Monday, June 6, 2011

Before the Food Channel

The women in my mother's circle of friends loved to cook and entertain. The Church ladies, the Women's Club and the Garden Club interconnected to create fabulous courses and evenings. It was more than delicious food, the presentation also a big factor.
Living with my mother, I experienced first hand the proper setting of a table and decorating. We often had 9 at the table just for supper. Friends were always invited. My mother learned it some from her mother, who was not a fancy cook, probably because of the Depression, but the table was set with the china with the sauce bowls and alway a dessert. My mom said Grandma made the best pineapple upside down cake in an iron skillet.
Mom read cook books, newspapers and magazines for recipes and she wasn't afraid to try them. I used to "write" on the margins of her Betty Crocker cook book before I went to school. One Sunday when I was older, she surprised my dad and me with spinach salad and hot bacon dressing. Another time, she tried poaching eggs in chicken broth, served over toast, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. These are just two of the trials she made that were a delight, and unusual.
The Garden Club every fall had a flower show where they staged card tables with a theme. My mother never won a big prize, maybe honorable mention, but I loved going to the Fellowship Hall at our church(we lived right next to it) and admiring the tables. Oh, those judges were from Ohio and tough. The tables displayed a mixture of traditional to whimsy to the fantastic. Liz and Joyce, the younger ladies of the group, created the most original settings. But it was more than the flower arranging, the table had to be properly set.
Beverly Tomer had wonderful ideas and seemed to cook with ease. I first had manicotti at her table in her home and she also froze pineapple juice in ice trays, pouring ginger ale over them for a different drink.
Lois Bartlett, petite and pretty, entertained with fabulous food. I remember her using Romain lettuce, while most were still chopping iceberg. Those emerald leaves with cherry tomatoes impressed me. Cobalt blue plates on her table were awesome.
Everyone made their own salad dressing. Mom made a sinfully calorie loaded milk dressing. I could just eat it by the spoonfuls. My Aunt Nome used Tang for a fruit dressing that quite enticed me. She also made me witch's brew that you added to 7-up, a cherry flavored concoction. As we left, she gave me the jar.
I must mention Esther Hart, who knew how to prepare a dinner for any crowd. Myltreda Truby still makes the best hamloaf.
These women also seemed to do this with such ease. They were at home in their kitchens and dining rooms. I loved when Mom entertained and she did a lot. We all helped. Family dinners for the holidays were often at our house. The best was when she hosted the Garden Club the first Friday of December, because the tree and tinsel went up early that year. Yeah, she freaked sometimes, but somehow as the people came, calmness rested over her.
Our generation, I'm sure appreciates this, but now our energies are in running the children to every activity, so they are well rounded, our jobs, just keeping up with the chores. Can you imagine getting all your laundry done in one day? That is another memory, I'll share someday. I owe much to these ladies of the Club- cooking, flower arranging, I forgot about the PTO meeting fashion show- very tongue in cheek- they were hilarious, decorating and the laughter these ladies shared. Most of them are now on to glory. God rest the ladies of the Club, and thank you for being my real life Food Channel.

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