It’s always a treat for the Flynn staff to cook on our 1867 cook stove. Because the house is “climate-controlled”, we usually only fire up the stove about once a week and primarily bake treats to be served at our afternoon teas. However, several times each summer, we showcase the dining customs of a very wealthy family, like the Flynns, by hosting some six-course luncheons. The meal is prepared by staff and interns and served to invited guests (usually volunteers or other town site staff members). Visitors to the mansion that day are encouraged to come into the kitchen, and ask questions to the cooks. Later, they watch the elegant meal being served in the dining room, learning some of the fine points of dining a la russe.
Serving the meal “in the manner of the Russians” means that the food is served in courses from the sideboard by servants in the dining room rather than passing the food around the table. This style of dining was very fashionable during the last half of the nineteenth century, but it did require that the hostess had staff to serve the meal, as well as lots of silverware and china. Serving the food a la russe had several advantages. First, the food would be the proper temperature when served. Second, the table could be decorated very elaborately with flowers, candles and centerpieces because it was not necessary to leave room for the food on the table. Sometimes the hostess used elegant desserts as the centerpieces for the table.
We prepared two six-course luncheons this summer during the first week of August as the culmination of the internship program for our three interns, Maria Miller, Chelsea Tegels and Myriah Bielinski. It was an opportunity for each girl to demonstrate a variety of skills she had acquired as a Flynn intern: table setting, napkin folding, Spencerian handwriting and of course, cooking. The table was set for the first four courses. Fresh flowers from our cutting garden were used as decorations, and each guest found a flower favor in the center of her napkin.
A volunteer explains the table setting to some visitors as one of the maids places the soup tureen on the sideboard.
The table was carefully set with some of our repousse silver and pearl handled silverware.
Every guest received a hand written menu highlighting the major items to be served with each course. Each of the interns wrote some of the menus, demonstrating the handwriting skills they had learned this summer.
Food presentation was as important as taste. Here slices of smoked salmon are served on a bed of lettuce with marinated cucumbers and crackers.
Chicken rissoles were the “soft entrée” course, a meat dish that could be eaten with just a fork. We chose to make these rissoles which are like a meat pies, filled with a mixture of chicken and cream cheese, and drizzled with a little chicken gravy. The plate was also dressed with some fresh cherry and pear tomatoes. The main course was pork tenderloin and sliced apples which were served from the sideboard and accompanied by fresh green beans seasoned with lemon. We also offered pickled cabbage, pickled beets, bread and butter pickles and homemade rolls.
Finger bowls were provided just after the main course. Each guest was supposed to dabble his fingers in the bowl, dry his hands on his napkin and then set the bowl off to the left side of his plate. Then the serving staff would present lemon ice to refresh the guest’s palette.
Dessert for the first of the two luncheons was Chocolate Charlotte. This incredibly delicious dessert was quite easy to make. We spread strawberry jam on the flat side of lady finger cakes and then lined a spring form pan. You could also use a pretty clear bowl with straight sides. The filling consists of 2 cups of heavy whipping cream, 2/3 cup of powdered sugar, 1/3 cup of cocoa powder (or one ounce of melted chocolate) and a teaspoon of vanilla. The mixture is whipped into peaks and then spooned into the center of the lady finger ring. Garnish with whipped cream and chocolate curls. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.
For the second luncheon we served fresh peaches and raspberries with Chantilly cream and madeleine cookies as accents on the plate. Chantilly cream is made by whipping 2 cups of heavy cream with 2/3 cups of powdered sugar.
We concluded the meal by offering coffee and bonbons to our guests. Visitors, interns, and guest volunteers agreed that the meals were very educational, as well as tasty! Following each meal, we spent the next two hours washing dishes!