1940s Spring Party Menu

Party like it’s 1943! Try this spring buffet menu from the archive, complete with recipes, tips, and a DIY centerpiece. The editors assure that it’s perfectly okay to ask guests to bring their own coffee. It seems like a strange BYO request, but coffee was rationed during World War II, so there was very little of it to share.

The Buffet Takes a Bow

Originally published in The Country Gentleman, April 1, 1943

An all-season favorite for a hostess but especially refreshing for spring entertaining is the supper buffet. Its beauty lies in its simplicity, its attractiveness and the hospitable atmosphere that hovers around it.

You can set a pretty table with the centerpiece shown here for an eye catcher. To make it, gather up odds and ends of old candles and melt them over hot water. Pour the wax into nut cups and let harden, inserting birthday-cake candles for wicks. When the wax is thoroughly hardened, slip the candles from the cups and float them in a low bowl around a floral center.

Food for a buffet should be the type that can be prepared beforehand, is simple to serve and easy to eat while juggling the plate on your lap. If the guests are to go back to the table for seconds, the food remaining there should have been replenished to make a showing as fine as the first one.

There are no exact rules about setting a buffet; just figure out the arrangement which will be handiest for the guests. As you go around a buffet table, you usually first pick up your plate, then help yourself to the food and then get your silver and napkin. The beverage is most conveniently served to the guests after they are seated.

Dessert, too, is usually served in this way after the main course is completed, though the table may be reset for the last course if desired.

Buffet Menu


Individual Cornish Pasties

Sift the flour and measure it. Sift it again with the salt and cut in the suet and shortening. Add enough water to make a dough the consistency of pie pastry. Chill the dough.

Grind together the meat, potatoes, onion, and parsley, using the coarse knife of the food grinder. Add any of the vegetable juices which remain in the grinder, together with the seasonings and melted butter.

Roll the chilled dough into a sheet a little over one-eighth inch thick. Cut into four-inch rounds with a floured cutter. Place several heaping teaspoons of the meat mixture on each round, spreading to within one-half inch of the edge. Fold each round in half and press the edges together firmly with a wet fork. Cut several gashes in the top of each pasty. Place pasties on a baking sheet and bake for about 45 minutes in a moderate oven (350°F). About 10 minutes before the pasties are done, add a little bit of cream to each one through the gashes in the pastry. This recipe makes about 15 pasties; allow two for each serving. Pasties may be served hot or cold.

Curried Vegetables en Casserole

Blend the butter, flour, and seasoning. Add the milk and cook, stirring over low heat until thickened. Cook the vegetables and add them to the white sauce.

Cook the rice in salted water until it is tender. Drain it and press onto the bottom and sides of a greased dish. Sprinkle with cheese and heat in a moderate oven (350°F) until lightly browned. Fill dish with the creamed vegetables. Dot the top with paprika and return to the oven to heat. Serves 6.

Grape-Juice Sherbet

Combine the water, sugar and orange rind; boil for 5 minutes. Strain, and add the gelatin which has been softened in the cold water. Stir until dissolved. Cool and add the remaining ingredients.

Pour the mixture into a refrigerator freezing tray and freeze at lowest temperature until firm, then beat thoroughly and let freeze again, stirring occasionally. The sherbet can also be frozen in a hand freezer, using a 4 to 1 mixture of ice to salt. Serves 6 to 8.

Walnut Wafers

Cream the butter and gradually add the sugar. Stir in the ice water, then flour which has been sifted before measuring. Add nuts, vanilla and, if necessary, a small amount of additional water. The dough will be crumbly, but press it into flat cakes and place on a lightly greased baking sheet. Flatten each cake with a wet fork to make a thin cooky. Bake in a moderate oven (350°F) for 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Recipe yields 34 small cookies.

Other Foods on the Menu

The rhubarb cocktail can be omitted from the menu, but is a nice starter. You might serve it before dinner in the living room. To make it, cook and strain fresh rhubarb. Sweeten the juice to taste with corn sirup or sugar and dilute, if desired, with water or ginger ale. Chill the cocktail thoroughly before you serve it.

If you have spiced peaches on your canning shelves, serve them as a salad on lettuce, with mayonnaise containing other fruits or nuts.

While it’s perfectly permissible to ask guests to bring their own coffee these days, if you don’t want to do this and if you do not have enough of your own, solve the problem with a dessert beverage such as mulled grape juice. To make enough for six, simmer 6 cups of grape juice with two sticks of cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon each of cloves, allspice, and nutmeg for 10 minutes. Strain through a cheesecloth, reheat and serve steaming hot in mugs. This, with cookies, would be your dessert instead of the grape-juice sherbet.