Nancy likes to fill her cookery book with wholesome, nourishing, simple recipes like:
Jellied Eggs (the red crosses are tinned, red pepper, not cries for help)
Fish Turbans (plaice fillets stuffed with minced meat)
and the ever popular:
Prune Snowballs (prunes encased in choux pastry and deep fried)
But when this every day fare gets too boring, there is nothing like pulling out all the stops and having a party.
There is a whole section on parties. Here is the introductory page:
The caption reads: ‘To help a party go with a swing there’s nothing like a gorgeous Windmill Girl and a lot of balloons. I asked Windmill Theatre owner Sheila van Damm for her favourite recipe. Without hesitation she replied, ‘Anything really good as long as I haven’t had to cook it myself.’
Nancy helps you out with your guest list:
‘Without guests there is no party, so take a lot of trouble with your guest list. For each star you invite (and it’s a good thing to have stars at a party, so people can have a look at them) remember you will need about five nice, ordinary cosy people to act as audience to the illustrious ones. Usually stars find it very hard to talk to one another, and they top each other’s gags and are inclined to jealousy if someone is getting more attention than they are. So watch it: and provide an audience.’
Sound advice for a mother of three who lives on a housing estate in Broughton Astley.
Nancy understands that it is not just the stars and their acolytes who like to party. Sometimes teenagers like to party as well.
She provides tips, such as keeping things informal by scattering lots of cushions on the floor, and providing lots of napkins. Her hot tip on the food front for the ravenous teenager is ‘Prune Kebabs’.
Just in case you’re thinking of hosting a party for your teens and are dying for the recipe, let me put you out of your misery. You will need: 24 plumped prunes, 12 dessertspoons of mango chutney, 24 rashers of streaky bacon, 20 sausages, four dessert apples, 8 oz processed cheese, 8 tomatoes and some melted butter.
Stone the prunes and stuff them with the chutney, wrap each prune in bacon and thread on skewers with sausage, chunks of apple, cheese and tomatoes and bake for fifteen minutes.
I cannot imagine a teenager in the land who wouldn’t be wild with delight when served with a hot prune kebab alongside their bottle of WKD.
Nancy loves a party with a theme. She spends a considerable amount of time telling you how to host a National Party. It is not quite the right wing smorgasbord you may be imagining. Rather one is supposed to pick a fascinating country, Nancy chose Finland for some reason best known to herself. You then write to the embassy of the country in question who, according to Nancy will reply to you with ‘every appearance of joy’, and send you all kinds of national knick knackery and tips on costume to make your party go with a swing.
Nancy hit the big time with the Finns:
‘On this basis the most enchanting Finns sent me clear instructions for smoking sprats, as well as a lot more practical information. Of course, if with this you can manage to entertain a pretty Finnish girl in national costume, you’re home and dry.’
This does not sound at all dubious.
Imagine your delight if you had been invited to a Finnish themed fancy dress evening with smoking sprats as the highlight of the event? You would hardly be able to contain your joy.
Finally, on the subject of parties, Nancy has three golden rules:
‘Drink is all important. I am a champagne party girl myself. Champagne is only about £1 a bottle, non-vintage, and it gives a lush effect, is very easy to serve and guests stay very much more amiable on it than they do on the hard stuff.’
Which is good when dealing with a posse of fake Finns in a sprat smoke filled room.
‘Food is even more important. Nobody should be allowed to get drunk. This reflects grave discredit on the hostess. So serve lots of food, preferably on trays so that people can use their fingers, and provide lots of paper napkins to wipe up with afterwards. Hot food should also appear as lots of theatrical personalities (who always have marvellous party manners, being very extroverted) cannot ever come to a party until about 11.30 p.m. when the theatre curtain comes down. Then they are very, very hungry and need hot food for their poor old nerves. I remember Jimmy Edwards in our kitchen chomping hot fish pie, giving pleasure to all the food team, gathered there, watching him.’
I’m not sure I can honestly say that watching Jimmy Edwards masticate fish pie would be something that would give me pleasure.
Finally Nancy tells us about music:
‘Music is absolutely essential. To start a party this should be mildly popular with a fairly emphatic beat, so that guests have to shout to each other over the top of it. A vocal disc is fatal, as people like Lena Horne will always listen to the words of a lyric instead of paying attention to the conversation. A guest is no use standing with his head on one side listening to a record.’
And with that, I leave you in Nancy’s tender care and a picture of her delightful fruit curry, in which bananas feature heavily, both as an ingredient, and as a decoration.
I am off to don my dirndl skirt because I’ve got some sprats that need smoking while I drink cheap champagne and bob about to a fairly emphatic beat.