‘Hostess with the mostest: Remember the dinner parties we used to have’

Jan 30, 2020
Food served on toothpicks was all the rage at Julie's dinner parties. Source: Getty Images

We are only as old as we feel, or appear. I noticed a funny photo reminding me of times when we were young married, 20-somethings. For family gathering and festive occasions with friends, our ‘social life’, we, the budding young Australian housewives, felt called to array food skewered on slivers of wood, called toothpicks.

I do not know if ordinary folk, like we were, still do this. To be a hostess with the mostest, we had to traipse off to the primitive supermarket or a deli, and purchase kabana sausage, a block of mild cheddar cheese and jars of gherkins and cocktail pickled onions. We sliced the kabana, cubed the cheese and tried not to eat too many gherkins as we pierced these delights with toothpicks, interspersing in an artistic design.

These tempting treats were displayed on wooden platters, practical wedding gifts. We had proper tablecloths, serviettes and had to create an appealing table design. All life coaching way back then by the Margaret Fulton cookbooks, guru. None of this sensitive, hyperactive Jamie Oliver or Nigella nonsense!

By the end of the afternoon or evening, the hostess with the mostest was left to clean away discarded toothpicks, which kept turning up in strange situations like the pot-plants, for some time post-party, along with some wrinkled shredded lettuce. This was entertaining!

Yes, catering taken to the max. We boiled cocktail franks, or ‘little boys’, as they were affectionately known. These were also stabbed by toothpicks. One of my friends possessed a wooden animal, perhaps it was a giraffe. This came studded with holes, in which she threaded a fearsome array of food on toothpicks. You guessed it, cheese cubes and kabana, with gherkins or pickled onions.

This was all part of a suburban ritual. No one woman ever questioned why she had to slice the kabana and cube the cheese. Still, in the big term picture of the universe, now it does not seem that important. For party mode, these were the customs of deli goods and jars of gherkins.

These delights were accompanied by savouries, yum! Did you make them too? Curried egg smeared on Savoy or Jatz biscuits, to be allied with other toppings, as well as the toothpick food. Party a la mode, hostess with the mostest. Maybe your family and friends had other party food customs for celebrations.

Following the savoury treasures, along came sausage rolls, party pies, and the temptations of vol-au-vents. But, enter the sweets. Plates of meringues, brandy snaps, scones, date slice, cream puffs, matches, and a large cake or pavlova. All home-made, none of this packet mix.

It was death by afternoon tea, or just all the gals, now ‘older ladies’, practising to be a longstanding hostess with the mostest. Family rituals, in the ties that still bind, now we are in our 60s. We are only as old as we feel, or look!

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What food were you serving at your dinner parties?

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