On December 29, 1910 my maternal grandparents held a New Year's Banquet. Since I have a copy of the menu I decided to hold a dinner party on the same night — 100 years later. I used the antique menu as a starting point and re-interpreted it for 21st Century palates. I lightened it up a bit and spiced it up a lot.
I turned the condiments (olives and pickles) served with the original appetizer (oysters) into the appetizers themselves: black olive tapenade and daikon and red radish pickles. The old menu makes no mention of beverages other than coffee with dessert. I followed that tradition, but we began our banquet with champagne.
You can read the rest of the menu if you click on the photo above. I put a menu at everyone's place and on the back printed the original menu my grandparents served. I planned on setting the table using some of my grandparents' china but Mark said I should go all out and empty the pantry of all their gilded stemware and every specialized plate, bowl and cup.
I set the table before I went to work that morning, which is when the photos were taken. The effect that evening — with candles aglow and every place marked with a stack of glittering dishes topped with placecards and menus — was a bit more glam than in early morning sunshine.
The decor down the center of the table is the inspired creation of my sister-in-law, Sara, who trimmed three little Christmas trees with notions: thimbles, buttons, bobbins, garlands of tape measures and chains of quilting pins. It was a charming nod to my grandfather who was the buyer for the notions area of a large department store in Buffalo, NY.
He and my grandmother gave their 1910 banquet for all the employees who worked in the Notions Dept. under his supervision. Their party actually took place in the Tea Room of the store, J.N. Adam, and all the dishes were named after various sewing accoutrements sold in the department, like salmon with "veiling sauce."
My 2010 homage banquet was almost as over-the-top as the original event. It may not have been the fanciest feast I've ever made but it certainly will hold the record for the number of dishes and glasses that had to be washed by hand.
But mainly it was a wonderful excuse to gather with old friends, remembering how we all met and our shared experiences over the intervening years. It also gave me the opportunity to surround myself with family treasures, remembering all the holiday meals my grandmother served on these very dishes; my grandfather at the head of the table doing carving duty.
I got to indulge my penchant for all my favorite little worlds: china and dishes, cooking and food, design and decor, family, history, and holidays. What could be a more perfect way to end one year and begin another?