Sunday, November 24, 2013

"The great advantage of a hotel

is that it is a refuge from home life. ~ George Bernard Shaw
 
As the holidays approach, hotels and motels are more in demand.  An auction lot took me on a mental trip to New York...city of amazing hotels...in the midst of silver plate was a neat water pitcher...and signed...

D.W. Haber & Son...from their web page..."D.W. Haber & Son started in 1902 as a silver repair company. With four generations of experience in repairing our competitor's hollowware, we have mastered the art of manufacturing hollowware that remains in service, not in the repair shop! Reconditioning silverware of other manufacturers has taught us the weak points of hollowware. Our hollowware is designed to withstand the rough abuse of burnishing machines, 5,000 seat banquets, and part-time employees. All of our equipment is backed by our 100 YEAR WARRANTY on structural integrity and on all plating against peeling and blistering."

And, in addition to the hotel silversmiths as they are penned, research on the Waldorf Astoria proved to be even more fascinating.  It seems that a family feud was responsible for the construction of the original Waldorf-Astoria on 5th Avenue.  It started as two hotels: one owned by William Waldorf Astor, whose 13-story Waldorf Hotel was opened in 1893 and the other owned by his cousin, John Jacob Astor IV, called the Astoria Hotel and opened four years later in 1897, four stories higher.
William Astor, motivated in part by a dispute with his aunt, Caroline Webster Schermerhorn Astor, built the original Waldorf Hotel next door to her house, on the site of his father's mansion and today's Empire State Building. The hotel was built to the specifications of founding proprietor George Boldt; he and his wife Louise had become known as the owners and operators of the Bellevue, an elite boutique hotel in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on Broad Street, subsequently expanded and renamed the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel. Boldt continued to own the Bellevue (and, later, the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel) even after his relationship with the Astors blossomed.
 
William Astor's construction of a hotel next to his aunt's house worsened his feud with her, but, with Boldt's help, John Astor persuaded his mother to move uptown. John Astor then built the Astoria Hotel and leased it to Boldt who introduced many innovations:  “room service” that enabled guests to have breakfast in bed; relaxed the rule that prohibited men from smoking in the presence of women, installed an orchestra in the hotel lobby, hired Turkish waiters to serve coffee, placed plenty of ash trays at strategic locations among the potted palms.

The new 13-story Waldorf Hotel opened on March 14, 1893, with 450 guestrooms and 350 bathrooms, each of these with an outer window- a feature which apparently made a tremendous impression upon the high-grade traveling public of the nineties.

The hotels were initially built as two separate structures, but Boldt planned the Astoria so it could be connected to the Waldorf by Peacock Alley. The combined Waldorf-Astoria became the largest hotel in the world at the time, while maintaining the original Waldorf's high standards.
The hotel was influential in women's rights by allowing women to come without escorts.  It is so amazing how much we take for granted in our time.  The name even has a story...the hotel was originally known as The Waldorf-Astoria with a single hyphen, as recalled by a popular expression and song, "Meet Me at the Hyphen." The sign was changed to a double hyphen, looking similar to an equals sign, by Conrad Hilton when he purchased the hotel in 1949.  The double hyphen visually represents "Peacock Alley," the hallway between the two hotels that once stood where the Empire State building now stands today. The use of the double hyphen was discontinued by parent company Hilton in 2009, shortly after the introduction of the Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts chain.  The hotel has since been known as the Waldorf Astoria New York.

So, as you plan your Thanksgiving dinner,  give thanks for all that you have even if you are not at the Waldorf Astoria!  And, from the past - a 1939 menu!
 

 "Hospitality is making your guests feel at home, even if you wish they were."
                                            ~Author Unknown

Sunday, November 17, 2013

"Sharing the holiday with other people,

and feeling that you're giving of yourself, gets you past all the commercialism.
   ~Caroline Kennedy

I would hope that quote would reverberate among all out there, but I fear the Black Friday madness has become epidemic.  You know, in America from 1659 to 1681 Christmas was illegal, and it was so inconsequential, according to my research, that, after the Revolutionary War, Congress held its opening session on Christmas Day.  Now, it is hard to get them to work on any day!  But, I digress...still the puritanical minds that banned Christmas gave us eggnog!  Here is a vintage eggnog set...you see these and the Tom & Jerry sets often this time of the year.   Made by Hazel Atlas in the early 50s, they are truly reminiscent of times gone by.
 
