Guests lounge in armchairs and on the sofa, refusing to stir, perhaps even refusing to speak. If they do speak, their conversations are punctuated by hiccups, burps and farts so frequent as to constitute a fugue of digestive functions. They are all equally afflicted in this manner, regardless of age or species: children bulge with ill-advised fourth helpings of pie; the family spaniel, heavy with table scraps, wobbles to her favorite corner.
Such is the typical after-dinner scene on Thanksgiving day, a holiday during which syrupy yams, buttery beans, starchy russets, toothsome peas, and, of course, tender turkey and stuffing conspire to sap the vigor of the heartiest diner.
After prodigious eating, the suggestion of further exertion seems unwise and risks adding grumblings to those already issuing from swollen stomachs – unwise to any other hostess but Mrs. Florence Kingsland, that is, who combated the queasy lassitude of her visitors by devising games for them to play. Her 1904 book, In and Out Door Games, is a compendium of postprandial diversions sure to cheer the soul, aid digestion and dispel “the lethargy that is apt to follow the feast.” Her games are simple but do require some preparation. One involves hollowing a pumpkin, wreathing it with leaves, counting its seeds, which have been first “preserved, washed, and dried,” before returning them to their original vessel. Guests are then invited to guess their number in a bid to win a questionable prize, “[a]n Indian made of dried figs and raisins, threaded on wire.”
The pumpkinseed game is admittedly labor-intensive, not to mention culturally insensitive. You can always resort to another guessing game that is decidedly less so. It involves giving each guest a card on which to compile a “list of objects suggestive of a feast.” Once this is completed, these cards are collected, shuffled and distributed among the group, who “write their guesses of what dishes are described.” Below is an example of Kingsland’s own:
1. Soup—Imitation reptile.
2. Fish—‟Collect on delivery.”
3. Roasts—The country of the Crescent, and Adam’s wife—served with a sauce of what undid her.
4. Vegetables—Two kinds of toes ne’er found on man or beast; a mild term for stealing; what your heart does.
5. Puddings—What we say to a nuisance, and exactly perpendicular.
6. Pies—An affected gait, and related to a well.
7. Fruit—A kind of shot.
If Mrs. Kingsland happens to have stumped you, you can find the answers below. They appear in order and have attached to them recipes gleaned from various period cookbooks.
1) Mock Turtle Soup
Take half a calf’s head, with the skin on; remove the brains. Wash the head in several waters, and let it soak in cold water for an hour. Put it in a saucepan with five quarts of beef stock; let it simmer gently for an hour; remove the scum carefully. Take up the head and let it get cold ; cut the meat from the bones into pieces an inch square, and set them in the ice-box.
Dissolve two ounces of butter in a frying pan; mince a large onion, and fry it in the butter until nicely browned, and add to the stock in which the head was cooked. Return the bones to the stock; simmer the soup, removing the scum until no more rises. Put in a carrot, a turnip, a bunch of parsley, a bouquet of herbs, a dozen outer stalks of celery, two blades of mace and the rind of one lemon, grated; salt and pepper to taste. Boil gently for two hours, and strain the soup through a cloth. Mix three ounces of browned flour with a pint pf the soup; let simmer until it thick.
2) Baked Cod
3) Roast Turkey
Dress, clean, stuff, and truss a ten-pound turkey…. Place on its side on rack in a drippingpan, rub entire surface with salt, and spread breast, legs, and wings with one-third cup butter, rubbed until creamy and mixed with one-fourth cup flour. Dredge bottom of pan with flour. Place in a hot oven, and when flour on turkey begins to brown, reduce heat, baste with fat in pan. and add two cups boiling water. Continue basting even fifteen minutes until turkey is cooked, which will require about three hours. For basting, use one-half cup butter melted in one-half cup boiling water, and after this is used baste with fat in pan. During cooking turn turkey frequently, that it may brown evenly. If turkey is browning too fast, cover with buttered paper to prevent burning. Remove string and skewers before serving. Garnish with parsley or celery tips.
Spareribs and Applesauce
4) Boiled Potatoes, Baked Tomatoes, Stewed Cabbage and Roasted Beets
5) Sa-go Pudding
4) Mince Pie
5) A bowl of fresh grapes