I came across this book in my grandmother’s house. At first I thought it was going to be great recipes that aren’t really around anymore so I wanted to try some out at home. Betty Crocker wrote a book, published in 1960 with adorable illustrations from Anne and Harlow Rockwell and it is all about how to be the perfect host. It’s funny because times have changed drastically for women since the 60s and this book is like going back in time to a typical suburban housewife. Let’s take a look at some of the great tips Betty Crocker gave to the ladies back in time.
For the first post of a series, we are going to be focusing on “What Makes a Hostess Famous” because it’s important to fully understand the foundation of being a great hostess. Thank you, Betty Crocker.
So what exactly makes a hostess famous? Well, according to the housewife bible, you are to “just invite congenial people and entertain them graciously.”
But how are we suppose to accomplish this? Careful planning, you see: What, Why, Who, When and Where. First, you need to determine WHAT kind of party you are having (i.e. dinner, brunch, tea). Carefully consider time of year, space, budget and personal preference.
Then consider WHY you are having a party— birthday, anniversary or maybe a gathering just to spend time with friends.
WHO will you be inviting? “People are the basic ingredient of parties, so plan the guest list carefully.” Even back then Betty Crocker knew to leave the toxic people at home.
Planning WHEN to have your part is important for all guests. “Consider which say and time would be best for your guests. Weened parties are best for working couples. Couples with young children might prefer a late dinner hour which gives them time to tuck the children in bed before leaving home. Parties for school children are usually planned after-school houses, ending with a light meal.”
WHERE would Betty Crocker expect you to have a party? In your house of course! Apparently there was such a thing as an “amusement room” for all the party hosting people did.
Next is the Importance of Planning. There are a variety of things to consider in this category because, you know, you have all this time on your hands.
Guest List. “Invite guests well ahead of time, contacting them by phone or by note, as you wish.” I wonder if a text or Facebook invite is acceptable?
Meal Planning. Find a meal that’s “simple to serve and yet just different enough to boost your hostess rating…” Make sure you plan a head with a complete grocery list and know your guests’ likes/dislikes. Have a variety of textures and colors, contrasting flavors while finding flavor mates. Do not forget herbs — dried or fresh? There are so many options but don’t worry, the pages are filled with helpful suggestions to make the perfect choice.
According to Betty Crocker: “Subtlety is the Key Word.” (mental note)
Organization is key for the Hostess with the Mostest. File all new recipes so that you can easily find them for the next gathering. Keep a party notebook with notes of who liked what dish, who takes cream and sugar in their coffee in order to be a thoughtful and considerate hostess. (I seriously can’t make this stuff up).
Be sure to carefully select your serving dishes. Chinet isn’t going to cut it anymore! Have versatile accessories to interchange certain pieces as serving dishes or center pieces. Remember: a salad bowl set goes a long way. Use it to put fruit or hot rolls for larger parties. You will also need: a large chop plate or tray with matching bowl for dip and accessories, pitchers of all sorts for beverages or get creative with a centerpiece and clear glass bowls to float flowers or candles in. A cake stand for centerpieces, compote dishes for more flowers and decorations, snifters (sadly, not for scotch) to layer colorful ice creams or popcorn in for snacks.
It seems you will need 75% of your bowls/dishes/servers for decorative use versus serving purposes.
And finally, make sure to serve your food attractively. “Wise hostesses know that eye appeal and appetite appeal go hand in hand.” (write that down)
I find this book entertaining because it’s so out dated but that’s not going to stop me from trying out a few of their party ideas. I’ll keep you posted. Make sure you subscribe for updates!