My grandmother, Edie, enjoyed entertaining. However she was never one to slave in the kitchen or go to extremes cleaning her house before numerous guests arrived. She just turned down the lights, lit some candles and prepared a few easy to put together bites along with an amply stocked bar then let the party begin. With a shortage of caterers on Cape Cod back in the days when she was hosting cocktail parties for the upper crust of society in Falmouth, MA, she embraced any means of short cuts, and hacks-as we know them to be called today. Her recipe file filled with newspaper and Women's Day magazine clippings is chock full of recipes using canned ingredients and speedy methods to keep the cook out of the kitchen and in the mix of the party.
Sometimes Val happened to bring us kids for a visit the day after such an event. I loved hearing the names of some of Grammy's guests: The Clausons, who owned a car dealership, The Faxon's, old money (hospital wing), The Eastmans, proprietors of the hardware store on Main Street, to name a few. I imagined them dressed in their finest, helping themselves to such exotic delicacies as Vienna sausages, Swedish meatballs and Grammy's show stopping Mock Lobster Dip, molded into the shape of a fish and surrounded by Saltine Crackers. The ice in their glasses of vodka or whiskey (light on the mixers), clinking as they chatted, gossiped and laughed in the dim lighting of the dining area and living room in Grammy's house in Greengate, the then "it" neighborhood in Falmouth.
It all seemed so glamorous to me. After all, the only parties we hosted were children's birthday parties and the occasional cook out, fun but not very fancy. I always wished to attend such a sophisticated soiree. Finally, at fifteen years old, I was granted that wish, well, sort of. My best friend, Jenny and I were asked to help out at one of Grammy's larger holiday cocktail parties. We dressed up for the event: I wore a nicer sweater and a skirt and fixed my hair to look appropriate. Our job was to take the guests' mink wraps, heavy overcoats, evening bags, and silk scarves and place them "carefully" on Grammy's bed. We then snuck off to the kitchen to sample the "hors d'oeuvres" using fancy frill picks to stab the Swedish meatballs and an elegant cheese spreader to smear globs of port wine cheddar on Triscuits. Once the party got into full swing, Grammy relieved us of our duties and sent us off to my aunt's old bedroom for the night, where we laughed and giggled about the guests until we fell asleep. In the morning, she was up before we were, still wearing her gold charm bracelets and sipping black coffee. She made us breakfast: ice cold Tropicana Orange Juice and toasted Thomas' English Muffins slathered in melting peanut butter. When Val picked us up to go home, Grammy handed us each a check. In the memo, written in her swirly script, "Party Help".
I came across a letter the other day in that same unmistakable hand. Grammy wrote me in 1997. She had found a snapshot of me in a party dress taken when I was about seven years old. On the flowered note card she congratulates me on a new job, hopes it's going well. In the next sentence, she implores me to also take time for my social life. "because it's really important not to be just a
work-a-holic. Work hard and play hard as long as you can- it makes life such more fun!"
Mock Lobster Dip
(for a party)
1 can crab meat
1 can tomato soup*
1 cup mayonnaise
1 (1/2 lb.) package cream cheese
1 package Knox gelatin
1/4 cup green pepper, chopped very fine
2 tablespoons onion (chopped fine, also)
1/4 cup chopped celery (fine)
Melt cream cheese over low heat. Add tomato soup until well blended. Add gelatin and mayonnaise, stir well. Add the rest of the ingredients and pour into greased mold. Chill well before serving.**
* I am guessing that the soup should be condensed, preferably Campbell's
**Probably should chill overnight, at least 6-8 hours.
|Grammy and Pressy celebrating their December birthdays before a night on the town.|