During the summer months hostesses blessed with grounds sufficiently large for one or two tennis-courts, or some variety of outdoor amusement, gladly seize the opportunity of giving a garden-party.
This form of entertainment makes a pleasant change from more formal gatherings, but it entails a considerable amount of careful planning to make it a success.
The scale on which it is carried out will, of course, vary enormously, according to the host's position and income as well as the size of the house and grounds; but usually, if the number of guests is to be large and much elaboration desired, the affair is put into the hands of some competent caterer, who will provide, not only the eatables but also any marquees, buffets, etc. that may be required, as well as the necessary glass, plate, crockery, etc. This plan is, of course, the simplest, and needs no special notice.
Be Prepared for Wet Weather
A few directions, however, for the home preparation of dainty refreshments suitable for small garden-parties may be given.
From the outset prepare for the worst; in other words, British weather is notoriously capricious, and the day may prove to be wet, so arrange what to do should such a disaster occur.
Decide in which room the refreshments must be served, what pieces of furniture will require moving, etc., so that the least possible confusion will result if all hope of sunshine has to be abandoned. It is also wise to sketch out some kind of programme, no matter what the weather is. Note who may be depended on for providing music and so forth, also how many sets of tennis and other games can be arranged.
The refreshment table should be placed under a shady tree, if possible, and where there is open space round, so that there is free access to it. It must be covered with a cloth, which should be sufficiently long in front to nearly touch the ground. This enables the servers to utilise the space behind the cloth for storing extra supplies of cakes in tins, glasses, plates, etc., and the ice-tub. A good plan is to festoon a large flag, or bunting, up under the overhanging branches of the tree over the table. This prevents the intrusion of spiders, green caterpillars, and other unbidden guests into the cups, cream-jugs, etc.
A plentiful supply of garden-seats, deck-chairs, and comfortable cane lounge-seats must be placed in shady places.
The refreshments must be plentiful; but nothing more elaborate is necessary than can easily be prepared at home by any clever-fingered amateur or cook.
No matter if six or twenty-six guests be invited, leave nothing to the actual day, except such items as cutting sandwiches, freezing the ice mixtures, or preparing fruit. Make a list of all ingredients or apparatus that will be wanted, no matter how trifling, or something is sure to be forgotten, or money spent unnecessarily because there is no time to calculate quantities.
Large cakes can be made three or four days beforehand, wrapped when cold in grease-proof paper, and put into well-closed tins. Small cakes can be prepared two days beforehand, and placed in airtight tins. The day before make and bake any pastry, cook all custards, mix sandwich fillings, set any jellies or creams, pouring a little wine over their surface when they are set, to prevent drying. Meringue cases will, of course, keep for weeks, if put when cold in air-tight tins. These may be bought so cheaply from any good confectioner that many people prefer to be spared the trouble of making them at home.
Be sure and lay in a good stock of different sized d'oyleys, on which to lay cakes, etc., also tiny sandwich flags bearing the names of the various kinds provided. Ice-plates or cups with tiny spoons will be needed, and either curled or flat pink or white wafers. If fruit salad is given, glass cups will be needed in which to serve it.