It's no secret that I have long been fascinated by "lady food"-- you know, the stuff that got served mostly at "ladies' luncheons," where women apparently subsisted on bouillon and fruit or sandwiches that were impossible to eat gracefully or canned pears dyed pink and garnished with candy.
But what about men? What were they expected to enjoy by virtue of their testosterone? James Beard had some ideas in Hors d'Oeuvre & Appetizers (1963, but mine is the eighth printing, 1972). (And just so you know, my mom's friend insists the proper pronunciation is "horse doovers." It should sound like something you'd have to shovel out of a stable if you say it correctly.)
When the recipe starts with "Prepare dry mustard with the syrup from preserved kumquats," I almost expect this to be a ladies' luncheon recipe. It's making something savory oddly sweet and calling for making one's own condiments in a way meant to impress guests. However, the kumquat syrup is probably a little too extravagant for the ladies. They would get syrup from canned fruit cocktail.
Beef rolls chinois also end up being rolled in chives and parsley-- another garnish-y touch that makes it seem not all that far from the ladies' luncheon fare. I guess the middle part-- having actual beef slices with onion rather than minced chicken or some cutely-cut veggie (radish rose? carrot curl?) as the star-- makes this "a real man's snack, definitely not for the female audience." Or maybe it just protests too much because it knows it is only a toothpick's-width away from being served to women.
What if you want to serve egg-based hors d'oeuvres to real he-men?
Chopped raw steak with raw egg, salt, pepper, and chopped onion will do it for you. Apparently real men like to risk getting food poisoning. If that's the case, I will leave them to it. Dyed-pink food starts looking better by comparison, and it is a real contrast to this recipe.
Okay-- one last treat. Even though Beard doesn't push crackers as much as one might expect in a book like this, the cookbook was apparently sponsored by Nabisco. I LOVED seeing the old cracker boxes on the back and thought you might too. Here they are, in all their retro glory:
When I was a kid, I was a huge fan of the Swiss Cheese kind. I wouldn't eat real Swiss cheese, mind you, but put it in cracker form (with actual holes in the crackers! I think that was what sold them for me) and I could eat a whole box. I hope you see your favorite kind.