The "Five O'Clock Tea," as it was originally called, has been turned into an informal "at home," where light refreshments are served. Formerly the hostess presided, pouring the tea with her own hands, but to-day young ladies find it a charming recreation to make the tea-table attractive, on which are set sandwiches, cake, bonbons, and a silver or copper tea-kettle steaming over an alcohol lamp. It is the young ladies also who now preside at the tea-table, while their mammas take upon themselves the more important duties of receiving the callers.
These receptions enable all to show the spirit of hospitality, for everyone can entertain after this fashion, even though they have not the money to make a grand "spread." It is believed that Queen Alexandra, the former Princess of Wales, set the fashion by receiving in her boudoir at her country-seat in a bewitching tea-gown. Ever since, English ladies have observed rigidly the custom, and all who call, are served to at least tea and wafers. Gradually the fashion has spread until to-day American ladies send out hundreds of cards with the words "from three to six." In warm weather, ices sometimes form a substitute for sandwiches. Callers, meet in a most informal manner, chatting unrestrainedly.
Occasionally cards bear the inscription "Scotch Tea." Then all the appointments are Scotch. The music furnished is the bag-pipe, and the more old-fashioned silver, the better. Pound cake becomes the cake of the day. Sandwiches, instead of being made of bread, are tiny biscuits spread between with orange marmalade. On other occasions, cards bear the words "Russian Tea." Then the decorations are Russian. The tea is made from real Russian tea and with it is served thin slices of lemon, Russian wafers and a little preserve.
The latest form of an afternoon tea is a musicale, reading, or some literary entertainment, where ladies come early in the afternoon and just before their departure, are served to tea, chocolate frappe or bouillon, as the case may be.
The hostess who makes it a point to bestow hospitality in this unaffected fashion, and who does not exact formality, but offers a warm welcome to all, is sure of having an agreeable circle of friends. Tearooms, after the fashion of those abroad, have recently been opened in our large cities, from three to five, and are largely patronized.
The informal, old-fashioned supper, at which all the dishes are placed on the table together, is being revived and bids fair to surpass many of the more sumptuous affairs. People generally are preferring simplicity, and what can be simpler in way of entertainment than this?
No servant need be in attendance, and as perfect freedom reigns, each guest feels free to contribute his mite to the labor of toasting the bread, cutting of cake, carving of meat, and slicing of game, and then, too, what a good time every one has! The host pronounces the word "ready" and brings in a hot pot of coffee with delicious cream, which he, himself, serves, while the hostess loses no opportunity in seeing that every one is helped to the store of jellies, fruits, and other good things. These indulgent hosts and hostesses make the best parents in the world, and what boy could think of going "out" of a Sunday or holiday night with sociability like this at home? These suppers can take place early in the evening, before church or after. Then comes the singing and the good-byes. God bless such a home!
"There's a dear little Island far over the sea, And no spot on the globe's half so precious to me; And by lake or mountain where e'er I may roam, I shall never forget thee, my own Ireland home. Other skies may be bright, other lands may be fair, But what of all that if the heart be not there? Other music may charm me, but ah! there is none Which can move me to sadness or mirth like thine own."
As green is the prevailing color on St. Patrick's Day, I have suggested a dinner menu where this color and white are used exclusively. Let a dish of ferns be made the centerpiece and scatter ferns about the table. Let Irish flags decorate the room. Have the china green and white, so far as possible.
Green silk embroidered over a small wire, to imitate the shamrock, placed at each plate, for a bontonniere, is quite appropriate and novel.
"Oh! the Shamrock, the green, immortal Shamrock! Chosen Leaf Of Bard and Chief, Old Erin's native Shamrock!"
Rice, with cream
White Omelette, garnished with parsley
Irish Potatoes, in cream
Cream of Spinach
Creamed Fricassee of Chicken
Irish Potatoes, mashed
Lettuce and Celery Salad
Fruit Glace a la St. Patrick, whipped cream
(The above recipes and many similar ones are found within the pages of this book).