Tag Archives: Victorian domestic economy

Playing Hostess for Her Husband: 1894

late night supper Alan Maley 1988

Late Night Supper, Alan Maley, 1988


“I suppose,” said a clever little woman, “that I get to go to the theater more than any woman of my acquaintance, means being equal. You see, it’s this way: One night John wanted me to go to the play, and of course I accepted, for I dearly love the play. After the theater was over John was steering me straight for the restaurant. ‘No, John,’ said I firmly; ‘we can’t afford it. The play was treat enough. Let’s be sensible. We had a good dinner, and we are not starving.’

“‘Oh, hang the expense!’ said Mr. John. ‘We might as well round off with a bit of supper.’ But I wouldn’t. As John says, ‘I stood pat.’ We went on home, for when a man is hungry he doesn’t think much of the virtue of economy. In fact, he said by my pigheadedness I’d spoiled all the evening, and he’d ‘be ding squizzled’–whatever that may mean–if he’d take me out again in a hurry. I kept my temper, as I was grateful for having seen so beautiful a play, and said nothing.

“Well, when we got home, John threw the bedroom door open with a bang, and there in the middle of the floor was my sewing table with as dainty a lunch as one could wish. We had had a leg of mutton for dinner, and I had shredded some of it, chopped up a couple of shallots fine and added two cold potatoes cut into dice and covered the whole with mayonnaise made after ‘Catharine Cole’s prize’ recipe. Then there were a few olives and some dainty slices of bread and butter, all on a white cloth, with chairs drawn up, and as cozy as could be. John was simply delighted. Since then he often asks me to go to the theater, for he says he can stick me for a supper that tastes better than any hot bird and cold bottle that he could order down town.”

“What else do you have for those suppers?” inquired a curious wife, who had never had the happy thought of playing hostess for only her husband.

“Well, one night I made before starting–and I never let John know what we are going to have–a nice dish of oyster soup. I sent for 15 cents’ worth of oysters and 5 cents’ worth of milk. I took the juice of the oysters, scalded it, added the hot milk and finally plumped the oysters in. I had seasoned it with plenty of butter, pepper and sauce. Then I poured it all into a yellow bowl and set it away. That night when we got home I doused it all into a saucepan and heated it up over our grate fire, put some broken crackers in the bowl and poured it over them. It made a tip top supper for poor people, who, in going to the theater, want to eat their cake and have it too.”

Independent-Journal [Ottawa KS] 1 March 1894: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Previously we have read of the perils of the too-domestic husband in “Genevieve, Whose Husband was Domestic,” but one is sure that the theatre-loving narrator above was ensuring that her husband would not enjoy any hot birds and cold bottles outside of her society. Champagne-sodden “late suppers” were associated with dissipation, debauchery, and dyspepsia, usually in the company of actresses, members of the chorus, and ballet-girls.

Mrs Daffodil’s only question about the cosy little apres-theatre suppers is: does the narrator own an ice-box? Oysters and mayonnaise, even presented on the snowiest of white cloths, might prove deadly if not chilled during the theatrical interval.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdote

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.