One of my favorite vintage cookbooks is James Beard's Menus for Entertaining. I love Mr. Beard's no-nonsense advice on entertaining, including this admonition about the cocktail party, what Beard considered to be an "inferior form of entertaining":
"By all means have your house looking its best, use your best crystal and china, and have the food impeccably turned out, but don't be chi-chi. The results may be silly."
While many of Beard's recipes have aged quite nicely, others seem more like relics. Case in point- Lihamurekepiiras, otherwise known as Swedish Pâté en Croute. What doesn't seem dated, though, is Beard's kitchen wisdom. I found a few tips of his that I think many of you cooks might appreciate. While some seem a little obvious, others are really rather clever. Call me clueless, but I had no idea that cooking curry in oil for a few minutes helps to develop the flavor. Did you?
"Chopping blocks are always kept clean with a pastry scraper and damp cloth, or after preparing fish, rubbed with a half lemon, then rinsed."
In Beard's kitchen, "Vegetables and pasta are kept on the floor in large earthenware crocks, eggs at room temperature in a wire basket, oils in splendid cologne bottles with ground glass stopped. A French marmite holds spoons and ladles; and a pewter beer mug, pastry brushes."
"Mr. Beard puts 6 to 8 vanilla beans to steep in a small bottle of cognac- the result, vanilla flavoring with a beautiful aroma, superior taste."
"Black Italian or Greek olives are pitted quickly, simply by squeezing them."
"Curry powder, even if it is to be used in a salad or other cold dish or sauce, is first cooked in a little butter or oil over very low heat for about 2 minutes to develop the flavor."
"The bottom of a cooked pastry shell for quiche is glazed with egg yolk and baked 2 minutes more to keep the pastry from becoming soggy later."
"If raisins and currants are called for, Mr. Beard plumps them up first with a drop of Madeira. 'Much better than adding water,' he says."
Tips from House & Garden, April 1970.