Friday Sept 5th Expected to be alone to day and was in
hopes to do some sewing but about ten Oclock
concluded to invite Mrs Latham (who came yesterday
to Father Ames,) to tea and all from the other part
of the house. Jane made a great fuss about getting
tea having some short biscuit to make and I
got very nervous. Mrs S Ames staid awhile but
went home to tea
The house on Main Street was relatively empty today. Son Oliver had left for college and friends Pauline Dean and Orinthia Foss had departed as well. Her husband Oakes and other sons, Oakes Angier and Frank Morton, were at work and little Susie was at school. How quiet the house must have seemed, even with the sounds from the factory ringing from across the road. Evelina sat down in solitude to sew and found she wanted something more.
A little tea party was what was needed, she “concluded,” although her servant, Jane McHanna, evidently disagreed. Jane probably had her own agenda of tidying up after yesterday’s whirlwind of departures and so “made a great fuss” about the extra work. Jane’s irritation ran counter to Evelina’s hopes, and some kind of verbal tussle must have ensued. No wonder that Sarah Lothrop Ames, who had come over from next door, didn’t stay around.
The party must have happened, however, else Evelina would have written otherwise. Jane prepared the meal. Late in the afternoon, family from the other part of the house and their guest, Mrs. Latham, were treated to tea and “short biscuit” and, perhaps, other refreshments.
Short bread or short biscuit or short cake – all names for the same, crumbly finger food – was a typical offering at tea parties, and simple enough to make that many cooks wouldn’t even need a recipe, or “receipt.” Using some of the butter that Evelina had bought just one week earlier, Jane McHanna would have followed a process similar to that described by Lydia Maria Child in her book The American Frugal Housewife:
“When people have to buy butter and lard, short cakes are not economical food. A half pint of flour will make a cake large enough to cover a common plate. Rub in thoroughly a bit of shortening as big as a hen’s egg; put in a tea-spoonful of dissolved pearlash; wet it with cold water; knead it stiff enough to roll well, to bake on a plate, or in a spider. It should bake as quick as it can, and not burn. The first side should stand longer to the fire than the last.”