Introduction“Miss Patridge requires large amounts of sugar for her morning tea, and Lord Abernathy, he will refuse to eat any meat that is not well cooked, while Lady Abernathy will only consume her meat bloody, I am told.”
—Lady Violet Bridgerton, to her housekeeper
For members of the ton, life is an uninterrupted parade of morning visits, al fresco luncheons, dinners, balls, and other social obligations. To most of us, it sounds like a charmed existence: flitting from party to party, with an occasional stop at the modiste to pick up a new dress or Gunter’s for tea and ice cream. But ask any ambitious mama, and she will tell you that entertaining (and being entertained) is no trifling matter. Lives, fortunes, and the sanctity of ancient family lineages depend on it.
At its heart, the London social season is an opportunity for the most powerful families of Great Britain to forge alliances. “Most marriages of the ton are, in fact, mere matters of business, my dear,” Lady Danbury tells Kate Sharma. But unlike barristers and bankers, members of the English aristocracy do not have offices. Instead, their work takes place on promenades through Hyde Park, over tea in Mayfair drawing rooms, or on hunts at country estates.
All of this means that the stakes for any given party are extremely high. Being a poor hostess is simply not an option. If your lemonade is too sweet (or not sweet enough), your meat pies are too dry, or your dessert table isn’t sufficiently overabundant, then people will talk. Worse still, they will leave early and refuse future invitations.
It is no coincidence that the families with the best cooks also have the happiest and most robust social lives. When your intended guest is choosing between two equally compelling breakfast invitations, being able to offer a consistently delicious cup of tea will give you the competitive edge. If you can also promise cream-filled profiteroles (page 121) and crumbly bacon scones (page 137), then their acceptance of your invitation is all but guaranteed.
The book you are holding distills the secrets of the best hosts and hostesses of the ton. Their cooks have graciously shared more than forty recipes for finger foods and libations—everything you could possibly need to host your own Bridgerton
-inspired soirée. Nobody knows her way around a Blackberry and Citrus Curd Bar (page 143) better than Lady Danbury, and Violet Bridgerton’s Miniature Pommes Anna (page 27) are the stuff of legend. Learn how to make a fragrant Masala Chai (page 85) à la Kate Sharma, and you might find a viscount who loves you, too.
In addition to the recipes for beverages and hors d’oeuvres, you will find special features that demystify some of the more arcane rules of English high society. If these rules seem confusing, it is very much by design. It is easy to identify outsiders if they don’t know how to curtsy or understand the difference between a countess and a viscountess. But with this book as your guide, you will be able to navigate even the most exclusive social situation with grace.
If this book inspires you to gather your nearest and dearest around you, then it has done its job. It doesn’t matter whether you’re celebrating a birthday, engagement, the launch of a new social season, or merely the end of a long workweek. Regardless of the occasion, the recipes that follow guarantee a good time will be had by all.
May your parties be delicious, well attended, and fruitful!
Copyright © 2023 by Emily Timberlake. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.