Friday, September 06, 2013
Have you noticed that many vintage entertaining and tablesetting books devote at least a few pages to executive dining? It's quaint, really, because I believe that few of us devote much effort to weekday lunches, especially those we consume while working at our offices. In fact, I am writing this very post while eating Orzo Salad at my desk. It may not be a civilized way of eating, but it certainly is efficient.
But, back in the days when life was just a little bit less frenetic and when emails and social media were a burden yet to be discovered (and, by the way, when men wore suits and women wore dresses and skirts to work,) many people did take the time to enjoy a proper lunch. Sometimes they met friends at restaurants while at other times, they broke bread with their colleagues in the break room. A few brave souls ventured as far as three martini lunches (!) There was even a tradition in some offices, especially those of decorating establishments, of taking tea or coffee in the late afternoon, sometimes from a tea trolley that was pushed throughout the office.
Of course, not everyone had access to executive dining rooms, tea trolleys, and power lunches at the Four Seasons. But looking at these old books with their attractive workday tablesettings does make me realize that sometimes I really should slow down and enjoy life's little pleasures...even if that means eating Orzo Salad on proper china and at a proper table!
Image at top: In the 1930s-style Maple dining room of Cartier, a panther motif table was set for executives to discuss business. Note the wine and cigarettes.
"A Client Lunch at Wells, Rich, Greene, Inc." as conceived by Mary Wells Lawrence. Tiffany & Co.'s "Bamboo" flatware and "Jardin de Jade" china adorns the table, which is surrounded by Bielecky Brothers rattan chairs.
"A Small In-Office Lunch" at the Manhattan office of John T. Sargent, former Chairman of the Board of Doubleday. The table is set with "Si Kiang" china, "King William" flatware, "St. Remy" glasses, and a silver Monteith bowl filled with pears, all from Tiffany & Co.
"Luncheon at Chanel Inc.", where this fantasy lunch included Caprese Salad, grilled sole, and cantaloupe sherbet and gaufrettes for dessert.
"Lunch in the Corporate Boardroom" at the New York Bank for Savings. Letitia Baldrige, who was a trustee of the bank, set this table with Tiffany & Co.'s "King William" flatware.
Primrose Bordier set her table for a "brainstorming session with her colleagues." Asian accents include Philippine trays used as chargers, small Japanese hot towel baskets that served as bread plates, and Japanese porcelain bowls.
"Luncheon at an Executive's Desk" at the Time & Life Building, c. 1960. The table was set with tableware from Tiffany & Co., including what appears to be their "Hampton" flatware. I myself have "Hampton" flatware, but I have never once used it for lunch on a workday!
"Luncheon in a Board Room" at the Time & Life Building, c. 1960. Again, the tableware is from Tiffany.
Not a working lunch, but rather a working dinner in the Sutton Place apartment of the late designer, Valerian Rybar. The menu included cold lobster, brochettes of baby lamp chops grilled aux herbes de Provence, and eggplant caviar. A ginger-scented Crème Bavaroise would have been served for dessert. The table was set with vermeil pieces from Tiffany.
Photos from: "Tiffany Tablesettings", "New Tiffany Tablesettings", "Tiffany Taste", and "The Elegant Table" by Barbara Wirth.