This section is from the book "The Steward's Handbook And Guide To Party Catering", by Jessup Whitehead. Also available from Amazon: Larousse Gastronomique.
It is a pity to have to say what they are, for the grand endeavor 'of caterers both public and private is to get something new in this line to beat somebody else. There is an effort to make new effects in the meat line, but that is more difficult; but when it comes to the sweets it is thought they are like toys, only passing fancies, and may be used to further any fantastic notions that igenious people may adopt. However, as this might seem a formidable task to have to invent a new device for every ball supper or other party, It is encouraging to remember that every old invention is new in any place where it has never been seen before, and the fancy form of ice which may have been served up to the queen of Sweden thirty years ago is still a charming novelty in almost any town or city where the caterers have not been too enterprising already. All the cook books and all the confectionary books therefore will furnish notions for something beyond plain ice cream. There is the brick of ice cream in three colors to be sliced, that is the pana-chee or Neapolitan; the brick or mould of any kind having an outside coat of one color, the inside filled with a different kind; that is the bombe.
The plain yellow ice cream may be pinched up between a pair of pewter moulds hinged together (or first dipped in water), and the ice cream drops out when they are opened in the likeness of a peeled banana. Another pair of moulds makes a pear or a peach, a little pink ice being placed in the mould to make the blush; another pair makes an egg, another a stalk of asparagus, with some green pistachio nut ice in the end to make the head. These moulds, dipped in water after each form is made, will form the ice cream out of the large freezer as fast as they can be carried in by the waiters, if three or four hands be employed at it at once.
To give an idea of what the caterers do In the city society circles, where nothing whatever is new and the party givers have a great repugnance to repeating what some society rival has already done, the following extracts from correspondents' letters will prove useful.
It has to be said further in praise of the small tables for party suppers that they admit of the adoption of all the new devices of private parties, it being only necessary to multiply them, one for each of twenty or forty tables - itself an achievement worthy the ambition of any hotel manager or caterer; and, besides, the room full of small tables, and they fully occupied by people in full dress, makes just such a scene as only thj finest appointed restaurants in the world can equal during their best hours. But to our extracted paragraphs:
"The desire of the fashionable world for some new things lead them into queer freaks now and then. One of the queerest, and to my mind the nastiest, is the latest form in which ices are served. Last year the favorite method of serving them was pretty and picturesque, consisting of little plated silver candlesticks. These contained a colored ice frozen in the form of a fancy candle. In the top of this was thrust a wax taper to be lit just before serving, and the whole crowned with a tiny silk shade. When they were served with the tapers lit the effect was extremely pretty, and, after admiring it, one pulled off the shade, extinguished the taper and proceeded, like the Esquimaux, to lunch upon candles.
•' But this year the very latest Parisian idea is to serve the ices in the shape of a family washtub, filled to the brim with meringue in imitation of soap suds, and in these white masses one is permitted to fish at random to bring up whatsoever piece of the family wash fate or luck assigns one. To some fell a stocking in pink ice, another gets a cuff or a collar, or a square that is supposed to represent a handkerchief. The whole idea is revolting, and, strange to say, has been very popular. Much more charming were the ices at a luncheon given by the Misses Furniss the other day to thirty young women, where, it being a " hen party," the ices appeared in the shape of a big motherly hen sitting in a nest of spun sugar surrounded by eggs of vari-colored ices.
"The most novel dinner device of which I have heard recently was a mould of wine jelly in the midst of which was set an electric light. The dish had to be arranged on the table beforehand, but it was concealed by a big silver cover, which was in turn hidden by flowers so as to form a centre piece to the table. When the cover was removed and the jelly, with its cluster of red and golden and purple fires, was disclosed, the effect was quite tremendous. One lady, it is true, asked her escort if he didn't suppose the jelly would taste electrical, and another in eating it declared she felt as if she were swallowing a Leyden jar; but the device was really very pretty, as well as novel and striking".
And here is a pretty fancy, which words would be insufficient to describe, orange peel baskets filled with Jelly. One such dish for each of our 20 tables would be about right. There are eight of them, just enough to go around.