The silent hostess is a General Electric refrigerator. The not-so-silent hostess is me. But I was all by myself this afternoon, not a soul to talk to, when I used four simple ingredients–fresh fruit, limes, sugar and mint from my garden–to recreate two 1931 cocktail recipes from this GE booklet that I’ll be sure to reprise for family and guests as dessert. Fruit cocktail just isn’t a part of my entertaining repertoire, and these are beautiful enough and simple enough to make the end–rather than the beginning–of a summer meal extra special.
This is the second time within the last week that I’m writing about refrigerator cookbooks, but the sweltering temperatures drive me to it. And my 21st century refrigerator was well stocked with lots of fresh fruit. I just kicked it up a notch. Instead of a slab ‘o watermelon, consumed with juice running down my chin, I scooped out melon balls. And instead of rinsing off strawberries and eating them out of hand, I sliced and sprinkled them with an intoxicating mint-sugar topping. Rather than fill my plastic baseball hat bowls (from eating soft ice cream at ball games in Reading, Philly and Pittsburgh) with the fragrant mint-fruit mixtures, I opened up the china vault for the fancy goblets.
The Silent Hostess has a 1931 copyright, and it’s clear that eager hostesses cooking for company back then always began with a first course, many times fruit cocktail. As the book instructs: “Nothing is more tempting to the eye and appetite, as one sits down to luncheon or dinner, than a cocktail of fresh fruit, highly seasoned clam or tomato juice, or shellfish served with a snappy sauce.” Fruit cocktail was a standard opener at most every wedding reception, school banquet, sorority dinner dance and professional gathering I attended since 1970, but now, not so much. Last time I had a fruit cocktail?????? A Lions Club Christmas party at the Midway Diner in 2007? Yes, that may have been the last time I had those cubes of pears, peaches and pineapple with a little maraschino cherry igloo on top. Can’t say that I miss it.
Today I had both berries and watermelon chilling, the main ingredients for two separate cocktails/desserts. Here’s the first, which may be perfect if you’re entertaining anyone from the military, the NRA or a civil war reenactor.
Cannon Ball Cocktail
Melon balls Mint leaves Lime or lemon juice
With a French vegetable cutter (a what? I just used my melon baller), scoop out balls from watermelon, canteloupe, honeydew, cassaba or any melon in season. Arrange in cocktail glasses and squeeze over them the juice of fresh lime or lemon. Chill thoroughly. Garnish each glass with sprig of mint.
Nice, huh? I was on a roll and ready for the second fruity masterpiece:
Red Raspberry Cocktail (only I used strawberries)
2 cups berries of choice
Juice of 1 lime
4 tablespoons granulated sugar
Mint leaves (I used about 5-6 leaves)
Pour lime juice over berries and chill. Chop mint fine and mix with the sugar. Sprinkle this over the berries and serve in cocktail glasses with a sprig of mint as garnish. Serves 6 (if you use smaller glasses, I think).
The fresh lime juice brightened and heightened the fruit flavors in each of these desserts, and the mint-sugar duo on the berries was absolutely delicious. Next time, I think I”ll add some mint-sugar over the berries twice–at the half way point and on top. Besides central air conditioning, these fresh fruit cocktails were the next best antidote to a steamy day. In fact, I believe my core body temp dropped a few degrees. The lime and mint conjured up a bit of the cool Maine woods right here in my kitchen. Heaven.
Preparing the recipes is just part of the fun of owning these old cookbooks. But the text in the introductory pages should not be missed. The commentary opens up a whole new world of what life was like two generations ago, which I find appealing. The Silent Hostess has memorable sections devoted to “Unexpected Guests Should Hold No Terrors,” “Make More Leisure For Yourself and Enjoy It!” and my personal favorite, “If You are Without a Maid.”