I love a vintage cookbook, and couldn't resist Ceil Dyer's The After Work Entertaining Cookbook when I spotted it recently at a second hand store for a mere $2. Her advice was probably meant for that new breed of working woman in the seventies — you know, the lady who had to bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan, all the while with a smile on her face — but this book turned out to be full of great tips and recipes. I came home from work the other day and went to work on a meal from the "Soup Suppers" chapter.
After assembling my ingredients, it took just 20 minutes to chop, peel, and add everything to the soup pot. I was able to help my seven year old with his homework while I worked at the counter. I am a modern woman, able to do it all! The soup needed to cook for an hour, so I had time to throw in a load of laundry and take a shower. I actually got dressed for dinner. Sure, it was a casual denim dress with tights, but I was in a seventies kind of mood, and denim is definitely more seventies than yoga pants.
The laundry, shower and dressing took 20 minutes, so I still had time to kill before greeting my husband at the door with a smile on my face. I also had time to drive one child to basketball practice and hound another one about homework. To fill the rest of the time, I called one of my modern, working lady friends and asked her to stop by on the way home from work for a drink. We had White Russians, because the modern lady doesn't need a man for cocktail hour.
While we sipped and chatted about our modern lives, I chopped onions for the next step of the soup recipe, glamorously called "Potage Maison." I also made my version of "hot breads," toasting ever so slightly stale bread drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with French Picnic salt, then cutting it into toast points. Instead of the recommended cheese tray, I cooked some goat sausage I found in the freezer to serve with the soup. (Yes, goat sausage, from one of my favorite farmers' market vendors. It was delicious.)
Potage Maison was very easy to make, especially since I used my stick blender to purée it right in the pot instead of using a blender. When my husband arrived, I decided to skip the gracious smile, lest he be so shocked he have a martini-fueled, seventies-style heart attack.
Dinner was ready and the soup was delicious! I did decide to skip the coffee and fine chocolates, as well as cognac, which was also recommended. We raided the fruit bowl for dessert.
I would like to meet Ceil Dyer. Her advice stands the test of time, and it works for men and women, since men cook now, and entertain and have jobs, just like us ladies. Also? I'm pretty sure she throws a fabulous party and has a great time doing it. I kind of want to be Ceil Dyer.
The first chapter of The After Work Entertaining Cookbook is devoted to tips about what is needed in a kitchen — just the basics, with a few extras — and how to make things easier, by cleaning as you go, planning ahead and multi-tasking. Ceil also offers practical advice for "The Morning After and What to Do About It." Subsequent chapters include multiple menus and recipes for different parties, including "A Beer and Peanuts Party," "Big Parties with Little Price Tags and Almost No Work," and "Come for Drinks and Stay for a Casserole Supper." I want to have all of those parties!
Are you a fan of vintage cookbooks? If so, what's your favorite era? (Mine, obviously, is the seventies.)
(Image credits: Anne Postic)