How we were

Never give more than you can

Many, as much as they wish to do so, cannot invite often because their financial capacities do not allow it. There are, however, those who pretend to be in a well-off, non-existent situation and in this case, there is nothing as painful as those evenings when the lady of the house has borrowed the lace table cloth from her rich cousin, the ‘good’ glassware from her neighbour, the silver tray from another and therefore she is on pins and need les at all time, terrified at the thought that someone may break something.

Accommodate according to the possibilities

Guests should be well received, but always according to ones means. It is pointless to have a great lunch party if you then have to tighten your belt for a week right after. It is best to have a simple yet well-cooked lunch party.

It is useless to use very expensive glasses, plates and table cloths; it only takes an immacolate simple table cloth and a table arranged elegantly.

It is useless to serve too expensive and strange liquors if you can’t afford it. But even worse is serving bad and cheap liquors. It is better to serve a drink, a really good and refreshing one.

Finally, it is better to arrange a simple afternoon tea, with good canapés and sweets, rather than a lunch that may unbalance the family budget.

A French family used to make up for the missing chairs with coloured cushions arranged wittily on the floor; they used to arrang every simple lunches, but cooked splendidly by the members of the family themselves; besides water, they offered only white or red wine, not the most expensive brand, but an excellent one.

Host’ sensibility

Not everyone, of course, has the talent to do things so wittily and so brilliantly, nor can they cook so well or entertain so pleasantly guests.

But one thing is certain: when someone wants to look different to what he is and gives more than he can, he always creates a sense of discomfort in the guests.

The guest is sensitive and unconsciously perceives all the nuances, he senses when something is not right.

Let us not forget, then, that we invite our friends to share with them what we have, not to show that we have what we cannot actually afford.

(Taken from La Cucina Italiana. Magazine for families. Founded in 1929. February 1962)

The art of inviting: choosing guests

scelta degli ospiti

 

Many would love to invite friends to spend a few hours in their company, but when the time comes, they won’t. They are shy. They think people won’t have fun and don’t really want to go to their house. Or, simply, they are lazy. They do not want to get into the bother of welcoming guests and they are afraid of the possible damages that often occur during a reception.

Inviting must be a joy, even if it implies a lot of work for the hostess.

When the hosts have fun receiving people and they do everything in their power to welcome their guests without exceeding with courtesy, then every one is at ease and cheerful.

Have fun and make everyone happy

When an invitation is made to reciprocate or for obligation or even ambition, you will feel it: there is something that does not feel right; the evening seems perfect, but maybe a bit cold. I have met a young lady whose receptions were formally perfect but unfailingly boring. Yet the same people have always had fun at another lady’s reception. The difference is this: all the perfection of the first was not enough to make the atmosphere that the genuine enthusiasm of the latter created. The first one reciprocated, the latter wanted to spend some time with her friends or with people that she liked and make them appreciate her welcoming home.

(Taken from La Cucina Italiana. Magazine for families. Founded in 1929. February 1962)

Bad manners

 

 

Life would be much simpler and calmer if a little kindness in human relations were still used today

Today it is very difficult to deal with people: there is a nervous, intolerant atmosphere, which can be see in everywhere, in the offices as well as on the street. People today are rude and unfriendly, rarely inclined to friendliness and an easy laught eras they once were.

The office manager carelessly mistreats the secretary and the little typist, the shopkeeper badly treats the old chatty lady and the passer-by turned his gaze from the ragged child. Everyone shouts, gets angry, and asserts their reasons without the slightest respect for the others. I have often read articles that attribute the blame to the arrogance of the world, to progress, to too much running about and getting tired. Well, this is right and true, but only to a certain extent; it is not the only cause of the wide spread neurotic atmosphere in the modern world: the fact that we have lost the basics of good manners also contributes to the creation of this atmosphere full of bad energy.

Life would be so easy and more serene if a little kindness in human relations were still used today. The secret is here: kindness, which is nothing but good manners. It is certainly difficult to be kind, and it is not true that it costs little, as they say; on the contrary, it is difficult to achieve and it requires a hard exercise of will. Being kindmeans having the moral strength to renouncing to impose one’s personality in every single occasion, to renouncing small comforts in favour of our neighbour who has as much right as we do, renouncing because were cognize that the world is occupied by many other human beings who have the right as we do to occupy it.

