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The Ladies of Bridge Grove

Kitty Hosts The Holidays

It’s 6 a.m. Kitty cannot remember the last time she was up this early, but today her nerves and excitement will not let her sleep. She reaches over and turns on the clock radio.

“Heaven,” Kitty says to herself. She squeals with excitement: “This day could not have a better start, Bing Crosby on the radio singing White Christmas!”

After a minute or two of snuggling Max the cat, Kitty jumps out of bed, grabs her silk chiffon peach-colored robe, and heads into the bathroom.

“Now, what to do first?” Kitty wrings her hands as she looks at herself in the mirror. “There is just so much to do!”

This is the first time that Kitty will be hosting Stan’s friends. At first she was terrified of the ladies. They all seemed too polished and were considerably older. They seemed to know how to do everything: cook, bake, host, decorate, dress. It was very intimidating. And when Stan said he would ask about hosting the annual Christmas party at their house, and he came home and said the group agreed, she was bowled over. The ladies had been so nice to her since she and Stan got engaged, yet still her nerves were already working on her. Luckily, at the last bridge game, the ladies suggested that each would bring a special holiday dish. They said that it is what they had done every year, so Kitty certainly didn’t want to mess with tradition. And boy was she ever grateful, since cooking was not exactly Kitty’s forte. She had been wildly studying the latest cook books, but nothing seemed to stick. But she had a plan, fingers crossed.

She chews her lip with nervousness as she takes inventory of her face. She could hear her mother’s voice in her head: “Kitty, stop chewing your lip!” She groans and heads downstairs.

So, first things first. Since she has a few hours until her appointment at the beauty parlor, Kitty decides to have a cup of coffee and survey the house. She could still detect a hint of fresh paint smell and hopes that no one will notice. She and Stan had only moved into the new house a few weeks ago after they returned from their elopement in Acapulco.

But the wallpaper did look splendid; it was so modern and chic. Thank goodness her mother offered up her interior designer as a wedding gift. He was somewhat famous in Chicago and she thought his work was just the bees knees. The ladies were sure to be impressed.

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The color choices, she was assured, were the absolute latest and most popular: the soft robin’s egg blues with chestnut browns and the gorgeous creams and silvers for the second floor hall and bedrooms. They were just perfect, Kitty thought. And on the first floor, the rich wood paneling, kelly greens, and red carpeting were just so luxurious.

“Okay now, I must remember how to use this new Coffeemate thing,” Kitty says to herself, coming out of her reverie. She was so excited when she received it as a wedding gift from her aunt. Kitty surveys the kitchen and dining area, happy that she had decided to go with copper and yellow as her colors of choice here. Mr. French assured her that copper was going to be the next big trend in color and that Kitty would be the very first in her neighborhood to have it. The copper handles and hinges on her ranch style cabinetry were just divine. Kitty had also decided on a country motif for her kitchen, which she thought was so romantic. After growing up in a penthouse apartment in Chicago her whole life, she thought the country look was just so darling.

The best decision she thought she made as she surveyed her new kitchen were her kitchen counter tops: canary yellow with silver boomerang shapes. “Just splendid,” she thinks. They were the most gorgeous countertops in all of Illinois, surely.

Kitty walks over to the nice bay window with banquet seat in the kitchen which Stan had chosen to add. As Kitty floats down to it and sips her coffee, she looks outside and watches the snowflakes begin to fall, thinking that this addition was just perfect for the house. Now she knows it will be the perfect night: fresh snowfall for her Christmas party, how wonderful.

Oh heavens, look at the time! Kitty rushes off down the hall to the living room to give it a quick survey. The Christmas tree is beautiful and the buffet table is already set up, thanks to Stan. She will have to add more garland to the fireplace mantle and some more candles, but everything looks perfect.

Kitty quickly dresses, feeds the cat, throws on her coat, hat, and gloves, and heads out the door. She mustn’t be late for the beauty parlor! She booked just enough time for her setting, makeup, and nails. Miss Beverly, who owns the premier beauty parlor in Bridge Grove, is very difficult to get an appointment with. Nancy Gold recommended her and said there was just no one else that she would trust her hair to. And by the looks of Nancy, Kitty would trust her with just about any advice on fashion; she was certain that Nancy must have been a model before she married Chip. Kitty was so impressed that she ended up choosing the date of the party only after she confirmed an appointment with Miss Beverly.