It seems the first round of the magical holiday concoction was blended in the Jamestown settlement with Captain John Smith's crowd.   A version of the drink is mentioned in British history. 

Medieval Britain drank “posset,” a hot, milky, ale-like drink. Before eggnog, it was fairly common to mix milk with wine and other alcohol to make various forms of milk punches.  By the 13th century, monks were known to drink a posset with eggs and figs. Milk, eggs, and sherry were foods of the wealthy, so eggnog was often used in toasts to prosperity and good health.  I am always amazed when researching history how much was designed only for the wealthy.  
Since most American colonists were farmers,  chickens and cows...not to mention cheap rum...made eggnog a celebratory drink.  The English name’s etymology, however, remains a mystery. Some say “nog” comes from “noggin,” meaning a wooden cup, or “grog,” a strong beer. By the late 18th century, the combined term “eggnog” stuck.

I found George Washington's recipe, but he forgot to put how many eggs...he did not forget the booze though!  It is estimated that a dozen eggs was probably the number...

One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, 1/2 pint rye whiskey, 1/2 pint Jamaica rum, 1/4 pint sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.

Love that recipe...just let it sit in a cool place...no problem with bacteria!  Now the US is paranoid over raw egg products, and they are banned due to health concerns, so the FDA limits the egg yolk solids in eggnog to less than 1%.   I think sugar wins the ingredient medal!
 I did find a modern recipe...

  • 8 eggs, separated
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup sugar, to taste
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1 pint cream
  • 8 ounces brandy
  • 8 ounces dark rum (something like Bacardi 8, Appleton V/X or Mount Gay Eclipse)
  • Fresh nutmeg
  •   Beat egg yolks until smooth, and gradually add sugar, beating steadily until well mixed. Add milk, cream and spirits and mix well. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites to firm peaks; fold into yolk mixture. Serve in cups or goblets, and grate fresh nutmeg over the top of each serving.
    Obviously though one of our illustrious Founding Fathers was into the better liquors of life...a thought from Ben Franklin~
     “In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is Freedom, in water there is bacteria.”  

    Sunday, November 10, 2013

    "If we're going to win the pennant,

    we've got to start thinking we're not as good as we think we are." ~ Casey Stangel   

     
    Casey Stangel was a former baseball player and New York Yankees manager who won 10 "pennants" in 12 years.  I bought a stash of souvenir pennants at auction the other week, and I wondered why  pennant is a term that relates to baseball more than any other sport...football has playoffs...but my research discovered that from 1903-68, there were no divisions within the leagues. There were roughly 10 teams each in the American League and National League, and they competed against every team in their league for the championship. There were no playoffs. Only ONE team - with the best record - won the championship, or "pennant", in both leagues, and these two teams went right to the World Series. The phrase "pennant race" was born to describe more than one team competing, but only one "winning" a trip to the World Series, and that team got to fly a winning "pennant" over their stadium.
     
    A "pennon", from the Latin penna meaning wing or feather, was carried during the Middle Ages.   It was sometimes pointed, but more generally forked or swallow-tailed at the end. In the 11th century, the pennon was generally square, one end being decorated with the addition of pointed tongues or streamers. During the reign of Henry III in the 13th century, the pennon acquired the distinctive swallow-tail, or the single-pointed shape.   Navy ships were pictured with pennants flying.
    Modern day ships with pennants flying are celebrating "Dressing the Ship" to honor patriotism and those who serve...rather appropriate since this is Veterans Day weekend (despite the idea that every holiday equals sales and not sails!)
    The pennants I found are all signed Wincraft and made in the USA.  I looked up the company and found they have been in business since 1961.  From their web site..."What was begun almost 50 years ago as a four-person company serving high schools has now grown to serve schools, colleges, corporations and retail professional sports, racing entertainment, outdoor, and home decorating industries."  Love to see USA companies still alive and doing well.
     
