Monday, August 29, 2011
Joining the Club
My mother still tells stories about growing up under the watchful eye of the Christianburg Ladies Bridge Club. They held monthly evening club meetings that no one wanted to miss; there was too much gossip at stake. At home when hosting, the silver flower bowl was always filled with freshly cut roses from the yard and a set of special hand embroidered towels placed in the bathroom along with little, fancy flower shaped soaps to adorn the sink. If the club met during the summer, my grandmother picked the best vegetables from her kitchen garden and turned them into chilled aspics and fancy ribbon sandwiches. At each seat sat a small nut cup and a tiny basket of sugared mints. “Party Flourishes”, my grandmother called the treats.
About an hour before the ladies arrived, my grandfather left. No one ever knew where he hid, but he would not run the risk of meeting an early arrival. The Bridge Club was a dressy occasion; the ladies always arrived dressed to kill. There was no such thing as pants for ladies back then. Sunday dresses were de rigueur with pantyhose and high heels, fur stoles at even a hint of chill, and oh, the perfume! Taboo, Joy, Evening In Paris, the women all smelled like boxed gift sets from the Tinsley Bible Drugstore.
By now, three card tables were set up in the front parlor, each with a deck of playing cards, a score pad and, at each place, a fancy little bridge tally with a tassel and an ash tray shaped like a heart, club, diamond or spade. After all the guests arrived the game started and even though the ladies were serious players, they managed to talk and gossip as they bid. Most of them smoked and soon the parlor seemed as smoggy as a pool hall. At the break, it was time for refreshments and that’s the part my mother loved best. Dressed in her fancy Sunday dress complete with wide satin sash, she would carefully carry flat saucer shaped coffee cups filled with percolated coffee to each of the ladies and bring each of them a slice of dessert. Most of them said, “Oh, I shouldn’t”, but they all did. After the game was over, hostess prizes were awarded and everyone went home. My grandfather would magically appear after the last lady left, finish up the dessert and then everyone would go to bed, worn out from all the excitement.
Gone are the days of dressing up in hose and heels for club meetings with friends. These days, cobbling out a evening to play anything with twelve friends once a month seems nearly as impossible as offering them aspic and coffee instead of chips and margaritas. Most of the old recipes have faded away as tastes have changed and people have grown too busy to be bothered. But there are recipes from earlier times that, while old-fashioned, are easy, delicious and worth rescuing from the past. For a simple summer club meeting or gathering of female friends bring out ribbon sandwiches. All sorts of fillings can be combined and leftover spreads are great for dips too. Here are two of my favorites but Pimento Cheese, Chicken Salad, Cucumber and Cream Cheese are also quite satisfying.
Ribbon Sandwiches – Serves 10-12 people
Note: Allow three ribbon sandwiches per person. You will need 1 pound of bread for every 2-3 cups of filling. I use a mixture of dense white bread and whole wheat bread. Trim all crusts from bread and in stacks of three cut in half for “ribbons”. Spread one side with spread of choice, top with bread spread with next choice to create layered “ribbon” look.
1 large ripe tomato
1 cucumber, seeded
1 bell pepper, seeded
½ small onion
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ packages plain gelatin
juice of one lemon
1 cup mayonnaise
1 ½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon paprika
1. Grind vegetables in food processor. Place vegetables in colander resting over a saucepan. Sprinkle with salt and lemon juice. Allow to drain. Remove colander. Sprinkle gelatin over drippings in saucepan. Cook over low heat while stirring until gelatin is dissolved. Blend in remaining ingredients and add ground vegetables. Cover and chill until firm.
1 (10-ounce) box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and water squeezed out until dry
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup mayonnaise
¼ cup minced dried onion
3 Tablespoons dried parsley
juice from one lemon
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
Combine all ingredients except spinach