Here’s the upper-middle-class hustler, eighteenth century style , preparing a dinner party to impress business associates at home. Samuel Pepys’s diary for 13 January 1662/1663 – the two years, I suppose, because of Gregorian calendar confusion –
So my poor wife rose by five o’clock in the morning, before day, and went to market and bought fowls and many other things for dinner, with which I was highly pleased, and the chine of beef was down also before six o’clock, and my own jack, of which I was doubtfull, do carry it very well. Things being put in order, and the cook come, I went to the office, where we sat till noon and then broke up, and I home, whither by and by comes Dr. Clerke and his lady, his sister, and a she-cozen, and Mr. Pierce and his wife, which was all my guests.
I had for them, after oysters, at first course, a hash of rabbits, a lamb, and a rare chine of beef. Next a great dish of roasted fowl, cost me about 30s., and a tart, and then fruit and cheese. My dinner was noble and enough. I had my house mighty clean and neat; my room below with a good fire in it; my dining-room above, and my chamber being made a withdrawing-chamber; and my wife’s a good fire also.
I find my new table very proper, and will hold nine or ten people well, but eight with great room. After dinner the women to cards in my wife’s chamber, and the Dr. and Mr. Pierce in mine, because the dining-room smokes unless I keep a good charcoal fire, which I was not then provided with. At night to supper, had a good sack posset and cold meat, and sent my guests away about ten o’clock at night, both them and myself highly pleased with our management of this day; and indeed their company was very fine, and Mrs. Clerke a very witty, fine lady, though a little conceited and proud. So weary, so to bed. I believe this day’s feast will cost me near 5l . . .
The jack was a contraption that held or suspended a joint of meet an adjustable distance from the fire in a fireplace (in case you don’t have one) . . . the “sack posset” is a wine punch, a mixture of sherry and lemonade. All for five pounds. I can’t imagine what that would be in American dollars. Can’t get decent sack around here anyhow.