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As Kitty backs her cherry red Bel Air out of the driveway, she sees another lot on her street that is beginning construction. There were already six new ranch homes built on Meadow Lane. She is eager to meet new neighbors. So far, most of the neighbors that Kitty had met were mostly single men who were avid golfers and lived in the city during the week. It can be a bit lonely, so she hopes for a young couple or a family to move in and liven up the neighborhood.

Half and hour later, Kitty is sitting in the beauty parlor with her hands dipped in nail solution and Miss Beverly circling to size up her hair.

“So, it’s a Christmas party at your home, you zay?” Miss Beverly asks.

“Yes,” says Kitty.

“And you will be wearing ze emerald green satin cocktail dress, yes?”

Kitty nods, holding her breath.

“Zen ze only thing to do is ze bob and flip. Zis will make you look more mature.”

Kitty exhales, feeling like she just passed a test.

Within seconds, Miss Beverly’s assistants are buzzing around Kitty with curlers, powders, polishes, and creams. A few hours later, Kitty’s look is complete. Miss Beverly spins Kitty’s chair around to face the mirror. She takes one look and squeals with delight! Her hair is a perfect bouffant bob with the bottom edges flipped into a half curl. The height elongates her neck so elegantly. And her makeup is just gorgeous. Miss Beverly chose emerald eye shadow to match Kitty’s dress and a deep red for her lips and nails. “How very festive!” Kitty thinks happily.

The girls carefully wrap Kitty’s hairdo in a scarf, she pays the bill, and is off. After stops at the butcher and flower shop, Kitty arrives back home with a little less than two hours to get everything prepared. Within minutes, Stan arrives home with ice and a few extra bottles of scotch that he thinks might be good to have on hand. The butcher arrives to drop off the liverworst pate, tar-tar, vienna sausages in bbq sauce, and a pimento loaf, and the florist finishes setting up the poinsettias that Kitty had ordered.

Kitty catches Stan staring at the food items the butcher has delivered, looking perplexed.

“Why, Stan, is there something wrong?” she asks him.

“Ah, no, my darling, it’s just that this all looks so, er, so professional?” Stan says with hesitation.

“Goodness, they will know, won’t they? The ladies will take one look at this food and know that I didn’t make it. Oh no, this is going to be a disaster, isn’t it?” Kitty exclaims while wringing her hands.

“Now dear, calm down. The food looks beautiful and you are gorgeous! No one will notice. Everything will be just fine.” Stan kisses Kitty on her forehead and heads over to the bar.

Kitty nervously takes the food from the butcher out of the boxes and adds some finishing touches: Ritz crackers for the pate, melba toast for the tar-tar, and some fresh parsley for the pimento loaf, just like in the cookbooks.

Kitty catches a glimpse of the front yard as she walks into the living room to set out the new boomerang-shaped ashtrays and carton of cigarettes. It sure is snowing out there, looking so beautiful. She stands at the window for a while, smiling as she hears “Suzy Snowflake” by Rosemary Clooney cooing from the hi fi. She giggles a bit and then realizes that she does not have much time left to get dressed. She runs into the bedroom nearly knocking over the poinsettia in the hallway, hearing Stan yell to her from the kitchen: “Slow down dear, there is plenty of time!” She mumbles something back about men having no idea what it takes for a woman to get dressed.

Kitty unwraps her dress, such a beautiful shade of emerald, from the box. She takes out her girdle, stockings, dress, pumps, jewelry, shalamar, and poinsettia broach. “Perfect!” she exclaims as she views herself in the mirror, all put together. “Just perfect!”

As she arrives in the living room, she sees Stan sitting on the couch, reading the paper.

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“Now, let me have a look at my beautiful bride,” he says, ignoring her frantic pleas. “Wow, what a stunner! How did I get so darn lucky?”

He plants a kiss on her cheek, making her giggle.

“Hey, the gals just love ya,” he says. “Everything is going to be great! Look at this beautiful home I had built for ya. There’s nothin’ to worry about, dear, nothin at all.”

He sits back down with his paper and Kitty just laughs. “Men,” she says, shaking her head.

The door bell rings just as Kitty is lighting the last candle. She may have overdone it with the candles as she sees Stan’s reaction as he walks towards the door. Oh well, too late now.

She rushes to his side to greet their first guests, John and Vicky Pool. Stan chuckles when he sees that it’s them who has arrived first.

Vicky is wearing the most interesting pink coat with a pink sable hat, pink gloves, and pink pumps. She arrives with a casserole of franks and beans and a pitcher of her famous iced tea. Now that was one inside joke Kitty does know about. Oh my, her tea is just awful.

