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How to throw a May Day party

Many suburban, village, and small-city women who belong to church sewing groups, garden clubs, and assorted community welfare organizations have long since adopted the first day of May, May Day, as their own for a variety of kindly deeds. They have borrowed the charming childhood custom of leaving a flower-filled basket at a neighbor’s door.

But the doors are the doors of shut-ins, of lonely old people, sick men and women, hospital wards, veterans’ hospitals, and similar institutions.

The most likely entertainment for themselves, after their rounds of collecting their own garden flowers and free flowers from local nurseries, arranging them in baskets, and driving around the community delivering them, is to stop in for luncheon or tea at the home of one of their group. Usually this is a pick-up luncheon, eaten from trays, or around a kitchen counter, or carried out to a porch table if the day is warm enough. The hostess for the day must plan the menu and service the day before, and prepare foods in advance so that it literally is a pick-up meal.

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One of the simplest and most satisfying for such luncheons: the hostess for the group the day before prepares a large lemon gelatin mold filled with mounds of cooked peas, green beans, asparagus tips, and sliced radishes and cucumbers. It is ready in the refrigerator, and so are sour-cream mayonnaise and cold cuts, such as boiled smoked tongue and bologna or salami to slice and serve with pickle relish. While one of her guests takes these from the refrigerator, and everybody works together to arrange the trays with the necessary plates, forks, and napkins, she pops brown-and-serve rolls into a hot oven and puts water on for coffee or tea. Dessert for her hungry friends is orange cupcakes or squares of cake iced with lemon frosting and served with sliced, quick-frozen peaches ready in a frosty bowl in the refrigerator.

The nicest silver and handsomest linen napkins, always a pleasure to use, add piquant contrast to a pick-up meal. Or, it is the perfect occasion on which to get out the bamboo-handled stainless steel cutlery, fringed checkered cotton napkins, and those big, garish pottery plates your daughter brought home from Italy last year.