Friday, December 21, 2012

Ashley Sterne Catering for Christmas

Here are some short excerpts from an Ashley Sterne article of middling interest published in the magazine Country Life, Volume 53 (1927).

Catering for Christmas

By Ashley Sterne

Why catering for Christmas day should present any more harassing a problem to the average goodwife than catering for any other day in the calendar is a matter which annually causes me intense amusement.  The fact nevertheless remains that it does.  Ask your married sister, or preferably somebody else's married sister, to do a lunch and a matinee with you ten days before Christmas, and her reply will be:

"My dear! but how can I possibly come with all the Christmas shopping to do?"

And by "shopping" I don't mean selecting and buying presents.  I mean food-shopping.  Why should Christmas catering require ten days when that for an ordinary routine-day requires only ten minutes, or even less if the shopper is an expert at counting her change (which she never is)?  Of course, I quite appreciate that folks eat more on Christmas Day than on any other day of the year; say fifty per cent. more.  But then it's just as easy to order a pound-and-a-half of a thing as to order a pound.

Again, I am fully aware that it is customary to provide for Christmas Day a greater variety of comestibles than ordinary.  But is it any harder to order mixed biscuits than to order plain lunch?


Mincemeat should be liberally tasted before being finally selected, as there are so many different flavors stocked nowadays – fish-glue, turpentine, boot-blacking, copying-ink, and so forth – and for this purpose the housewife would be well advised to bring with her a few empty mince-pie cases, with lids.  Some prefer mincemeat that really has been minced, while others, again, prefer the unminced variety so that they can see what it's made of.  I strongly advise the latter, as in the unminced state it is nearly always possible to pick out the boot-buttons from the currants and the glove-buttons from the sultanas, whereas in the minced state they are as inseparable as the Siamese Twins.  The freshness of bought mincemeat may be tested by inserting in it a strip of blue litmus paper – but I regret to say I cannot remember the answer.

Christmas cakes are of varying degrees of richness and ornateness, but the main thing to remember when purchasing one is not to pounce on a dummy out of the window.  It is made of cardboard and plaster-of-Paris, and, as such, is frightfully indigestible.  I am all in favor of choosing one off the counter, however thumb-marked it may be.

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