“A relaxed, confident hostess is the key to a successful party. If you show signs of uneasiness or act unsure of yourself, the guests will sense your discomfort and may not have a good time. The best way to avoid entertaining catastrophes is to plan well.”
Did you hear that? Dinner guests are like hungry bears; they can smell your fear and they’re likely to tear you limb from limb at the slightest provocation. Or at the very least, they’ll be silently judging everything you do.
Near the back of Better Homes and Gardens: Recipes for Entertaining (1973), are a pair of illustrations that always catch my eye. The illustrations belong to a chapter called “Being a Good Hostess” and they depict a Good Hostess who is ready for anything, and a Bad Hostess who looks like she’s ready to quit the game.
What follows is a four page treatise on party planning pitfalls and how to avoid them with superhuman hostessing skills. I could summarize the whole chapter for you with all of its tips and tricks, but to be honest, I’m more interested in looking at the pictures.
The organized hostess has everything under control…
She’s clever. She’s so clever, she doesn’t even need to bother cooking. She’s just going to start her guests off with a fresh garden salad, and then follow it up with a main course of booze. Why cook when you can get your guests too plastered to remember whether or not there was even a meal? This lady has mile-high confidence and hair to match. Madame de Pompadour would be proud of that volume. She doesn’t care about the glowing orbs on the wall behind her. She doesn’t care about the palm tree creepily encroaching into her kitchen. She doesn’t even care where her feet went! The smirk on her face says, “If that bitch Helen tries to start something with me, I’m going to fill her martini glass with french dressing.”
And then there’s the illustration depicting the “unorganized hostess.”
Her pots of gruel are boiling over. (Who makes gruel for company anyway? Did she invite Dickensian orphans?) Her avocado green cupboards can’t open, so she’s forced to store every dish she owns on the counter. She has a cat attached to her enormous clown pants. Goodness knows what she’s was planning to do with the pot in her hand or with the dough on the counter, but it’s fair to assume that there’s cat hair in both. We’ve all been there. The slope of her shoulders and the look on her face says, “Fuck it. The colour scheme in here hurts my brain and the soup cans in my hair are a bad look. The only things I have going for me are my charming Tiffany lamp and my 2-inch long giraffe eyelashes. I’m ordering pad thai.”
A word of warning, though: the Bad Hostess looks like she has a teardrop tattoo under her right eye, and I’m pretty sure that means she has killed someone in prison. So if you’re her dinner guest, and you find a cat hair in your bowl of gruel, don’t say a damn word about it.
The images featured in this post are from Better Homes and Gardens: Recipes for Entertaining. Published in 1973.
Persephoneers: Do you have an unusual holiday recipe you’d like me to try out? I’m always on the lookout for new (or old) recipes! If you have a recipe you’d like to see tested, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.