24 Dec 2010

The 1950s Christmas Cocktail Party

We're concluding our 50s Housewife Does Christmas with a party! It technically happened last weekend, but it seems appropriate to reveal the details of it now, making it the big climax of this project (sure beats getting a vacuum!).

With 20 guests expected, we I had a lot of work ahead of me - but anything can get done with a little Valium 50s housewife magic. Patrick actually pitched in a lot this time, which was super appreciated and a massive change from the last time we hosted people. Thank you, my darling man!

The decorations were pretty much done, so our focus was to rearrange some furniture to accommodate all the guests, make a bunch of food and prep a few surprises. I made a few things the day before, like the cookies, three molds and some make-ahead hot cheese balls. These cheese balls turned out really well and were super yum, so I'm happy to share the recipe below from Good Housekeeping's 10 PM Cook Book:
Patrick's brother, Jason, said that if he could make any food in the world ever, it would be these. He was also enjoying a good deal of "holiday cheer" when he said this, but I assure you - you don't have to be really drunk to appreciate deep-fried cheese - you could also be really stoned.

But I'm getting ahead of myself here ... back to the planning ...

I'd like to say that I looked like this lovely 50s housewife while I was preparing everything, but that would be a pretty epic lie. No, I was not dolled up, cool and collected - I was in yoga pants and an oversized T-shirt from about 7am until 7pm, unkempt and underdeodorized - and I wasn't smiling as much as she was either.

This is what I ended up changing into. Unfortunately, I don't have a pic of me in it. I'm the worst at taking pictures at events ... but that's the outfit all the same - a cute dress made from a 1950s pattern, a crinoline petticoat beneath it, a short black cardigan, pearls, a Christmas corsage and heels. And yes, my waist really is that small. Heh to the tenth power of Heh.

To give you the party experience, I recommend clicking on my playlist that I created for our gathering. I made it on YouTube, which we streamed from our Playstation 3 onto our HD Plasma TV - clearly the 1950s thing to do.

Got the tunes on? Then welcome to our 1950s Christmas Cocktail Party!

Ladies, our welcome gift to you is a Christmas corsage! Please choose one and pin it on (the gentlemen received a fine Cuban cigar - to be smoked outside) ...

Guests then walked into our 50s winter wonderland and were immediately accosted greeted by our spread of cocktail goodies, straight out of 1950s-era cook books and magazines. We served:

  • Tomato Aspic with Assorted Appetizers on a Pick
  • Christmas Party Sandwich
  • Sardine Canapés
  • Green Cheese Ball
  • Red Cheese Ball
  • Crackers
  • California Dip with Potato Chips
  • Flaming Cabbage
  • Shrimp Ring with Cocktail Sauce
  • Turkey Cranberry Mold
  • Swedish Meatballs
  • Bacon-Wrapped Crackers
  • Hot Cheese Balls
  • Roasted Nuts
  • Pretzels
  • Ribbon Candy
  • Old People Licorice Candies (I don't know what they're really called, but this is how I've always known them. Pic will follow!)
  • Gum drops
  • Sugar Cookies
  • Merry Christmas Cake
  • Cathedral Salad
  • Box of chocolates
  • Full bar o' booze
  • Christmas-Wreath Punch
  • Eggnog
  • Mini Coca-colas
Did I go nuts, or did I go nuts? I'm sure a lot of those words above mean very little to you, and oddly, the pictures of the food won't quite explain what they all are either, but here goes (sorry for the poor quality of some of the pics - I was in a rush and our camera isn't the greatest):

The main table

Side table of snacks

The main bar

Some drinkies - Coke, eggnog, Christmas-Wreath Punch

It seems kind of silly to just leave the Coca-Cola bottles in their packages but ...

Moving on ....
Cranberry Turkey Mold (original photo from Family Circle magazine, December 1957)

Flaming Cabbage; Red and Green Cheese Balls with Crackers

Party Sandwich. Original photo from Good Housekeeping's Breads and Sandwiches Book

Swedish Meatballs

Holiday Tomato Aspic with Appetizers on Picks
California Dip with Chips

Sugar Cookies and Marzipan
Ribbon Candy; Old People Licorice Candies

Merry Christmas Cake - angel food cake with layers of raspberry jelly and mint jelly. Topped with marshmallow frosting and coconut

Cathedral Salad. My best formed mold yet! Cherry and lime jello squares in condensed milk. Topped with a marzipan Santa.
The thing that probably requires the most explanation is the Flaming Cabbage. Here's the recipe from the Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book:
If you think that sounds good, I only wish you could have experienced the aromatic element of this dish. After having made it - an experience that involves getting down and dirty with cabbage, olives and tinned Vienna sausages - I had to resist the urge to terrorize Patrick by sticking my hands in his face. I figured the phrase "smell my fingers" wouldn't have crossed the lips of a true 50s housewife and so I let that opportunity pass. He's a lucky man, my husband.

