Enjoy Them (1959).
The edition I've actually got is a modern reprint, but it's exactly as it was in 1959. It is a delightful book, with both old fashioned and timeless wisdom. I don't know about you- but I read cook books and entertaining books cover to cover as if they were a novel!
The book is divided into the chapters of:
Planning Your Party
Invitations, Acceptances, and Regrets
When Guests Arrive
When Guests Leave
After Dinner Coffee
Pot Luck Dinners
Come By for Dessert and Coffee
Therefore, it pretty much covers everything a perfect 1950s hostess could expect to encounter. Proper etiquette and social grace is also something that is reminded and enforced heavily throughout the book. Some of the advice is rather sweet:
Worth remembering are the words of one of my friends to her daughter who was complaining about having to entertain one of her husband's friends she termed "a crashing bore".
"Try to see him as he sees himself. Treat him as if he were fascinating- and maybe you'll find that he has something".
One of the other factors which sets this book apart from later Betty Crocker books, is that it's written in the first person rather than the impersonal, academic style of more modern Betty Crocker books.
No, Betty Crocker was never a real person- but in 1959 she had a face and a voice and was probably considered 'real' by women all over the country. 'Betty Crocker' although an actress playing a role created by executives at General Mills, had her own radio show and TV spots and was no doubt loved by home cooks everywhere.
I like receiving the advice directly from Betty- it's as if she is a make believe, retro Martha Stewart politely but firmly guiding you through mid century social norms.
The book is also littered with Recipes- from the delightful to the bizarre and sports a few full page color photographs (in addition to those cute drawings).
Obviously some of the advice will fall by the wayside in your house (for instance, she suggests putting an ashtray on every surface, and discretely going through emptying them between Main Course and Dessert!) but by and large I find the advice useful, albeit antiquated by modern tastes.
I wish we still lived with such etiquette when it came to introducing people when they came to parties. I wish men still stood when a lady left the table. I wish we still wrote thank you notes to our host/hostess after being invited for dinner.
I personally aspire to take Betty's wisdom to heart and host all of my future dinners in the way she suggests (sans the ashtrays!).
So, if you're as into retro as I am or just love recipes and have a Penny to spare- pop over to Amazon where you can find it for as little as $0.01 + shipping!
But remember, no matter what you do, Stay Glamorous!