Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Silent Butler and Some Canapes




You know what I've always wanted? A silent butler. No, not that kind of butler but rather a handy sterling or silver plated contraption used to quietly and efficiently (and stylishly too) whisk away crumbs from a table or ashes from an ashtray. Do I need one, you ask? No. No one I know smokes, and my guests tend to be pretty tidy eaters. I think I like it for novelty's sake.


I've been eyeing this Tiffany Bamboo silent butler for years!


A more traditional Chippendale style piece

The other silver piece I'd like is a canapes server that looks similar to a silent butler. It's a lidded compartment with a smallish sized handle. (Any ideas as to what it's called?) There is this fabulous scene from an obscure Joan Crawford movie titled "Harriet Craig" (it's about a woman who is compulsive, possessive, a liar, and a bit of a sociopath, yet, she keeps the tidiest home you've ever seen. She goes nuts when things are out of place. Oh, and her prized possession is an Oriental vase) in which she serves her beleaguered husband canapes in something like it. Well, that scene did it for me. I want to serve canapes that way too.


So, channeling my inner Harriet Craig (that's Joan as Harriet, above, next to her prized vase), if I were to pass hors d'oeuvres from said silver dish, I'd probably serve something retro like this:

Cheese and Bacon Croquettes

Season cream cheese very highly, using grated, fresh horse-radish root for the predominating flavor. Shape into inch-long croquette forms and roll in finely chopped, well-grilled bacon. Skewer and serve before the bacon softens.



Then again...maybe I wouldn't!


(Image at top: Italian silent butler c. 1935-40)

28 comments:

  1. I think a silent butler is a wonderful thing to have! I've seen that movie, btw and it's FANTASTIC! Total camp and totally wonderful!

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  2. You could use it to pick up pine needles in December (kidding) or flower petals after a chic party :)

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  3. While we're on Harriet Craig: It's a remake of the 1930s film Craig's Wife, which has breathtaking neoclassical interiors by William Haines. It's not on DVD, but it shows up on TCM, and you can find inexpensive sorta-bootleg DVDs of it online.

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  4. Stefan- I know- how fabulous is that movie! What camp!

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  5. Courtney- That's even better than handling boring old crumbs!

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  6. Stephen- I had no idea!! OK, I must find a copy of the original. A hell on wheel's wife and fabulous interiors...right up my alley!

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  7. Jennifer,
    These are simply beautiful, elegant and remind me of my childhood when my parents dressed up and had gourmet dinners.
    Thank you!
    Ellen

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  8. does the silent butler come with a little brush to sweep the crumbs away?

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  9. Tristan- I know, shame on me!

    Sarah- Good question. I've never seen a brush with a silent butler, so I'm assuming that it was something that one had separately?

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  10. that's quite the appetizer! if you are goint to serve those, I'm sure your cook would whip those up!
    all I'm doing when people are arriving is frantically running around..........and not with my silent butler...........

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  11. I think that my mother had a sp silent butler and the "butler" used it. But Why not serve the canapes in the silent butler? Especially the footed style.

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  12. I think what you need is a "crumber" a little silverish comblike thing that is used to sweep the linen cloth of oopsies before dessert.

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  13. We adore obscure domestic devices. We are probably the only farm in West Virginia with both a laundry pouncer and a baguette guillotine!

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  14. I love the Tiffany bamboo one.

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  15. maybe it wasn't a brush, but I do remember at the Cloister in Sea Island when I was a kid, the waiters would scrape the crumbs off the table...maybe with a butterknife looking thing?

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  16. Sarah- They used a crumber which is about the length of a knife but it's concave so that you can scoop up crumbs easily. Remember the little pitchfork type thing that the Cloister used to spear olives and crudites(or was it pats of butter?). Anyway, I bought one of those from the Cloister for old time's sake!

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  17. oh yeah! I think they used it for the butter! Old times...

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  18. Why do I always crave bacon after reading your blog?

    Love the retro serving pieces and had forgotten all about that Cloister butter serving contraption. Memories...

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  19. What a fun post! I actually have my grandmother's silent butler and love it - if nothing else for etiquette's conversations. I remember my family in Germany having a silent butler and with great care used a little brush to brush the crumbs into the butler.

    Mine has no brush....and I'd love to find something like that for it. Got an idea? Or just use the hand?

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  20. Anonymous8:07 PM

    I just gave some silent butlers and hors d'oeuvres dishes to Goodwill because I never used them - I wish I'd known you wanted them because I would have sent them to you. The handle on one of the hors d'oeuvres dishes unscrewed from the body of the dish and you could pour boiling water into a compartment to keep the hors d'ouevres hot. Pretty cool! I've always wanted an argyle - a sauce boat that has a compartment into which you pour boiling water to keep the sauce hot. But I'd probably use it as often as I used my silent butlers and hors d'ouevres servers (i.e., never).

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  21. Love these traditional serving pieces-- I've always wished I could be one of those people who only buys exactly what they need, but how boring would life get without whimsy??

    I hope you get them -- I think little details like these are what people remember about good entertaining (well, that and the bacon.) :)

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  22. That silver Tiffany bamboo is beyond. I'll take it - although, I'd still rather have a real butler :)

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  23. Anon- Thanks for the info on the canapes dish. Maybe I need one of those more than a silent butler!

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  24. My mother had a silent butler that I believe had been a wedding gift to her. It was always put to use when she would have bridge parties at our home...couples seated at card tables, with tallies, decks of cards, cigarettes, ashtrays and cocktails. So very Mad Men.

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  25. I am French living in Paris. I enjoy the objects which remind me of the old days at my grandparents'house where everything was perfect. They didn't have a silent butler. I think the woman who was helping at home picked up the crumbles with a large white Damas napkin.
    But, my aunt had one. When I was a girl, I enjoyed, after the cheese, to use the silent butler to brush the crumbles.
    I'd like to know when the first silent butler appeared ? Was the first one made of silver ? Who had the idea of creating a silent butler ?

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  26. I love these silent butlers. I (or rather my table) have had the decrumbing treatment in a few restaurants and there's nothing like it for feeling cosseted. My fear is that if I bought one I'd have to wield it myself.

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  27. Anonymous7:45 PM

    Mary Nelda
    I have a bronze or copper one with no brush. Do these things have any value?

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