The Clever Hostess – Hors d’Œvres

Just in case you are entertaining friends and you need some ideas of what to tempt them with before dinner, here is a suggestion from the 1936 Modern Practical Cookery book –

Here are two delicious dishes of the savoury or hors d’œvres variety. The first consists of small, very crisp biscuits, buttered and spread thickly with cream cheese to which some vinegar or lemon juice has been added.
This cheese should be arranged in a sort of mound; a slice of pickled walnut is put on top and paprika shaken lightly over. This sweet pepper is a very useful addition to any kitchen for decorating salads and all kinds of savoury dishes.
Another dish consists of small squares that appear to be Welsh Rarebit. But when one starts to bite through the hot cheese one discovers something quite cold and very delicious underneath. This could be one large slice, or several small slices of pickled gherkin or cucumber. The mixture of hot cheese and cold pickle and the blend of flavours is excellent.
A delicious sweetmeat can be made from marshmallows. Cut a small slit to the underside of each one, and insert a lump of preserved ginger or of crystalised pineapple. This is really a delicious mixture and proves a big surprise to one’s guests.

A couple of things strike me; first of all the use of ‘sort of’ – a ‘sort of’ mound; I had an aunty who would correct me and my sister for saying ‘sort of’ – not because it was rude, but because it was either lazy or colloquial (I don’t think it is either, and does it matter, but my aunty was born in 1920 so came from the time when this book would have been written) The other thing I realised, the vinegar added to the cream cheese in the first recipe would have been malt vinegar… I don’t think that’s a combination which would appeal to today’s dinner guests! I like pickled walnuts (not that I’ve had any for a very long time, and the last time I did they were a commercial not home-made jar and really not nice) but I think a pickled walnut would be a big surprise to people today… and not to everyone’s taste; however something else hidden beneath cream cheese might be nice!

I love gherkins; however, my husband hates them, so if he swooped on the tray of what appeared to be yummy Welsh rarebit only to discover a gherkin lay beneath the innocent, bubbling appearance, he would be horrified… I think it sounds nice, but how would you keep the cheese hot?

And lastly the marshmallows… stuffing a marshmallow could be a fun idea, and here are lots of other things as well as crystallised fruit – nuts, for example, dried fruit such as apricots… lots of ideas… I won’t be trying any, but my dear aunty who objected to me saying ‘sort of’ might very well have done something like this for her guests!!


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