THE door’s always on the latch Sundays,” that is what we’ve told our friends. “Come and have tea with us if you can make it.” We really mean it, too!
Of course if all our friends came upon the same Sunday it would be in the nature of a minor tragedy. But that contingency is almost negligible, and so the plan works—the cafeteria plan. As a result, we see our friends frequently, obviate the effort of extra work and fuss, and enjoy informality, attendant upon a system which forces your guests to look after their own interests.
It may sound lazy and inhospitable. The proof that it is neither lies in the fact that our friends thoroughly enjoy it and—like Oliver Twist—come back for more.
Perhaps I’d better admit right away that fruit cake and preserves are at the bottom of it. These two articles of food are easy to keep on hand and most folks enjoy them.
So then, after the Sunday noon dinner is over I clear the dining room table, centre it with a bowl of fresh fruit upon a centrepiece of Cluny or embroidered linen, place a pile of tea plates at one end, beside a tray containing salad forks and serviettes, and put an equal number of cups and saucers with the tea service on the tea-wagon. Then I butter two platesful of brown and white bread (covering with a damp serviette), put two kinds of preserves in dishes, put the plum cake on the cutting board, with a sharp knife beside it, and sit down peacefully with a book until it is tea hour.
Then I place these things on the dining table with a bowl of salad or a platter of cold sliced meat and pickle relish, put the coffee in the percolater, the tea in the pot and the kettle on, and with the cream pitchers filled and on the tea-wagon I am ready for guests. The only thing left to do is pour the water on the tea or put the plug in the electric percolater. You may then wave your guests into the dining room and invite them to help themselves.
This is not theory—it is fact. The tea may be as simple or as elaborate as you wish. The simpler it is the more it conforms with the idea of having a cafeteria tea. The more “homey” and informal it is, the more your guests will enjoy it. The less effort it is for you as hostess the more pleasure you will take in seeing your friends.
How Many to Expect
MANY hostesses prefer to know how many guests to expect. If you prefer you can invite a certain number each week and then cater to their known preferences. But it is always wise to pre-
pare a little more than you are certain of needing; the cafeteria tea grows very popular. The bogey of not having enough, however, is no menace. Such is the informality of the affair that unless your larder is actually short of supplies you have no cause to worry. Should the salad run out you may produce some tinned
meat, shrimps, lobster or chicken. If the last of the cake crumbles from sight, crackers and cheese will be found an acceptable substitute. If you haven’t sliced sufficient bread, produce the bread board and toaster; your guests will do the rest.
It must be clearly understood that this plan is only feasible among those whom you know well enough to entertain thus informally. To invite mere acquaintances would be to invite criticism and comment.
It has been my personal experience that, among close friends, cafeteria suppers are greatly enjoyed not so much for the abundance and elaborateness of the food as for their fun. Since I started nearly two years ago, I have never known a moment's embarrassment from the cafeteria system.
“But suppose no one comes,” expostulated a friend, “there’s all your bread and butter and salad made for nothing.”
“We always have tea ourselves,” I reminded. “And the salad or cold meat which might be left goes into the meat box for Monday’s lunch, the bread into ‘satin toast’ for breakfast and the preserves and fruit cake back into their crocks. So you see, there is no waste. But—unless we notify the friends who haven’t been around for several Sundays that we are going out—there are always at least two or three who drop in and some times—well, I think eleven is the record
so far. On that night we took to bully beef and sweet pickles when the salad disappeared and were thankful that the fruit cake and cream held. But if they hadn’t there were sweet biscuits and condensed milk!”
I stay in the living room with the tea wagon in front of me. The rest go into the dining room, help themselves to salad, bread and butter, and with a fork and a serviette return to the living room, if it is winter, or to the sun room if it is summer.
I enjoy every minute of it, and my friends, seeing that they are not making any trouble for me, relax and wax enthusiastic about their pet hobby— and the time passes all too swiftly.
Pleasing the Husbands
T HAS one more advantage to certain homes — homes where the husbands prefer to stay in on Sundays and not have a varying engagement for successive Sunday afternoons. His day is free until tea hour and then, instead of setting forth to fulfil an engagement he can smoke and read until the knocker announces that the first guest has arrived—and then, because the cafeteria plan is only known to friends he will toss his book aside, without a sigh, pass his cigarette case and settle back for a good talk with the particular “ol’ Bill” who has arrived.
Every housewife has her pet menu, but for those who might enjoy a combination of others with their own, or something new, the following menus are suggested:
Salad of chopped veal, walnuts and celery with white bread, date bread, grape conserve, plum cake.
Salad of shredded cabbage, finely cut onion, green pepper and celery with -white and whole wheatbread, jelly sponge and fruit or loaf cake.
Cold sliced ham with sxveet and sour pickles, tea biscuits, Spanish cream and cake.
Assorted sandwiches with devilled eggs, (not so practical for the days when you do not know how many may come) pineapple mousse, cake, crackers, cheese, celery.
Potato salad, olives, brown and white bread, rice with whipped cream beaten into it, fruit cake and cookies.
Hot or iced drinks may be served according to season. If you own your own freezer water ice or ice cream is delicious and little trouble to make. If one is possessed of a chafing dish, there are various egg and cheese dishes which are delicious for winter, and may be served on either crackers or toast, as may creamed chicken or shrimps, etc. To make a festivity of even a simple tea, salted nuts, olives and candies may be added— but the more elaborate the preparations, the farther one gets from the informality.
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