How, you will ask, can this be done ? Very simply. Cut it out of a turnip with a penknife. It really is not nearly so difficult as you would imagine. Take a sharp knife and a little scoop, and try and see how near you can get to making it resemble a flower. Then stick a little piece of wood into it, and tie on two or three bay-leaves. Take the feather-end of a quill pen, and dip it into the cochineal bottle, and just tint the edges only.
I have no doubt but that these directions will be followed by several young ladies with a taste for drawing. I should feel much obliged if they would write and tell if their first attempt was successful.
If you want to see these cut flowers in perfection, take a walk down Covent-Garden Market, where, if you choose to pay for it, you can receive lessons in artificial vegetable-flower making.
Next stick our flower, whether real or artificial, in the turkey; the shape of the bird and a little taste will tell you about where.
A tongue can be glazed in an exactly similar manner, a curly paper frill tied round the root, and a flower placed on it.
So, too, a ham can be glazed. But there is one method of ornamenting a ham which deserves notice.
We will suppose the ham ready glazed. Have you ever seen one, the top round the rim ornamented with a white substance which looks like beautiful white fresh butter, or even sugar ?
Now, it is very easy to ornament a glazed ham with this composition, and one advantage is, you can put words on the ham, such as "A Merry Christmas," or, on the occasion of a child's birthday, the name of the hero of the feast.
The way to do it is as follows :—Get some nice white clarified lard, and melt it in a cup in the oven, and add a little salad oil to it, so as to make it thinner when it is cold.
Next roll up a sheet of fairly stiff note-paper like a cone, and hold this cone near the point in the right hand. Pour a little of the hot lard into the cone, and so regulate the pressure on the paper with the right-hand thumb and finger as to allow the melted lard to drop out or run out in a very thin stream at the point. This lard will settle directly it comes out, and turn quite white on getting perfectly cold. I would advise you to practise designs on a black shining tea-tray, as it will scrape off with a spoon and do again. With a little practice and a natural gift for such things—for a clumsy-fisted Mary Ann would make an awful mess of it—it is wonderful what beautiful designs can be formed this way, such as a harp or a rose.
In making a spiral border round the edge of the ham, it sometimes looks a little prettier to have a small pink spot in the centre of each circle. This is done by simply colouring the melted lard with a few drops of cochineal. But I would warn you against having too much pink in ornamenting. Just a touch, as in the case of the turnip-flower, is all very well, but it must be but a touch. We wish some persons would bear this in mind in using rouge.
Another exceedingly useful supper-dish is well-cut beef sandwiches. If these are cut thin, with just a little butter, mustard, and salt, you will always find them eaten. But a word about appearances. Have them piled up on a snow-white dinner-napkin, folded, if possible, at the bottom of a silver dish, and well garnished with small pieces of bright double parsley.
I need scarcely mention that every particle of crust must be cut off. Just contrast such a dish with what you get, say, at a railway-station refreshment-room the ham—they never have beef—coming out bodily with the first bite, and having a mouldy taste, which makes you regret that you didn't try either the butterscotch or the Banbury cakes, which generally form the only alternatives.
Space will not here allow of my going through all the dishes advisable to have at a nice little supper, so I will confine myself to a few general directions.
Recollect you want to please children, without making them ill. Now, for the purpose I would always recommend a good large corn-flour pudding, made in a mould, and coloured a nice bright pink with cochineal. This can be made nice and sweet, and may be flavoured with a few drops of essence of almonds, or a little essence of vanilla. The dish is very simple and wholesome, and yet looks very pretty. You will very likely hear a little child say, "I will have some of that pink thing, pleaseand, luckily, that pink thing is the least unwholesome thing on the whole table. It is the jams and pastries that do the harm.
With regard to jellies, I would add, try and get it bright. This requires patience and a jelly-bag. Also, as it will keep with ease, make it at least two days before you want it, so as not to drive yourself to have a lot to do on the day of the supper. In making jelly, whether orange or lemon, gelatine is the simplest, easiest, and cheapest method. Do not grudge the sherry, and also put a few coriander-seeds into the jelly when it is boiling. You will find this greatly improve the flavour.
But we must not forget the grown-up people, and under the circumstances they enjoy a good lobster salade mayonnaise. I have given directions before how to prepare this king of cold sauces. As, however, you are making a mayonnaise salad, it is almost as easy to make two as one. Have a lobster salad and a smoked-salmon salad. This smoked salmon must be cut into very thin slices, and simply placed round or mixed up in the salad just as it is—raw. If you possibly can, have these two mayonnaises placed in silver dishes, and get a few little crayfish or a few good prawns to add to the usual garnish of capers, anchovies, olives, cut hard-boiled eggs, etc, which I described in a preceding chapter.
In making mayonnaise sauce you will use two, or perhaps three, raw yolks of eggs. Now what are you going to do with the whites ? Why not whip them up into a stiff froth, and use that for ornamental purposes? For instance, suppose you have that nice simple dish, stewed pippins, on the table. Take a dessert-spoonful of foam shaped like an egg, and place it on the top of each pippin. Have also in readiness a few of those tiny, pretty little sweets called hundreds and thousands, and sprinkle a few lightly on the white egg-froth. Contrast this dish with the pippins as they were before. The change is marvellous, and yet costs almost nothing. Yet many persons would think, casting their eyes over the table, " Ah ! that dish came from the pastrycook's."
One or even two piled-up dishes of almonds and raisins, being, if there are not too many almonds, dark dishes, form a favourable contrast with the light ones. A supper-table, to look really nice, must not have too many white dishes.
If you have a large centre-dish of trifle, with whipped cream on the top, a few hundreds and thousands sprinkled over it set it off. Now good whipped cream is rather beyond the powers of an ordinary cook, so if you happen to live near a really good pastrycook's, you will find it a good plan to have a man come round just before supper and supply the whipped cream, but make the rest of the trifle at home.
It is an exceedingly expensive dish to order, and, owing to wine, brandy, and liqueurs being requisite in its composition, one of the very last dishes desirable to order. Even pastrycooks will often spoil the ship for the sake of a ha'p'orth of tar, in respect of wine. To wit, mock-turtle soup. Order a glass of sherry at a pastrycook's with your mock-turtle, and throw half of it into the soup, and see what a difference it makes. In fact, as a rule, if you give a cook wine for cooking purposes, they drink the wine themselves, and manage the cooking without.
As a few last words of advice, in ornamenting your table, as well as in amusing the children, don't forget the crackers.