The Flaming Cabbage did indeed put on a "spectacular" show once lit - which I sadly didn't take a pic or video of. This cover of the Christmas Cook Book - of a totally different festive treat - does, however, give you a sense of what it's like to have flames coming out of a dish. Food that adds to the combustible nature of our home = 50s Perfection. 

In all - and this is no exaggeration or lie - a total of 16 packets of unflavoured gelatin were used to create our spread. That's a whole lotta' horse - and nearly one packet of Knox per person! If any of our guests discovered that their nails grew stronger after attending our party, you're welcome.

What? No fruitcake? 50s holiday party FAIL.

Listen, you. I might serve people strange processed meats paired with jello. And I might invite them into a home that could become a raging, fiery inferno at any minute - but I will never, I repeat, never - give people fruitcake. I am not that cruel.

Now let's take a look at some of the brave souls who attended Christmas '58: The Cocktail Party ...

Our friends Anissa, Siobhan and Tiffany
Richard, my friend Will's "roommate" (keeping things 50s with the description!)

Friends Barry and Brigitte

Chris and Patrick (cousins)

My sister-in-law Erin

Friends James and Anne

Friends Kate and Ken
I mentioned there were 20 people at our place .... and yet that was the extent of the pictures I took of our guests. Sorry to the peeps who got missed! I'm the worst photographer ever. I swear I am not the sort of  lard who is more obsessed with food than I am people, despite the evidence to the contrary.

With many drinks had and very little of the aspic and / or Turkey Cranberry Mold eaten (but props to Ken, the only guest who tried everything), the mood was all kinds of drunk joyous. We even did a large round of The Name Game - this time with clues like Winnie the Pooh and Rob Ford - which were often mistaken for one another. Tiffany proved to be the Queen of The Name Game - scoring as many as nine points in a single turn. Hurrah! Other people were not quite as adept at the game, but this also proved to be great fun as it gave us glimpses into how their strange brains worked (like using the words "basketball ... pancakes" to describe Prince ... although the explanation that was later given cleared up some of the confusion ... sort of).

Our last guest spilled out of our place around 3:30am, which is not too shabby for our crowd of old timers. Har. We put the leftovers down the toilet away and hit the hay just before 4:00am - and then slept until after noon. Success!

Cocktail Party: 1950s Christmas Checklist
√ Tiny details 
√ Colourful
√ Highly Flammable
√ Diabetes and / or Cancer-causing
√ Presents an obvious danger to small children, pets and idiots √ Confusing

So - that's really it for us! Hope you enjoyed the 50s Housewife Does Christmas and that you and yours have a very merry holiday. Be sure to sit back, relax and enjoy this time with your friends and family - that's something that never goes out of style!

PS: Thanks to reader Capucine who tidied up a couple of my images! Thanks!!


Anonymous,  7:47 pm, December 24, 2010  

Wow - you are the hostess with the mostess!

MMM,  8:30 am, December 25, 2010  

Merry Christmas Jen and Patrick! Thanks for the entertaining read. :D

Unknown 1:45 pm, December 25, 2010  

This party was awesome. Definitely LOVED the name game, and was very pleased with all the strange and wonderful things I ate. The meatballs were awesome, so were the cheese balls. Guess I like things that are balls...
Merry Christmas Jen and Patrick and thanks again for hosting such a fun evening!

Alison NYC,  4:09 pm, December 26, 2010  

I just found your blog and spent the entire day hiding from my in-laws reading it. You are so entertaining! Hope you have an excuse to do more housewife experiments!!

Karen 2:10 pm, December 30, 2010  

Just love your blog, Jen. Happy New Year!

Jen 3:31 pm, December 30, 2010  

Thanks everybody!

Anissa - was so good to have you over! Next stop: New Year's Eve! Eee!

MsC 5:24 pm, February 19, 2011  

I am way behind on posting this here, but thought you would like to know those Old People Candies are called Liquorice Allsorts. ♥

ellepet2345 7:02 pm, March 14, 2011  

Hi Jen!
I found your blog yesterday and I love it!! one question though. Was the party sandwich good??

Thanks, Elena!
P.S I hope you make more 1950s housewife experiments!!

Jen 1:08 pm, March 21, 2011  

ellepet2345: Thanks for commenting! This is so shameful to admit but, yes, the party sandwich is actually pretty tasty. It's like everything you could want in a sandwich AND a dip, combined. I write about the 50s now and again - just take a look at the tag (on the left) "50s housewife experiment" on the blog. I'm looking at doing a new experiment soon, though!

Anonymous,  12:53 pm, December 18, 2012  

I SO want to be at that party. Thanks for the great share!

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Unknown 12:21 pm, November 11, 2018  

How fun! And humorous!
I read this since I am hosting our family Christmas Eve party for the first time in my life this year. I really wanted to do a 1950s party for my big sister who was more than happy to turn the reins of the party over to me.
I hope my fiance doesn't mind flaming items! :D

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Need words? I'm a Toronto-based freelance writer who injects great ones into blogs, websites, magazines, ads and more. So many services, one lovely Jen (with one 'n').

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