Stan gives John and Vicky the grand tour as Kitty lays out the casserole on the buffet table. She can hear John talking to Stan as they approach the living room. “We will have to get you a pool in that backyard this summer there, Stan. And who better to get you a great deal on a pool than the man named Pool?” John laughs and laughs, patting Stan on the back. Kitty chuckles to herself.

As the guests continue arriving, the buffet table fills up fast, the bed is piling high with coats and hats, and the smoke is wafting through the house. Kitty hopes that everyone is enjoying themselves so far.

Gladys, Kitty was told by Stan, is always the life of the party and it seems that she is in fine form tonight. The minute she arrived, everyone gathered around her and Jack as they told the latest story about their recent trip to Florida. She certainly knew how to work a room. Kitty so admired her.

Gladys is wearing a beautiful silver wiggle dress with a short cropped matching jacket. Her red hair is piled high in a beautiful coif, and the contrast of her hair against the silver shimmering material is stunning. Kitty thinks that Gladys looks like a movie star.

Last to arrive is Nancy and Chip. Vicky Pool had forewarned Kitty that Nancy is always fashionably late, so by no means should she pass out any hors d’oeuvres until Nancy and Chip make their entrance.

And what an entrance it is! Nancy has really outdone herself this time. She is a vision in powder blue chiffon with a floor length pleated gown gather at the bodice, with the most beautiful gold rhinestone star-shaped broach. The train elegantly dusts the floor, extending all the way up to the neckline. And her hair, what a piece of artistry, gorgeous curls swept up just like Lucille Ball’s.

Just then Kitty hears Gladys announce that her famous egg nog is ready and asks who wants a glass.

Kitty loves egg nog, and boy is Gladys’ delicious. Stan calls everyone to the bar and raises his glass for a toast. Kitty stands next to him and looks around the room. With the low lights and soft candle glow, the Christmas tree just looks magnificent with all of its colors and tinsel.

“Thank you, dear friends, for joining us tonight,” Stan says as he holds his glass high. “And to my new bride, Kitty, may this be just one of many happy Christmases together. And that means a lot, coming from a Jewish guy!” The crowd roars with laughter. “Cheers, everyone!”

All of the ladies rush over to Kitty to tell her how much they love her dress and hair, and oh that eyeshadow!

Soon after everyone heads to the buffet. What a beautiful feast it is! There’s liver pate, deviled ham, lobster newburg spread, sardine and bacon rolls, pimento pinwheels, mushroom loaf, chicken ala king, and a wonderful array of desserts.

Carla whispers to Gladys to meet her in the kitchen and they both stealthily slip away from the other ladies. Carla opens the napkin in her hand and gestures to Gladys to look at it.

“Is that a wrapper?” asks Gladys.

“Yes, it was under the entire liverworst” Carla says.

“Oh my, poor dear! Vicki found plastic wrap under the tar tar and quickly slipped it out before anyone else noticed, she told me,” says Gladys.

“We have to do something. We can’t let this poor lamb suffer and we certainly don’t need to be ingesting paper and plastic! She’s one of us now doll; we’ve got to help her out,” says Gladys. They nonchalantly head back to the group to mingle.

As the ladies eat and talk, Gladys realizes it is just the girls standing around, so she asks Kitty which dishes from the buffet table are hers. Kitty admits it’s the liverworst from the butcher. After a moment of silence, Gladys glances around the room and finally says: “Say, Kitty, you can’t cook a lick, can you?”

Kitty laughs with relief and says: “No, not a lick.”

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All the ladies laugh and take their turns hugging her. Susan says that she will teach Kitty to bake and the ladies nod in definite agreement. “Susan is the best baker among us, for sure,” says Carla Benson.

“And Carla should be the one to teach you casseroles. I swear every time there is a gathering you have whipped up some new delightful concoction,” says Gladys.

“Oh, and I would be happy to help you as well. Everyone always loves my roast,” claims Mary Peterson.

“My, yes, the best roast in Bridgegrove,” says Nancy. “I’m still trying to perfect the recipe.”

“I would be happy to give you my ambrosia and summer salad recipes, Kitty. Everyone always enjoys those dishes when I bring them to our gatherings,” says Vicky. “Oh, and my iced tea, naturally. I might be persuaded to share that recipe with you.”

The ladies all shoot each other a glance and try not to burst out laughing.

“No, Vicky, we wouldn’t want you to give away your trade secret,” says Nancy, as the ladies nod and sigh in relief.

