Tuesday, September 16, 2014
I recently found myself getting mired in stress. I was stressing about those big questions that inevitably haunt me from time to time, such as "What's the next step for me in my career?" to the more mundane, "What am I to blog about next?" These are the sometimes difficult-to-answer questions that keep me up at night.
In an effort to get unstuck and in hopes of maintaining my generally positive outlook on life, I decided to focus my energies on something fun. Because it's fun, I think, that helps one to rise above the stress and shake off "the will to be dreary", as Dorothy Draper would say. And what I consider to be great fun is to explore old cookbooks and drinks manuals for a taste of the past, specifically the 1930s.
I perused my copy of The Complete Hostess, written by Giovanni Quaglino, who founded his namesake Mayfair restaurant, Quaglino's, in 1929. The 1920s had been a gay decade for London society, one in which, according to Barbara Cartland, "we danced from breakfast until dawn the following day." (It was Cartland who famously claimed to have found a pearl in her oyster at Quaglino's.) But by 1929, the Bright Young People were starting to mature, and a taste for dancing gave way to a taste for good food. In his sophisticated restaurant, Quaglino served up equally sophisticated fare, which included such dishes as Truite aux Raisins de Moissac, Homard à la facon du Maitre Louis, and Emincé de Volaille à la King. Quaglino is also remembered as being one of the first to serve hot hors d'oeuvres, such as Croquettes de Homard and Flan Chez Quaglino. And entertainment rounded out a meal at Quaglino's, with acts like the Gregory Novelty Tango Quintette and Leslie "Hutch" Hutchinson performing for the well-heeled clientele. (If you're not familiar with Hutch, Google him right away. Trust me. You'll spend a good half hour reading about his scandalous exploits.)
Quaglino's is still around today, albeit in an updated form. In the early 1990s, Terence Conran revamped the restaurant, thus bringing some of the sparkle and polish back to the Quaglino name. And today, the restaurant is about to reopen after being closed for a major renovation. As glamorous as the new and improved Quaglino's might be, it's the 1930s-version that most appeals to me. I'll take bias-cut satin dresses, Hutch Hutchinson tinkling the ivories, and Flan Chez Quaglino over DJ booths and artisanal cocktails any day.
White Lady Cocktail (recipe from The Complete Hostess)
the juice of a 1/4 of a lemon
Stuffed Celery Chez Quaglino (recipe from The Complete Hostess)
Take some very selected sticks of celery. Equal proportions of Rocquefort cheese and butter. Mix together well with a little cream and sherry and some paprika until it becomes a smooth paste. Fill up the celery and serve.