cover of book

How to Dine in Style: The Art of Entertaining, 1920
by J. Rey
Bodleian Library Publishing, 2013
Cloth: 978-1-85124-086-9

The 1920s marked the high point of refined dining, when silver tray–bearing white-gloved waiters circulated among guests and starched linens and candlelit tables were de rigueur. For the decadent class that came to prominence during the post-war period, achieving a reputation for throwing the most recherché dinner parties meant instant social success, and many an enterprising host or hostess sought advice in J. Rey’s The Whole Art of Dining.

By turns a collection of practical advice and a catalog of eccentricities, The Whole Art of Dining, republished by the Bodleian Library as How to Dine in Style, contained everything the would-be socialite needed to know in order to elevate food to high art, from tricks for putting together a proper French menu or throwing a garden party to practical tips on serving wines in the correct order and at the right temperature. Throughout the book are stories of astonishing excess, such as the search for ever-more-elaborate themes and venues, and the more daring of the book’s devotees might have been tempted to emulate efforts like those of the intrepid hostess whose mountaineering-themed dinner party had guests rappel to the rooftop of her Chicago home or American millionaire George A. Kessler, whose infamous “Gondola Party” flooded— for the first and only time—the central courtyard of the Savoy.

A captivating glimpse into the golden age of fine dining, this book will be consumed with interest by discerning diners and fans of the Roaring Twenties—and it may even inspire readers to try their hand at throwing a stylish soiree of their own.

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