Arts and Crafts Hors d’Oeurves – Meta Givens’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking

Get a sharp knife, some scissors, and good luck.

I remember the first time I opened Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook.  I laughed out loud – it was a guide to preciousness and I found the intricate directions hilarious. But the photography was so appealing, the geometry so beautiful. I can see the attraction. Within Meta Givens’s instructions for hors d’oeuvres in her Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking (1947, 1959 ed.) I can see this practice take root. Be an instant success as a hostess with a loaf of white bread and dribbles of sieved egg yolks, thin piped lines of stiff mayonnaise, pink-tinted cream cheese, anchovy coils, and “parsley leaflets.”

According to Givens, “canapes are fashioned to be eaten with the fingers, and do not have to be served with alcoholic beverages to be correct and up-to-date as some gourmands would have one believe.” Quelle horreur.

Here’s a recipe for Baked Bean Canapes: “Economical but pretty good!!” I don’t think this is what Martha had in mind.
1/2 cup baked beans
1 tbsp chili sauce
1/2 tsp prepared mustard
1/4 tsp onion juice
Dash of salt
Thin slices whole wheat or Boston brown bread
3 tbsp creamed butter
Green onion slices or chopped cucumber
Small red radishes

Drain off juice and mash beans fine. Blend in next 4 ingredients. Toast bread on one side, cut 24 strips 1″ x 2″, or cut circles of brown bread in 4 pie-shaped pieces. Spread with butter, then generously with bean mixture. Suggested garnish: Onion slices or mound of chopped cucumber for pie-shaped pieces, and a row of radish slices stuck into the strips. 20 canapes.


Meta Given’s Modern Encyclopedia of Cooking, page 178-179.


About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.

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