Gourmandizing at Receptions
Overeating and overdrinking at receptions and parties are among the most common forms of ill-breeding, and the way in which some “swell” people gorge themselves at the supper table would make a cannibal blush. “Please get me another ice and some more wine jelly,” said a pretty girl sitting at my elbow the other night. Her escort looked at her empty plate in astonishment “Really, my dear,” he began, “I should think you would scarcely need anything more after eating four sandwiches, two salads, four creams, and—.” He didn’t finish the list for she checked him with a warning “hush-sh-sh!” Nevertheless he went over to the sideboard and swallowed in succession six glasses of wine, which had been poured out for somebody else.
It is a fact that some people attack their host’s banquet board with the avidity of free-lunch fiends elbowing each other in the scramble for eatables, as if they were eating at a railway station instead of in a fashionable dining room, where time is no object. There are men and women in Washington who go to public receptions for the express purpose of stuffing themselves to their utmost capacity, and who think it a smart thing to fatten at other people’s expense. Indeed this abuse of hospitality has been carried to such excess by vulgar people that some of the Cabinet ladies last year dispensed altogether with refreshments at their afternoon receptions in order to keep out a crowd of hungry strangers who only called to eat and sup.
Etiquette, however, entitles any person who calls at an afternoon reception in an official household to any evening reception that may be afterward given therein, so that any shrewd gormandizer may make the rounds of Cabinet receptions at least once during the season, and thus obtain a good deal of gratuitous sustenance. I know a certain woman who, from motives of economy, lived off mush and milk last winter, but made up for plain living at home by eating her fill of dainties at cabinet receptions. She understood “the ropes” well enough to get plenty of invitations, and could tell exactly which delicacy each house was noted for. “I must go to Secretary L—— ’s next week.” she would say, “he always has terrapin for suppers.” Or, “I do love to attend Secretary F—’s receptions; his cook makes the best salad I ever tasted.” — Weekly Calistoga, 1882
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