2-3. Ladies Bridge Lunch: Bridge Food for Bridge Fans

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Bridge Food for Bridge Fans was written by Della Lutes in 1932. It is unique as a pop culture source in that it was published at the height of the transition amongst social players from auction bridge to contract bridge. [Tournament and expert bridge players had moved to contract by 1932.] Lutes uses her cookbook, humorously, to reflect the resistance of many ordinary players to that transition.

Contract players were seen from the outset as having a bad effect on the game and the manners of those who played. Della contrasts hardboiled and cynical contract players with sentimental auction players who still believe in “Santa Claus and Lady Luck.” She prescribes (a bit tongue-in-cheek) different menus and food for the two kinds of bridge players when you entertain–“Contract food is not Auction food.” Auction food may be too hard on the digestion of the more competitive contract players.

Lutes (in 1932) expected a few auction players to “slip over into the contract class” (lower class was the implication) and then predicts that while contract players may come and go  “auction addicts will, like the months and taxes and the brook, go on forever.”

Della was wrong. She underestimated the determination  of women ever since the 19th century to transmute the serious game of bridge created by experts into a sociable version and absorb it, over time, into their ladies bridge clubs. That happened when the experts created bridge-whist (a more challenging game than whist), and again when bridge-whist in turn evolved into auction bridge.

Moving on to contract, from the auction bridge Della preferred, was inevitable, hastened by Ely’s determination to hasten that conversion of auction-playing ladies.

Lutes’ book, however, is a gem as a cookbook collectible, both because of its value as popular culture and as a single source in just 70 pages of enough menus and recipes, with comments, to throw a dozen Retro 30s bridge parties. I paid only $35 for mine, it is  much more valuable today.

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