Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Vintage-themed bridal shower: Choosing the menu

I'm returning to a series of posts that I started earlier this year and abandoned: Planning a vintage-themed bridal shower or party.  Click on the link to find a complete list of posts and links to each.

This post is about what food to serve at the party.  Inspired by a tea party I held for my mom's birthday back in February, I already had some ideas of what food to serve, but I made sure to do some research first too.  These suggestions are all for a 1920s-themed party, but with a quick Internet search you should be able to find plenty of information on authentic party foods for other eras, as well.

Salted Nuts

Believe it or not, salted nuts actually came into vogue in the 1920s.  During this era, vegetarianism as we would recognize it today was starting to gain traction, and nuts were being marketed as an alternative source of protein.  They were also used as a party food, so be sure to stock your buffet with nuts such as peanuts, almonds, and pecans (and maybe include a bowl of fancy olives for good measure).

Tea Sandwiches

Tea sandwiches were apparently popular party food in the 1920s.  These should be small, finger-size sandwiches on thin-sliced white bread — I cut the crusts off and then cut each sandwich into two or four triangles (depending on the size of the bread), but you can also cut them into long, thin rectangles.  Egg salad, chicken salad, meat sandwiches such as turkey, chicken, or ham, and cream cheese sandwiches are all good choices.

I made cucumber sandwiches for my mom's party — for these you arrange a layer of thinly-sliced cucumber between 2 pieces of bread spread with butter or mayonnaise.  I chose mayonnaise for the taste, but the real purpose is to keep the cucumber from making the bread soggy.  Also be sure to pat the cucumber slices with paper towels before putting the sandwiches together, and don't make the sandwiches too soon before they are to be eaten!

Sweets and Desserts

Sweet foods were very popular in the 1920s.  Pineapple upside down cake and Jell-o salad molds are a couple of traditional sweet desserts that were popular in the 1920s.  These are also relatively easy to make and feed a lot of people cheaply, so they make great desserts to have at a vintage-themed party.  Retro candy can also be used as treats and favors for an authentic feel.  Most people don't realize how many of today's candies actually debuted in the 1920s, but the combination of a booming economy and a newfound interest in products and marketing led to the creation of lot of our favorite treats.

Drinks

Of course, one can't forget drinks, especially when we're talking about planning a 1920s-themed party!  Drinks in the 1920s were typically sweet mixed drinks — because of Prohibition, a lot of the alcohol circulating wasn't of very high quality, so soda, juice, and sweet syrups were used to disguise the taste.  If you don't plan on having alcohol at your party, you can mix fruity syrup with ginger ale for a similar authentic feel.  I also like the idea of using one of the punch recipes in my vintage copy of The Joy of Cooking — these are alcoholic punches, though, and judging by the recipe, they pack a wallop!  I'm thinking women's bridge parties had way more fun than one might think!

If you are interested in doing further research on what to serve at a vintage-themed party, a quick Internet search should provide plenty of information, such as this page on foods by decade.  The page also recommends looking for vintage cookbooks and menus, and (speaking as an amateur book collector with several vintage cookbooks) I think this is a fabulous idea.  Your library may be able to help you get many of these through interlibrary loan, if necessary, and Project Gutenberg (a site dedicated to providing free ebooks of works in the public domain) may also be useful.

Stay tuned — future posts will discuss selecting favors, dressing up, and entertaining your guests!

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