“Well, there you go, doll,” Gladys remarks to Kitty. “And say, you realize you deprived us ladies of a wedding to dress for, right?”

Everyone chuckles and Kitty blushes. “I’m so sorry, girls. With the differences in Stan and my religions, we just thought it would be much easier for our families. I couldn’t bear either of us having to tell our families we had to convert,” Kitty responds.

“Oh my, I didn’t even think of that,” says Mary. “You are absolutely right, dear. Very smart.”

“Ladies, I have the best idea,” Nancy cries. “Kitty, you must let us throw you a proper wedding shower this spring!”

“Oh yes! What fun! How swell!” All the ladies exclaim to each other.

Kitty beams with joy. “I would love that! Thank you so much!”

“Leave it to us,” Nancy says. “Gladys, we have planning to do,” elbowing Gladys gently. The two exchange an excited look.

“Sorry to interrupt, girls, but may I steal my bride away for a spin across the room?” Stan asks as he reaches out his hand to Kitty.

Kitty smiles from ear to ear as she follows Stan across the room.

Within minutes, everyone is slow dancing to the sounds of Pat Boone. The snow is falling gently on the bushes outside the living room window. Gladys tiptoes around the room in stocking feet, handing out champagne. “Oh, my, I almost forgot the champagne,” Kitty thinks to herself.

Kitty is so happy, she lays her head on Stan’s shoulder and thinks about all of the compliments the ladies gave her on the party and her home decor. She feels such pride. Maybe entertaining isn’t so difficult after all.


Retro Stories, The Ladies of Bridge Grove

Vicky’s Hawaiian Shin Dig!

Vicky’s Hawaiian Shindig!

It’s 7:00 a.m. How in the heck did this happen? Vicky jumps from her bed and races into the bathroom. She slaps her Pond’s cream on her face and brushes her teeth with lightning speed, rinses, spits, and dives for the curlers from her vanity cabinet, racing to get each and every strand into a curler. She’s working so fast, she manages to poke her scalp with the curler pins more than usual. Now, her eyes are watering and creating little teary rivers in her thick Pond’s mask. Oh, what a mess.

As she not-so-deftly wraps each curler, she admires her pink floral wallpaper before noticing a wrinkle. Darn, why hadn’t she seen that before? Well, it is in the corner near the ceiling; surely it’s difficult to notice. If she hadn’t seen it ’til now, no one else will notice it. And after all, who would be looking up at that corner when there are pinky fluffy plush mats and toilet seat covers to admire?

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“There”, she says to herself. Curlers are set, it’s time to get up and get moving. How did she ever sleep so late? She opens the door to her son’s room, shouting: “Up and at ‘em, little man! Time to start the day.” After many groans and moans, Billy finally sits up and stares at his mother’s face in bewilderment.

“Mommy, why do you have that stuff all over your face? Haha! You look like a marshmallow ghost.” Vicky touches her face and realizes she left her cold cream on. Goodness, this is most certainly not a good start to the day.

An hour later, John finds his wife in the kitchen, bent over the frying pan, mumbling. He laughs to himself and walks over to plant a kiss on her cheek.

“Good morning, dear!” He says. “How are you today?”

“Oh, sweetheart, please don’t forget to get the charcoal from the A&P and wipe down the grill top. Oh, and remember that we need extra ice today,” she breathlessly fires off.

“Dearest, now I wish you wouldn’t get so in a tizzy when we host parties,” John says. “You are a darn good hostess and everything always goes off without a hitch.” He grabs his wife’s hand to kiss it.

“John, sweetheart, everything just must go perfect, that’s all! I just want everything to be nice. Now, sit down and eat your breakfast. I have so much to do!”

A few minutes later, a car honks outside. Vicky grabs Billy’s case and shuffles him outside. Luckily, Billy is best friends with the boy scout troop leader’s son and they are going to Detroit for the weekend to visit the Henry Ford Museum.

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Vicky waves goodbye to Billy as the car backs out of the driveway and turns on her pink slippered heels to run back inside the house. Just as she grabs the door handle to close the door, she realizes that she forgot to ask John to hang the special wreathe she made for the party. It’s just so perfect for her Hawaiian theme, an entire wreathe made out of leis that she had specially ordered.

“John…..”

