Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dinner at Bush House

Ever wonder what it might be like to be a guest at the Bush House? Salem landscape architect Elizabeth Lord (1887-1976) was a friend and neighbor of the Bush family who wrote down her memories of their hospitality. Thanks to Museum Assistant Brooke Serres for recommending this item.

Dinner at Bush House was always a special treat, beginning with the announcement of “Dinner is served” by playing of the wonderful old Music Box which stood on a table in the Hall near the Dining Room.

Upon entering the Dining Room, an air of hospitality greeted the guests - and guests were very frequent. The table setting was of the finest linens, the silverware and china, all of the simplest patterns - rich in quality. All the linens were purchased from the famous “House of Linens” McCutcheon of New York City. The patterned designs of the collection of table cloths and arrangement of flowers always graced the center of the table, tho’ no color scheme was planned, the first spring blossoms, summer flowers, and the rich colors of autumn all came from the gardens which surrounded the house. The Green House, still in use (NB: Now under construction!), supplied the charming winter bouquets. Fuchsias, lacey long-stemmed Green House begonias, cyclamen and greenery of smilax and tropical maiden-hair ferns intermingled with the exotic collection brought forth exclamations of surprise from the guests.

While Miss Sally was a complete vegetarian, her Father enjoyed the best of meats, the wild game of Oregon and the seafood of the Pacific. Only the lightest wines were served with dinner, no hard liquors were in the house and Mr. Bush was fond of apple cider. After Mr. Bush passed away, Miss Sally discontinued all liquor, and only coffee, tea and milk were on the menu.

Miss Sally was a most thoughtful hostess and always listened to those who gathered around her table. Food was lavish and the cooking of the best and delightfully served. Although Miss Sally never ate meat, fowl, or fish she did not deny her guests the main course of dinner. Quantities of vegetables were served for those to make a choice. Corn was her favorite vegetable - the late, long ear white corn called “Country Gentlemen” which we now seldom see. Every variety of vegetable grew on the hillside south of the Green House. The big, long asparagus bed, planted along the now parking strip, extended to the bottom of the hill. Asparagus by the basketful came to the kitchen every morning during the growing season.

Jersey cows supplied all the milk, cream and butter. After the milking, the buckets of milk were brought to the basement and poured in the regular milk pans and placed on the shelves in the milk room, which was situated at the north end of the basement. Cream was so thick and heavy it had to be taken off with a special skimmer with perforated holes in the center in order to allow the milk to separate from the cream (NB: Still on display in the Kitchen!). The cream was then put into a wide open crockery pitcher for this facilitated dipping the cream out of the pitcher. Butter was churned in the kitchen in the same wooden receptacle we display in the kitchen (NB: Also still on display, now in the pantry!). Those were the days before the milk separators were invented and after this mechanical device became in use, Miss Sally lost her interest in the Jersey Cow room. In fact she did not consider the cream worth using. Many a delicious dessert was served at her table, but with it all, Miss Sally remained the slender wisp like figure during her lifetime.

Miss Sally loved company in her home and guests at her table, but she had no concern about the welfare as the house was run to perfection. Hazel and Teresa were wonderful cooks and they had everything to cook with. And Velma, who gave so many devoted years of service to Miss Sally, was the mainstay of running the home with the assistance of Ollie. They made everyone who entered the big house on the hill feel very welcome.

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