-Mr. Sponges Sporting Tour (1853)
We are horsey types, this family, consequently this hunt table design has long been one of my favorites. The hunt breakfasts I have attended have been much larger affairs, not suited to this level of detail, unfortunately.
The room may no longer thrill, it is a tad dated now to be sure but the details of the table are both savvy and clever. The centerpiece of a hunt trophy accented with snaffles and stirrups at the base is fabulous and the antique reproduction pistol-handled knives such a showman's touch on the hunt theme. Not to mention individual decanters and the obligatory but reassuring mint juleps on the sideboard which speak to the Kentucky home of this old dining room.
The hunt is timeless in my hometown: There are, from the top of my head, three very fine family dining rooms in North Salem which have modernized the hunt lifestyle in their rooms but never cast it aside. And then there are those, like these, that sort of hung on, let it be as it was, and as it will always be. It is, as they say, in one's blood. Both cultured sorts warm this heart.
Credit: Valerian S. Rybar for the Tiffany Decorator Show and Tiffany Table Settings, 1960
Now, I have always been partial to the tradition observed before the hunt: Sherry or port in the traditional stirrup cup helps to ward off the cold and is a toast to luck and good hunting. The cup is meant to be held in a riders gloved hand with a carved animal, traditionally that which is hunted, at the base. The carving steadies the cup in the rider's hand if their horse is spooky. All comers are invited to participate in the pre-hunt steadying.
There is always some discord as to whether it helps to ease the pain of a fall or cause one in the first place. We regularly have this same conversation in the jumper rings but many have concluded approaching a five foot jump is no place to find out you had one too many.
Staying hydrated is key to the sport. In planning your hunt and breakfast, be certain there are plenty of liquids. Ah-hem.
It can be a vigorous, weather-beaten ride. One should plan the food accordingly.
Here is a fabulous menu suggestion:
Hunt Breakfast Buffet for 100
Fluffy Scrambled Eggs with Chives
Home Fried Potatoes
Baked Brown Sugar and Dijon Glazed Ham
Savory Crepes of Chicken and Mushroom
Sliced Local Tomatoes with Fresh Mozzarella
Baskets of Bagels and Fruited Focaccia
Whipped Vegetable Cream Cheese and Sweet Cream Butter
House-baked Muffins, Coffee Cake, Zucchini and Banana Breads
Yogurt and Granola
Platters of Sliced Fruits and Berries with Honey Lime Crème Fraiche
Assorted Fruit Juices
Freshly Brewed Regular and Decaffeinated Coffee, Assorted Teas
As for the flowers, this is no time for a precious arrangement. Fox hunters, in my experience, do not go in for tiny color coordinated French bouquets, but rather rambling representations of the fields where they have experienced the most cherished moments of their sporting lives. Sterling is also a central facet to the hunt tradition and celebration historically, so use it freely and respectfully: Kindly do not place flower arrangements in the trophies and so on. I have noticed arrangements of this caliber in the past, and they are lovely in the theme:
While I have not been to a hunt breakfast small enough to be served at a table the masterful likes of the Tiffany room at the top of the page, I do believe it is an occasion befitting that care, beauty, and a show-stopping menu. I hope you get the chance to ride, to partake, or better yet, to host. And keep in mind, it very long ago ceased to be about hunting in most hunt clubs; the sport remains the ride.