Vicky stands frozen in her hallway looking at her curlers in the hallway mirror, trying to decide if she should dress before or after she makes the iced teas. She quickly decides the iced teas are most important. She is so excited to reveal her new favorite: a pineapple-flavored iced tea.
As Vicky files her pitchers of iced teas in the Frigidaire she decides to do a check of John’s work on the back patio. Oh, and she almost forgets to feed Tweetie. A quick check of Tweetie’s cage as she walks to the back door reveals that the food and water dishes are full. Vicky spends a minute whistling back and forth with Tweetie and then she’s off to the backyard.

Vicky claps her hands and squeals. Everything looks splendid! The tables are all lined with raffia; John did a magnificent job of attaching it perfectly. They look like one big grass skirt.

The bamboo plants she managed to find at the nursery look perfect next to the buffet table. All of the multi-colored garland has been hung and there are plenty of candles. Everything looks so festive! Vicky is truly pleased. She lets out a little sigh of relief and walks over to compliment her husband.

“John, you did a wonderful job! If I didn’t know any better, I would think we are in Hawaii!”

John chuckles and picks up a large brown box. “Dear, I found this in the garage yesterday.”

“Oh, yes, goodness, I almost forgot,” Vicky says. “Those are the leis for all of our guests! I had them special ordered. There are enough for everyone. We must give them to each guest as they arrive. Please don’t forget, darling. You see, this is what they do in Hawaii when guests arrive; I want our guests to feel just like they are in Hawaii.”

Vicky notices the time and realizes that she must continue getting ready. She glances at her sofa as she walks through the living room and pulls off all of the plastic covers. Her pink velveteen sofa just lights up the room. She just adores it. What a wonderful compliment to her pink silk drapes that hang both in her living and dining rooms.

She chooses her brand new Martin Denny Exotica album to put on the record player while she gets herself ready. “The soundtrack is perfect,” she thinks to herself, looking around and admiring her living room. The rose colors just make her feel at ease. She looks at her watch again and rushes to the bedroom to get dressed.

Vicky removes her curlers and brushes her curls out to a nice smooth wave, the larger curls at the bottom, resting right at the lobes of her ears. She pulls out her vanity case and reviews her Avon guideline to makeup one more time: Eye shadow, rouge, brows, and last but not least, lashes and lips. Vicky decides on “A Pretty Pop Of Pink” for her lip color, a new pink that has just come out this year. Mabel swears it is the perfect shade of pink for any daytime or evening occasion. As Vicky mixes her lips together and looks at herself in the mirror, she quite agrees.

And there is her darling floral dress jumper with an accompanying light, dusty pink blouse to wear underneath. Vicky chooses pearls as her accessories and her favorite pair of nude wedge sandals.

She takes one last look around, smooths out the pink silk bedspread and heads for the kitchen; it’s time to lay out the food. Oh, and she must make sure that John is wearing his Hawaiian print shirt that she bought for him.

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As she carries out the last of the food, she sees John’s shirt and smiles. It’s time to survey the buffet table: Chips? Check. Pretzels? Check. Ambrosia salad? Check. Pineapple Jell-O mold?Check. Mini franks and pineapple slices in peking sauce? Check. Chicken chop suey? Check. Barbecue Jell-O salad? Check. And John has the beef skewered and ready for the grill.

“There are plenty of refreshments,” Vicky admires. There’s lemonade, iced tea, cola, and orange juice. The ice buckets are full. Just as she thinks to check how much back-up ice is in the freezer, she remembers to turn on the radio for the party.

Then the doorbell rings. Vicky claps her hands with delight; her first guests have arrived! Carla and Bill Benson are the first ones here. She gives each of them a lei, and Carla comments that it’s so festive, she cannot wait to see the spread. Carla has brought an apple pie; her pies are always magnificent. Vicky’s mouth begins to water as she ushers her first guests to the back patio and places the pie on the dessert table.

The doorbell rings again and Vicky whisks back inside. This time it’s Susan & Bob Schaeffer, along with Margaret & John Prescott. She hands out more leis, gets more compliments and more desserts. Susan has brought a fruit salad in a darling bowl that looks just like an orange, and Margaret has brought the ice cream, as promised. Vicky sends everyone to the back patio as she places the ice cream in the freezer.

Next at the door is Mary & Barry Peterson with Stan Mitchell. Mary seems to be giving Vicky an odd look, when Vicky realizes that there is someone walking from Stan’s car with him; it seems he brought a date. Oh, my. As she ponders how this will play out, Gladys and Jack walk up. Gladys has a thermos and a large bowl with her. “I wonder what that is,” Vicky thinks to herself and purses her lips.

