In 1958 a lady called Sadie LeSueur wrote a book called Recipes, Party Plans and Garnishes,which tells you all sorts of things such as how to make toast look like wheelbarrows, and cabbages look like Spook Heads - and rice look like a life size hen.
Yes, it is true! Your rice need not look like a dish of rice at all. And as for making a simple ring mold out of it - hah! That is too boring for Sadie. She thinks that your guests deserve more. She writes:
I have found that having a variety of molds for the food adds a great deal to any party...but the mold that attracts the most attention is one in the shape of a life-size hen. A rice hen surrounded by turkey hash and a garnish of parsley is always attractive for the main course. When the hen is unmolded on a platter I attach a bright red comb, cut from a pimento, to the top of her head, make eyes of cloves and paint her bill with yellow fruit coloring.
Yes, a lifesize rice hen will attract attention all right. Your guests will fall about laughing. Just imagining this spectacle gave people a case of serious giggles when I read this passage aloud.
But why is the rice hen surrounded by turkey hash, and not chicken hash? Perhaps chicken hash would be too distressing. And what about the wattle? I checked to see of hens actually have combs (they do) because I am a city kid and know nothing of hens, real or molded. They have combs and they have wattles on their little necks. Maybe you could make a wattle out of Jell-O.
I tried to find a picture of a Lifesize Rice Hen, but alas, Sadie did not include pictures in her book; and other people did not make them - or if they did, they refused to leave photographic evidence.
What I do have is an advertisement for Jell-O, endorsed by a hen; and an ad for a fabulous 1962 career opportunity in which you make a fortune ("turn concrete into gold") making beautiful "ornamental concrete hens." (For additional profits, you may want to paint their bills with yellow food coloring and attach some pimento combs.)
The Jell-O loving hen seems to be reciting the old nursery rhyme about Higgledy Piggledy, except that this hen is called Hickety and is, er, a hepcat. Hephen. This reminded me of one of my favorite Dorothy Parker poems, which will conclude this hen post perfectly:
Higgledy Piggledy, my white hen
She lays eggs for gentlemen;
You cannot persuade her with gun or lariat
To come across for the proletariat.
[The cement hen ad is from Popular Mechanics, November 1962; the Jell-O ad is from Life, November 14, 1955. Title from the 1953 Looney Tunes cartoon, a play on Of Mice and Men.]