Sunday, January 31, 2010

For the Man Who Has Everything – Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts (1949)

I recently celebrated a birthday and received several brilliant gifts that are older than I am. From my most organized friend and decluttering guru Rosemary, came an old and venerable edition of Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts, published in 1949. The handbook’s mantra - “Eat! Drink! Be Merry!” That’s sound advice, no matter what the era.

The dust jacket features a star-studded collection of guest whom I’d love to welcome to Suburban Long Island. Imagine sipping cocktails with Bette Davis, Bob Hope, Cary Grant or Lauren Bacall?

Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts is a classic domestic manual with a shot of testosterone – a manifesto for real guys who aren’t afraid to entertain and do it with style. The opening pages pull no punches:

“The world’s greatest cooks are men. Since the beginning of time, he-men have always prepared the savory dishes that caress the palates of epicures of every nation … You won’t find doily tearoom fare here: no radish roses, no menus designed for their calorie content. Esky has concentrated on food of, for and by MEN.”

Take that, Julie & Julia!

The handbook is chock-full of manly entertaining advice:
  • Your kitchen-conquest will go for naught if you fluff the follow-through.
  • No furred animal or feathered fowl should ever be fried.
  • Ah, steak – plain, unadulterated beef – is paradise enow.
  • An orderly conversation has a beginning, a middle and an end.
  • The mark of a perfect hose is that he has a good time at his own party – but not too good. For though he seems to be just another guest, he is really very busy staying sober enough to continue his subtle hosting.
  • And who is a good conversationalist? His talk is casual, easy, varied. He rarely talks for more than three minutes at a time unless others ask questions to keep him going. He suits his topics to his audiences. He does not drag out his personal affairs or innermost convictions for casual acquaintances. With them, he can keep up a perfect, enjoyable chatter about the weather, the caprices of Rhode Island Reds or yesterday’s front-page murder.
  • Canasta is a rummy game of Argentinian (some say Uruguaya) origin. It has been touted as the hottest thing in card games since gin and the best partnership game ever. Its publicists and enthusiasts claim it will decimate the ranks of bridge players, convert pinochlers and bewitch poker hounds. Time will tell.
  • You’ve had a few if … There is a fly in your drink, but instead of taking the trouble to remove it, you quaff down your drink, merely taking the precaution to avoid consuming the fly in the process.
  • The only thing more horrible than a really first-rate hangover – one with long, matted hair and a guttural voice – is the hangover remedy which well-meaning friends force down your gullet the morning after.

Since undoubtedly, the cocktail still stands as a key component of the male entertaining repertoire, here’s a drink from Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts that you might consider serving at your next gathering:

Brandy Daisy (from Esquire’s Handbook for Hosts ©1949)
2 oz. brandy
½ oz. Grenadine
Juice of 1 lemon

Shake with finely cracked ice; pour unstrained into ample highball glass; decorate with fruits ad lib. Harpoon with straw.

If the Brandy Daisy isn’t enough of a reason to get a party started, here’s one more incentive. Esquire’s Handbook for Host also includes 365 Excuses for a Party (as if we needed more than one?). Today’s excuse? On this day in '42 Ann Shirley sued for her divorce.

©2010 T.W. Barritt All Rights Reserved


Julia said...

I love how this shows a glimpse of culture and society of that era. Fascinating!

And a very happy birthday!! I hope it was a wonderfully delicious celebration.

My Carolina Kitchen said...

Happy Birthday T.W. What a brilliant gift. I love these kinds of books. I totally agree with the steak - plain is paradise. A conversation, like a story (which is really is) has a beginning, a middle and an end. My grandmother loved Canasta and was playing up a storm with her friends when this book was published in 1949.

The Brandy Daisy sounds colorful with the Grenadine.

Kathy said...

Happy Birthday T.W!

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

A guide for the perplexed, perhaps?! This looks like a lot of fun; what a wonderful birthday gift. But please don't take too much of the advice (except about the steak -- that one is true).

~~louise~~ said...

Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday Day to you, Happy Birthday T.W. Happy Birthday to YOU! I hope you made lots of tasty wishes when you blew out your candles:) (you're lucky you can't hear me singing:)

How cool is that book!!! I confess, in the 70s, we use to play canasta every Saturday night. The manly tone of that book reminds me of the Mystery Chef, John McPherson. I think he went under cover because he didn't want his family to know how he enjoyed cooking. I do believe it was in the same time frame. Thanks for sharing T.W. I'll stop singing now...

Cakespy said...

Oh my, I LOVE reading things like this!! It reminds me of old Emily Post books and such, where it's kind of funny to read back into the way society was. Makes me want to wear pearls and go to a cocktail party!

Happy Birthday, most importantly (belated!).

Rochelle R. said...

Happy Belated Birthday!That book is great isn't it. I have it, but mine doesn't have the dust jacket. Sure wish it did because I love the illustrations.

Peabody said...

Oh my, that is too funny.

Susan from Food Blogga said...

Oh, my gosh! That is a brilliant gift. Jeff and I are totally into those 50's and 60's etiquette books and would love this. I'll have to start hunting since Jeff's b-day isn't until December. ;)

Happy belated birthday, T.W.!

Table Talk said...

I received a copy of The Charming Hostess, published in 1929 as a gift a few years back.
The opening line of the book:
"There are certain essential qualities which every woman, be she hostess or guest, must have, if she wishes to achieve the brittle laurels of social success."

~Love thumbing through vintage etiquette books.

Lori Lynn said...

I guess time did tell, when's the last time you played canasta?

This is hilarious! Happy belated birthday, I hope you didn't spend it making radish roses.

Tera said...

What a wonderful book! ...and just the thought of he-men caressing the palate...wait, my mind must have wandered... ;)