Throwback Thursday: In 1988, we planned adult birthday-party menus

In the late '80s, we offered readers the perfect meal plan for every themed shindig. Because your party guests aren't going to feed themselves.


The issue: February 1988

The times: Calgary hosts the Winter Olympics; The Phantom of the Opera opens on Broadway; Tiffany’s “Could’ve Been” is the number-one single in Canada.

The shindig: Themed adult birthday parties. Let’s face it: food is the focal point of pretty much every get-together worth attending, but it’s not easy managing decorations, compiling a guest list, and planning a creative edible spread. In 1988, Chatelaine food editor Monda Rosenberg invited readers along on a grown-up party crawl to showcase a whack of diverse menus for birthday-celebrators of all stripes. First up was David Battle’s “California Dreamin’ party for six”—a “perfect excuse to throw a summer-style party in the middle of winter.” Poached red snapper, pesto-stuffed tomatoes, and an airy lemon-curd angel food cake all made the menu. Next was the “Western shindig for 10,” hosted by Hugh and Sandy Sisley, where guests could nosh on a heaping pile of Stampede (beef) ribs, hearty chili, cornbread (of course), and a glazed bourbon-applesauce cake, all while “Willie Nelson and k.d. lang albums spin a country-western mood.” The standout theme of the bunch was a “Tango Argentina sit-down for eight” planned by interior designer (and Buenos Aires native) David Margulis and his wife, Gina. Attendees were treated to a pre-dinner tango lesson, which was immediately followed by a smorgasbord of cheese empanadas, authentic Argentinian matambre—a steak dish that literally translates to “hunger killer”—and caramel-filled toasted-coconut cake. With dishes like these, who needs booze?

Every Thursday, we bring you selections from our archive of 86 years of Chatelaine, featuring weird and wonderful recipes, vintage fashion and décor, and stories that still resonate today.