|photo illustration by Mark D. Ruffner|
Marjorie Merriweather Post was the heir of C. W. Post, the founder of Postum Cereal Company, and at his death she became the wealthiest woman in America. Mrs. Post was a shrewd businessperson in her own right — she saw the future of frozen food and championed it, eventually forming the General Foods Corporation.
Mrs. Post was a gracious hostess, but also one tough cookie. The stories of her quest for perfection abound. I was recently going through some old magazine clippings (from the days when photo magazines were huge in format) and came across this photo of Mrs. Post, inspecting her table before a party for the French ambassador.
"Mrs. Post, who has a passion for perfection, gives a searching scrutiny to the table setting, the final step in this all-important ritual — which began right after breakfast. Three cloths of rare old lace were spread and stitched together to make one. When the job was done, not a seam or thread showed. Mrs. Post would not tolerate this any more than she would having the table itself off center. The centering was achieved with the aid of a special spotlight in the ceiling. Then out came the measuring sticks for the really intricate part of the operation [the opposite page apparently showed servants centering the place settings with measuring sticks.]. At precisely 7:30 p.m., after the florist had left and every object on the glittering table had been positioned to the centimeter, eight footmen and two wine men lined up for final briefing. At exactly 7:45, Mrs. Post herself appeared for this final last look. At 8:30, when the French ambassador led the 26 other guests into the French Regency paneled dining room, it seemed a shame to disturb such sheer symmetry by eating."