The Ladies' Tea Guild

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Tips for a Retro-Industrial Steampunk party.

Astronomical clock, Prague. 
Photo: Ian Britton,
When planning your steampunk festivities, you should let your imagination play while planning the menu, entertainment and decorations.  If you have a Victorian or retro-industrial space in your home, then you are more than halfway to your goal of creating a steampunk-appropriate venue for your party.  The addition of a few more accessories, like vintage international travel posters, railroad, airplane, steamship or hot-air balloon memorabilia, or interesting Victorian bric-a-brac will finish your space nicely.  If your home is more modern than steampunk, you can work with your living room, back or front yard, or even your garage, to create the right ambiance.  Outdoor spaces, especially, can often be made to look like the "wilderness" or a "crash landing site" fairly easily.  Another venue idea -- especially if you're planning a big bash -- is to rent an empty airplane hangar, warehouse, or other old industrial space.

old train station.
Decor can include old clocks, spyglasses and binoculars, maps, globes, compasses and other old sailing tools for the steampunk "airship traveler", as well as laboratory equipment for the steampunk "mad scientist."  Try serving beverages and sauces from apothecary jars, laboratory beakers, test tubes and  petri dishes as well as Victorian-style china and silver.   Sailcloth and eagles' wings can provide softness as well as shapes for ornamentation along with bolts, cogs, wheels and other typically steampunk imagery

A menu for "tea on an airship" can include bags of roasted peanuts "from the airship stewardesses", as well as ship’s biscuits, dried salted fish, corned/salt beef and/or beef jerky.  Portable food like “little savory pies” (pasties or meat-filled turnovers), canned and dried foods, and cured sausage don't need refrigeration, were common on 19th century ships, and convenient for the steampunk "mad scientist".  Pickles and chutney are Victorian exotics that were brought, along with limes and other citrus fruits, to fight scurvy among sailors.  Steampunk airships are run
Copper kettle.
with steam power, making hot surfaces a common occurrence for cooking things on; crumpets and small pancakes can be "baked on a red-hot coal shovel from the airship", and puddings, dumplings, and eggs can be "boiled in the airship's boiler room" or "over a laboratory burner" for the tea table.  Mix some dried fruit with "hot water from the boiler" to make chunky jam or fruit compotes.

To allude to international travel during the 19th century, and the exotic places mentioned in Jules Verne's books, consider including Asian, African and Latin American foods.  The Victorian era was also a time of intense experimentation and the development of food science, resulting in “scientific” and “health food” like Graham flour, corn flakes and “patent” foods.   All these are options for the steampunk table. Beverages should include English, Asian, or Chinese-style teas, but can also include popular Victorian alcoholic drinks such as port, rum and whiskey.  You can even purchase steampunk-themed flavored tea blends, like Steampunk Airship and Back To The Lab blends from Adagio Teas. 

Activities can include reading from Jules Verne's works, playing Victorian parlor games, dancing to Victorian music, or other fun things.  You could even come up with your own game, like "tea dueling"!  If you have a vintage or antique player piano or foot-pump organ, allowing the guests to play them would be a perfectly steampunk entertainment.  Have fun thinking up your own steampunk pastimes!

Copyright 2011, Elizabeth Urbach.

For more information:
The Works of Jules Verne
“Victorian computers? Steampunk genre part of this year’s Litquake”
“Crash course in Steampunk” 
“The Rubber Cafe debuts Steampunk and Vintage stamps by Candy Rosenberg”
Steampunk Airship Tea from Adagio Teas
Back to the Lab Tea from Adagio Teas
Frontier Foraging tea from Adagio Teas
“Make your tea the steampunk way”
“Steampunk” Wikipedia article
Steampunk tea set
Steampunk tea dueling YouTube video
“The Steampunk Home: 'Slice of Life' china”
Steampunk Cookery blog
“The Steampunk Empire: Good Hearty Steampunk Meals”
“The Steampunk Empire: Mad Science Breakfast”
“Steampunk Cuisine?”
“Steampunk: The Past and Future of Cooking?” by Wynter Holden
“Steampunk Tribune: Steampunk Gastronomy”
“Time Travel Kitchen: Worm Castles”
Chrononaut Cookery (sans gluten)
Fuel For The Boiler: A Steampunk Cookbook by Elizabeth Stockton
Apothecary jar with metal lid (for cookies or biscuits)
“Da Vinci Automata”

No comments:

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)