This is such a fun way to serve supper … at a family reunion – which is what we did, or with a group at church, or any group really. It would also be a great dinner to serve for April Fools, or a birthday party. You can let your guests know that you will be serving a wonderful 4 course lasagna dinner, or perhaps a pot roast supper, or hamburgers and fries. The meal is no mystery, it is how the courses will present themselves on each guest’s plate that is the riot. And that part is intirely up to your guests, bless their hearts, if they only knew what they were ordering (giggle). You may want to ask in the invitations if anyone has any food allergies, so you can accommodate.
I purchased this boxed version almost 20 years ago, and have not been able to find it anywhere since, online or in any bookstore. It was published by Oslund, Sonshine Company, Anoka, MN 55303.
For our Family Reunion, we modified it slightly. My sisters, mom, and I served the meal, and we had 25 to 30 guests. Each server was responsible for a table of guests. We placed carrot and celery sticks in a relish dish at each table, and the guests were allowed to nibble on those while they waited to be served, although some who did found out later when their meal was served without a fork or spoon that a carrot or celery stick would have made a nice utensil.
Here’s what’s in the box:
8 Invitations (two sided)
8 Menus (two sided)
8 Place Cards (cut apart on dotted lines)
16 ID Cards
Kitchen Set-up diagram sheet
and Instructions (two sided sheet)
The Instructions are too little for me to read off the scanned page so I’ve written them out for us…
Masterminding a Mystery Dinner
New Testament Theme
“A Dining Experience You Won’t Forget”
CONTENTS: 8 Menus, 8 Place Cards, 8 Invitation, 16 ID Cards, Recipes.
OBJECT: To enjoy an unforgettable, unpredictable and hilarious dining experience.
SERVING: 1 waiter for 4 dinner guests; 2 waiters for 8 dinner guests
DECODED MENU LIST:
|1. Crowd Leftovers||– Bread||Mark 6:43|
|2. Christ’s Winnowing Tool||– Fork||Matthew 3:12|
|3. John the Baptist’s Lunch||– Grasshopper Pie||Mark 1:6|
|4. Prodigal’s Surprise||– Roast Beef||Luke 15:23|
|5 Symbol of Bitter Captivity||– Lettuce Salad||Passover Tradition|
|6. Circumcision Instrument||– Knife||Luke 2:21|
|7. Christ’s Frequent Prayer Place||– Olives||Luke 22:39|
|8. Hebrew Burial Cloth||– Napkin||John 20:7|
|9. Communion Element||– Wine or Grape juice||Matthew 26:27|
|10. Evil Protein||– Deviled Eggs||Matthew 4:1|
|11. Fruit of the Cursed Tree||– Fig Bars||Matthew 21:19|
|12. Prodigal’s Lunch with Pigs||– Peas||Luke 15:16|
|13. God’s Shekinah||– Glorified Rice||Hebrews 1:3|
|14. Carpenter’s Splinters||– Toothpicks||Matthew 13:55|
|15. Fruit of the Vine||– Grapes||John 15:4|
|16. Baptizer’s Sweet Tooth||– Honey Nuts||Matthew 3:4|
(All of the food items on the above list can be purchased from the grocery store, near-by deli or take-out, which would eliminate most preparation time.)
INVITATIONS: Fill out invitation and mail two weeks prior to dinner. (Dining attire suggestions: casual, formal, biblical, etc.) (If your kitchen is near where you will serve your dinner guests, it is suggested that you conceal your kitchen with hanging sheets or tablecloths over the doorways. This way your guests can’t peek!)
- Several hours before guests are expected to arrive, prepare the roast beef, pie, lettuce salad, deviled eggs, date bars, peas, and glorified rice. Refrigerate or bake according to recipe directions.
- On a flat surface in your kitchen, designate a space for each menu item, in order of sequence, by using on or the food identification cards. This will help the waiters as they pick items for each course for their customers.
- The table can be prepared as the host or hostess prefers. Write guest names on place cards and place cards where guests are to be seated.
- One-half hour before guests are scheduled to arrive, place the following items by their respective food identification card on the flat surface; olives (in juice), grapes, toothpicks, spoon, fork, knife, and napkins. (OPTIONAL: Waiters can change into dark pants and white shirts with bow ties at this time. Also, appropriate music can be played. Provide each guest with a glass of water.)
- As guests arrive, they can be welcomed to the Mystery Dinner and escorted to their appropriate place at the table.
- Before delivering the menus to the guests, each waiter selects which guests they will serve. It is helpful at this point to request that the guests fill out their orders in silence. This avoids confusion and everyone discussing the menu selections. (Honestly, we allowed a little table talk.)
- Hand each guest a menu and a pen. Give them approximately three to five minutes to fill out their course selections
- During this five minutes, you can put the following items near their appropriate food identification card on the flat surface: roast beef (covered), bread, pie, lettuce salad, wine or grape juice, deviled eggs, bars, peas and rice.
- Now it is time for the waiters to collect the menus and begin selecting items for the first course for one customer. Once all four items have been picked, the plate can be served to the respective guest. Continue with remaining guests.
- After the waiters have served their customers, they go back to their first customer and remove any remaining items from the first course and begin on the second course. Make sure they do not keep utensils. This process continues until all guests have been served all four courses. IT IS AS MUCH FUN TO BE THE SERVER AS IT IS TO BE SERVED! ENJOY!
When we served our dinner we used a totally different menu; one that would be impossible to figure out. This was our menu:
And these were our 16 items, shown as the set up for our Kitchen:
You can go with a theme (Mexican, Italian, Chinese, Hawaiian, Southern Comfort Foods, BBQ, Seafood, etc.) in your food, decorations, and music. If you chose a Mexican theme, you could use Mexican items as the code words on the menu (such as: sombrero, cactus, poncho, maracas, piñata, mariachis, chili peppers, serape, etc.). You could decorate with Mexican blankets and cactus centerpieces, and play Mariachi music. In place of the relish dish, you could offer chips and salsa (people could eat with a chip if they didn’t get a utensil and were desperate). Encourage your guests to snap photos of the event and share them with you afterward. Our party was before cell phone days, but I could kick myself for not setting out some disposable cameras.
If using paper plates, remember to buy plenty. You’ll need a plate for each course for each person, so four plates per person X 8 guests would be 32 paper plates total. You can use different size plates. It would add to the humorousness having a large slice of lasagna and a slice of pie, if that’s what your guest ended up with, being served on an appetizer size plate, and equally funny to have a large dinner plate with only a toothpick, vegetable, napkin, and knife taking up space.
When the last person has been served the last course and all the plates have been taken away, that’s when servers can return each person’s menu to them and let everyone try to figure out which items were which code words. All of the servers and kitchen workers should join the guests. They will talk about how much fun that was and probably want to sit around and visit for a little while.
“You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.” Psalm 16:11