The Christmas season is essentially one for parties—■ Christmas parties—those happy gatherings where old and young meet together for mutual enjoyment, and where the presence of children forms an excuse for grown-up people to enjoy a round game, or look on at feats of legerdemain with as much enjoyment as a middle-aged, grave-faced Frenchman feels when going slowly round on horseback on a roundabout. Perhaps if we were all of us at times more childlike we should be none the worse for it, especially in this high-strung, tear-away age. But I must leave off moralising, or else you, like the children at the party, will be thinking what a long time they are about the supper, which, after all, is the event of the evening.
As we have said, the party is a mixed one, and therefore we must manage our supper on the principle of meat for strong men, as well as milk for babes.
Judging by my own experience, there are few occasions on which I have felt more decidedly hungry than after a Christmas party. Really, to see some good-tempered persons hard at work amusing children, after perhaps having had a hurried early dinner, is quite enough to arouse pity. They have indeed earned their supper.
There are, perhaps, few opportunities for exercising taste better than a cold supper, where every dish is placed on the table at once. It would, however, be impossible to enter into the detail of the arrangements of the table without knowing with tolerable accuracy the resources of the establishment. For instance, where there are plenty of silver dishes, as well as cut-glass ones, to arrange a table handsomely would be far easier than where there are neither.
I would, however, give a few general directions. Have some flowers—real ones, if possible—and also mix plenty of green leaves with them. Try and alternate the dishes in colour. For instance, do not place a white mould of blancmange next to a dish of custard or a mayonnaise salad. Again, do not overcrowd the table.
We will go through a variety of dishes suitable for supper, explaining, where necessary, how they should be made, and also giving hints as to how they may be improved in appearance.
First, a very good dish is a cold roast turkey, glazed. What a difference, however, in appearance between one that has been glazed and one that has not! Did you ever notice a plank of mahogany just fresh planed, and contrast it with the well-polished flap of a Spanish mahogany dining-room table? Now there is almost as much difference between cold tongue, or turkey, or fowl, or pheasant unglazed and glazed, as there is between a mahogany plank unpolished and polished.
I will not enter here into an elaborate description of the proper method of making glaze, beyond describing it as good rich stock, boiled down till it has the appearance of strong liquid glue. In making glaze, great care should be taken so as not to allow it to remain too long on the fire. As soon as the stock begins to turn colour, remove the stock-pot from the fire, and quickly slacken the heat, otherwise the contents will get burnt, and much of the flavour destroyed, especially if the glaze be intended for the purpose of making either soup or gravy. The simplest method of obtaining glaze is to buy it ready-made—it is sold in skins— only take care to get it at a thoroughly respectable shop.
Now, to glaze a turkey is so very similar to varnishing one, that perhaps the easiest method of describing the operation is to say:—Melt some of the glaze in a little basin, and add, if you like, a very little water to it. Then take a fairly stiff brush and paint the turkey all over, drumsticks and all, making the breast particularly shiny. You will now see how very much the turkey has improved in appearance. It has, in fact, a rich mahogany look. If you are glazing, say, a couple of fowls, the principle is just the same. You will see the difference directly. By doing one first, and then comparing the two, you will understand the meaning of the simile I have given in reference to the mahogany.
Next, take some nice fresh bright-green double parsley, and fit some into all the hollow places you may observe about the turkey, of course trying as much as possible to make each side look alike. Place the turkey on a good-sized clean dish, and garnish it with some more parsley and cut lemon. I will try and describe, as some may not know how, the best method of cutting lemon for garnish. Cut a lemon in half the ordinary way, and then with a sharp knife cut off a thin slice, which is of course a complete circle, the centre being white, and the circumference a thin rim of yellow peel. Cut this in half again, thereby leaving you two semicircles. Next cut the semicicular rim— only the rim, or peel, or circumference, whichever you like to call it—through with a knife, and pull the two quarters of circles open with your fingers, till they stand exactly opposite each other. The hard white part of the lemon in the middle is quite sufficient to keep them together, if no violence is used. When I say pull them open, I mean only so fir as, were another piece exactly like it placed over it crossways, they would again form a round slice of lemon.
Now, a lemon cut up in this way makes a very pretty garnish for various dishes, besides cold game and poultry—as, for instance, a boiled fish, such as a turbot, on which has been sprinkled some lobster-coral, surrounded with lemon cut in this manner, alternately with a little parsley and a few little crayfish, looks far different to what it would plain.
Just so with our turkey. There is one more thing to set it off, and that is, if possible, get a fine, small, white camellia, just tinged here and there with pink. Now, as camellias are not easily obtainable, and even if there be a few in the greenhouse, they would probably be coveted on such occasions as that we are speaking about for the purpose of adorning far more beautiful creatures than turkeys, your best plan will be to make a camellia.