When I come to California I stay at Jon’s family cabin in Idyllwild. We lived here for a few years before we moved to Hawaii and it’s a lovely space in an awesome mountain town. One of the things I love about this place is the history. Jon grew up coming to this cabin, the whole of the Brown family history is here. Picture, stories, mementos, countless Better Home & Gardens magazines and recipe clippings and this lovely book. In all the time I have been coming here, that I lived here, I hadn’t seen this book before. It may have belonged to Jon’s grandmother’s Winona, who passed a couple of years ago. I need to ask his mother about it when we talk next.
It’s been fun looking through it. Written in 1942, the design, the pictures, even the advice is a bit dated, but the recipes are fun to look through. I love how the spine is tapped up, the pages have begun to yellow and gray in places and there are notes and clippings tucked here and there, throughout the book.
Here’s a somewhat long, but awesome passage on the Do’s and Don’ts of setting a table for a party. Pay special attention to the last one. My, how times have changed!
Don’t do more than your household is equipped to do with ease and distinction. The secret of good service is not to attempt too much.
Don’t have more quests than you can take care of easily. People remember a restful well-served little dinner. No one has a good time at a crowded badly managed party.
Don’t attempt dishes beyond your culinary skill. Try the fancy ones on your family before springing them on your friends.
Don’t try to be grand. Everyone sees through it and nothing is so forlorn as a pretentious party. The most distinguished entertaining is simple, done with ease and naturalness.
Don’t leave everything until the last minute. A tired flustered hostess is no good to herself or friends.
Do let the menu, service decorations etc., have the stamp of your personality. The talked-of party is the one reflecting the taste and individuality of the hostess. Mere correctness and routine are dull.
Do keep your table decorations low and the candles high. Your guests might like to see one another; mounds of flowers never furthered good table talk.
Do show some imagination in your table decorations. There’s lots besides a bowl of flowers and candlesticks to create a charming picture.
Do put cigarettes and ash trays on the table. In spite of the custom of passing these after the salad course, people will smoke throughout the meal and you might as well be prepared.
More and more I’m falling in love with cookbooks and how they feel like magical formulas for deliciousness. It felt like peeking into the past while sipping my coffee on this Sunday morning. I do this more and more. Having collected quite a few cookbooks here in Idyllwild, and so many more in Maui, I spend time just turning pages and not really even imagining the dishes I could make so much as pouring over the measurements, the names of dishes, the ingredients.
It was comforting this morning. Something quiet, somewhat abstract in it’s story telling while being quite exact in it’s details. My week days here in California have been emotionally draining, leaving me tender around the edges. Coming back here, to recharge and indulge in something so simple. Heals.