Welcome to Tuesday Terrific, where we celebrate getting over the Monday bump and picking up speed for the rest of the week.
During these long winter months, a lot of folks enjoy getting together for meals and entertainment. So, for this Tuesday Terrific, we will look at:
And this isn’t just your ordinary survey of tips and recipes, oh no. Today we have two mavens of fine dining, together in a way only possible through the wonders of the internet, who will share their expertise with us.
The first is Mrs. Isabella Beeton, famous 19th century domestic expert and author of The Book of Household Management (1868). According to Mrs. B:
“Man, it has been said, is a dining animal. Creatures of the inferior races eat and drink: only man dines.”
We’re also lucky to have none other than the ultimate domestic diva of our day and age, Martha Stewart. What does Martha have to say about dining?
“It appears on that mental list from childhood of ‘things grown-ups do’: Throw a dinner party.”
Since we all want to be both civilized (Mrs. Beeton) and grown-ups (Martha Stewart), we’ll benefit from consulting both ladies.
That means…it’s mashup time! Isabella vs. Martha. I’ve volunteered to moderate. (Wish me luck.)
KBO: So, ladies, thanks for joining me today, to help our readers understand the important elements of fine dining.
IB: I’ve been here already, dear. Remember last year? My advice about the nursery?
MS: *sniffs* Your readers should skip this malarkey and just read my blog. It’s far superior.
IB: What’s a blog?
KBO: But you’ve never had Mrs. Beeton on your blog, have you, Martha? You weren’t even a gleam in your daddy’s eye when she was giving her household tips. Have you given pointers on how to truss a fowl or make butter?
MS: Yes, I have.
KBO: Oh, right, I forgot. *blush* Well, you don’t know how to slaughter an ox, do you? Tell her, Mrs. B.
MS: …stop right there, lady. I’m having filet mignon tonight. You’ve made your point.
KBO: Now, on to those dining tips. Which do you think is more important, the menu or the setting/decor?
IB: We have sighed over many a dinner where the offerings were irreproachable, and might have been enjoyable, but turned out to be quite the contrary. One must have all of the elements in place, including congenial company.
MS: I so agree with you, Isabella. Decor, food, music, timing, the conduct of the hostess – all my “good things.”
KBO: Glad to see we have a consensus. Let’s start with table decorations. We’ll tackle some of the other things next time. The folks reading this blog have their lives to get back to. What sort of table setting would you recommend?
IB: We can imagine no household duty more attractive to the ladies of the house than that of making their tables beautiful with the exquisite floral produce of the different seasons. Here’s an illustration from my book:
KBO: Hmm…looks like a ceremonial ring in a tiki village. Not sure that works for me. What do you think, Martha?
MS: Guests should be able to see each other, Isabella. Now, my recent creation doesn’t have that problem: this ring of blossoms seems to float in the air, with globes of tea lights dangling in airy whimsicality. It’s sure to impart a cheerful radiance to any party.
KBO: How do you get that thing to stay up? It certainly looks pretty, though swaying tea lights at my house is sure to cause trouble, as in lighting people’s hair on fire. And what is that shadow I see in the background? Looks like a mushroom cloud.
MS: Merely an unfortunate photographic angle. I have had words with the camera person in question.
IB: You didn’t say we could use colour.
KBO: Not to worry, Mrs. Beeton, yours was lovely, even in black and white.
IB: Thank you, dear.
KBO: Well, that’s all we have time for today! Thank you, ladies, for sharing your expertise. When you come back next time, we’ll talk about food.
Thanks to my readers, too! What are your dinner successes and disasters? (I really did have a *small* fire at one – no, two – of my celebrations). How elaborate do your centerpieces get when you host a party? I’d love to hear from you!
Stay tuned for “part deux,” when Isabella and Martha will be discussing the food component of fine dining. I just hope I can keep these ladies under control.