A few years ago I invited friends over for a holiday party featuring kitschy cocktail foods. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but a few hours before everyone arrived, I panicked that everything I'd prepared, from the sweet-and-sour meatballs to the clam dip with Triscuits, seemed far more ironic than delicious. In desperation, I ransacked my refrigerator for something else to whip up. Then I remembered canapés, those dainty toasted white-bread cutouts canopied with savory toppings. Although canapés hail from the French tradition, they became popular in the States in the 1930s, when American home cooks were masters of creative thrift. With a hodgepodge of everyday ingredients, I made canapés with Roquefort–walnut topping, anchovy–herb butter, and even a tasty chopped-ham spread with sweet pickle relish. Alas, the retro crab dip went uneaten; the meatballs were sampled, then ignored. But the canapés were such a hit that I've recruited them for every cocktail party I've hosted since.