    

     
    So, to the Boston Red Sox fans, congratulations on winning the ultimate "pennant race" this year, and even Marilyn Monroe had a thought on the pennant..."If your man is a sports enthusiast, you may have to resign yourself to his spouting off in a monotone on a prize fight, football game or pennant race."

    Sunday, November 3, 2013

    "A cat determined not to be found

    can fold itself up like a pocket handkerchief if it wants to." ~ Louis Camuti 

    I am unpacking some purchases from last summer...I know, I know...but life gets busy once I don my "professor clothes"!
     
    I found a stash of handkerchiefs and a neat leather souvenir box.
     In today's "Kleenex" world, the cloth handkerchief truly is a vintage find.  Some who are trying to be environmentally conscious are turning to cloth for handkerchiefs and napkins, but I fear that is a serious minority although men still carry the cloth handkerchief.
     A man is thought to have been the first one to use cloth handkerchiefs...King Richard of England who ruled from 1377 to 1399 used square pieces of cloth to write his nose according to surviving documents of his time.  And, of course, Shakespeare was a fan of the handkerchief as evidenced in the plot of Othello.

    Some historians believe it originated in China and was first used to shield a person’s  head from the hot sun.  Statues dating as far back as the Chou dynasty (1000 BC) show figures holding decorative pieces of cloth.  Christian tradition links the handkerchief or sudarium to the Shroud of Turn offered by Veronica to Christ.  The Romans waved handkerchiefs in the air at public games, and the drop of a hankie would signal the beginning of the chariot races.  During the middle ages, a knight would tie a lady’s handkerchief to the back of his helmet as a good luck talisman.

    In the fifteenth century, European traders returned from China with great numbers of peasants’ headscarves, which Europeans appropriated as fashion accessories.  Renaissance portraits show both men and women holding handkerchiefs embroidered and edged in lace. 
     
    Marie Antoinette did not like all the odd sizes of handkerchiefs, and she had hubby Louis XVI declare that all handkerchiefs be square, and none could be larger than his.  Obviously this circle would have been banned in 18th century Paris!
    These little pieces of cloth were expensive, and it may be where the bride picked up something borrowed. 
     
    The Depression popularized the cloth since it was the only thing most women could afford, and during WWII, they became a fashion statement since the fabrics to make silk stockings, blouses, or hats went to parachutes and uniforms.   Hankies only cost a nickel or a quarter or two.  Manufacturers advertised them...
    An interesting research tidbit to the WWII hankies...silk was supposedly banned, but it seems "that many kerchiefs were imprinted with maps of the countryside where bombing missions were carried out.  Should these young men have the misfortune to be shot down, they literally held an escape map in their hands. Hundreds of hankies were printed during both WWI  & WWII for soldiers to carry and/or give as mementos."
     
    The birth of Kleenex in the 1920’s was to use as a face towel to remove cold cream, but by the 1930’s Kleenex was touted as the antidote to germs with their slogan “Don’t carry a cold in your pocket.”   Many opted for a disposable alternative. In the mid-1950s, a Little Golden Book featuring Little Lulu, had an astronomical first printing of 2.25 million copies!!! showcasing “Things to make and do with Kleenex tissues featuring Lulu and her magic tricks,”  showing children how to make bunny rabbits and more from tissues.

    Busy housewives eagerly embraced the disposable hankie.   It eliminated the school ritual of Show and Blow.  This practice began in the 1800s, when, in the interest of hygiene, children were required to bring a clean handkerchief to school daily.  To assure their offspring appeared spic and span every morning, clever moms devised the two hankie solution – one for show, and one for blow.  Children always had a clean white hankie ready for inspection, while a utilitarian one often made from dress calico was in the other pocket! 

    So, today mostly for show...and they are still reasonably priced...and the hankies that had a popular run in the 50s are still around...holidays, Mother's Day, souvenir, children's themes, and the traditional floral prints...




    Hopefully, you will not meet Desdemona's fate since Othello placed so much emphasis on the handkerchief he gave here...as she said...
    "Sure, there's some wonder in this handkerchief..."