Good manners are nothing but this habit of renouncing, which is practised from childhood and then used as adults when there are more and more occasions we believe we can easily renounce.

It is wrong to teach children that it is easy to be kind: they will be discouraged at the first difficulty. Instead, we must clearly show them the hard path they will have to take if they want to achieve a dowry for which the others will rarely be grateful.

Good manners are a hidden virtue, made up of small gestures: it is nodding in order to give our assent to a superior who is reproaching us, perhaps wrongly, and it is also nodding to our subordinate who is asserting his opinion, it is a smile towards the wrong person, a handout stretched towards a tripping person, a kind phrase to someone who bores us.

It is often said that good manners are the virtue of worldly education: there is nothing less true. In worldly terms, who has good manners won’t get any praise: do you believe that Napoleon, Elizabeth the virgin, or Castiglione countess, had good manners? Yet the whole world was at their feet and praised them.

There are strong historical reasons that have undermined good manners in our world today, such as the uncertainty, the tiredness that two world wars and the continuous nuclear experiments have made us feel.

Young people and even older ones are discouraged, they do not have the courage to teach their child the hard discipline of self-control, just as their parents did not have the courage to teach the mit.

Then there is another factor: this is a tecnical civilization, where much, too much value is given to matter and its fuel, that is to say to money. The individual no longer interests as a human being, weak and afflicted, but for what he has or produces. Therefore the young man on the bus does not stand up to give way to an old woman: he considers her an annoying example of uselessness, which needs to lean on his neighbor, and the young man, today, has no time to support anyone because he is too hasty to go, to produce, to have.

Examples of rudeness can be found everywhere and they multiply everyday: now a days there is also an organized rudeness, which is provided to us and taught daily through every means of diffusion, such as press, cinema, etc. Very often the rudeness is confused with the boorishness, which is only a most damaging effect.

There are many types of rudeness, less showy, perhaps, but also the most harmful because they affect the whole way of thinking and living: there is a lack of civic education, social and moral education. Beside the screaming office manager and the star throwing tantrums, we can also place the exorbitant doctor who doesn’t give a damn about Hippocrates’ path and refuses to cure the needy patient, the unknown who disfigures for light mindedness the pieces of art, the novelist who takes pleasure in describing obscene situations.

Perhaps if everyone were to take a careful look at their conscience and humbly took action at the delicate point of their education, it would be possible to eliminate much of the neurasthenia of today’s life.

(Taken from La Cucina Italiana. Magazine for families. Founded in 1929. February 1962)

Spinach Nests

 

 

Ingredients for 6 people: spinach kg 1.2, butter g 100, eggs 6, half a glass of cream, tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese 6, slices of white bread  6, oil, salt, pepper

Time needed: about 1 hour

Carefully wash the spinach, wash it several times with abundant water, taking care that there is no earth left on it because otherwise the dish would be ruined. After washing very well the spinach, boil them without other water but the one drenched by the leale during the washing; when the spinach is cooked through, drain it thoroughly, squeeze dry it and chopit.

Melt about 50 grams of butter in a heated pan, then add the spinach, salt, pepper and let them brown, soaking them frequently with the cream, taking care that they do not dry out during cooking but remain soft. In the meantime, cut the slices of bread into a round shape; you can do this using a pasta cutter or simply the bottom of a glass. Heat a frying pan with plenty of oil, when the oil is hot, put the slices of bread in it and let them brown, flipping them, making sure that they get crispy outside, while remaining soft inside.

When cooked, remove the slices of bread from the pan and place them on an oven plate. Add 4 tables poons of grated Parmesan cheese to the spinach and mix well. Divide the spinach mixture into 6 portions and place each portion on the slices of bread to form a small nest. Break one egg at a time and separate the egg white from the yolk, gently placing the yolk in the middle of the small nests, being careful not to break it; then season it with salt and pepper. Separately melt the remaining butter. Sprinkle the spinach with Parmesan cheese and then sprinkle with the melted butter. When the work is done, put the plate in a heate dovenat 180 degrees, bake for about 7 minutes. Then remove the plate from the oven, lift the small nests with a spatula, place them on the serving plate and serve hot. If you have used an elegant casserole, you won’t need to put them on a serving plate.

(Taken from La Cucina Italiana. Magazine for families. Founded in 1929. February 1962).

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