The last to arrive are, of course, Nancy & Chip Gold. Nancy, as usual, looks stunning. She is wearing a very expensive-looking gold wiggle dress with gold sandals and an orchid behind her ear. Her blue eye shadow makes her gray eyes just pop. Vicky wonders how old Nancy really is. Her figure would suggest she’s quite young, but Vicky knows she’s older than all the other ladies.

As Vicky returns to the back patio with more ice, she sees all of the ladies standing around, sipping their iced tea. She is pleased, knowing that her new recipe would be a hit. She asks the ladies how they like the iced tea and they all express their delight.

Mary walks over to Nancy to compliment her on that smashing dress she is wearing. Susan dashes over to them and whispers: “Girls, have you actually tasted the tea? It’s absolutely horrible.” Gladys and Nancy laugh. “Goodness, I thought I was the only one. Yuck!”

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Just as Susan was thinking how badly she needs a drink, she hears Gladys call out to the ladies.

“Jack and I came across this darling little place last month when we were in Chicago for our anniversary dinner,” she says. “They make this amazing little drink called a Mai Tai,” she tells the crowd.

“We just loved it so much, we asked the bartender for the recipe,” Jack pipes in. “And we have been perfecting it ever since then.”

Everyone laughs.

“So, Vicky and John, we thought it would just perfect for your party since it’s a Hawaiian drink, or so the bartender said,” Jack says.

Vicky smiles and politely thanks Gladys and tells her and Jack how thoughtful that is. John walks over to Gladys and proclaims that he will be the first to try it out. He whispers to Jack: “Thank goodness! Vicky isn’t very good at cocktails; one drink and she’s smashed.” Jack laughs and they both clink their glasses.

“Anyone else?” Gladys asks. And at that everyone rushes over to grab a glass. “The food is impressive,” Gladys thinks to herself as she admires the spread. She will just skip the Ambrosia salad this time.

As everyone is loading their plates, Nancy comes over to Gladys who is standing with Mary Peterson.

“So, who is the young lady whom Stan brought this time?” Nancy asks Mary.

“Her name is Kitty, and Stan actually introduced her to us as ‘My Kitty’ when we were in the driveway, so that’s new.”

“Perhaps she will last more than one date,” Gladys comments, and the ladies chuckle.

Gladys elbows Mary. “Well, the boys sure seem to be impressed with her; just look at our men over there. They have her surrounded!”

A few minutes later, Jack walks towards the group. “Gladys, my darling, may I have this dance?”

“Why of course, sir, I would be delighted,” Gladys responds as she places her cocktail on the table.

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With the sounds of Arthur Lyman wafting through the air, it is hard not to feel festive. Gladys wonders as Jack twirls her if this is in fact what Hawaii is like.

Gladys is very happy with her choice of dress for the occasion, a Walk Away Dress with a full skirt and fitted bodice in the most beautiful shade of peacock blue with green lining. She chose to wear her hair down curled under and brushed to the side with a large yellow flower pinned next to her left ear. Her green Shake Charmer wedges just go perfectly with her outfit.

“So, I think I know where I would like to go for our next vacation,” Gladys smiles at Jack.

“Hahah, let me guess,” he laughs. “Could it be Omaha, Nebraska? I hear they have wonderful steaks and very nice Motor Inn’s. In fact, there might be…” Gladys playful slaps him on the arm, “Yes, darling, I think it would be a wonderful vacation and any chance to see you in a swimsuit is alright with me.” The two sway on the patio as the other couples join in to dance.

Vicky stands next to John and breathes a sigh of relief. “Well, my dear, I think you’ve done it,” he says. “I think you have put together the best party of the year,” he exclaims, putting his arm around his wife.

It does seem to go rather well. Everyone fills their plates several times and is laughing and now dancing, although the iced tea pitchers still seem to be rather full. “It does look like things have gone very well,” Vicky thinks.

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All of a sudden, Vicky hears someone shouting. The music is turned down and it looks as though Stan Mitchell is standing on a chair. “Oh, dear,” Vicky thinks, “I hope he’s not drunk again.”

“Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have your attention please?” Stan says. “Quiet down now, friends. I have a very important announcement.”

The dancing comes to a halt, and the crowd hushes and faces Stan standing rather unbalanced on the pool chair.

“You’ve all met my Kitty, and well, now you will all have to come to our wedding! I’ve asked her to marry me, and for some reason that I can’t fathom, she’s said yes!”

With that, Stan reaches down and pulls Kitty’s hand up and helps her onto the chair next to his. “Folks, four weeks from now, this lovely lady will be Mrs. Stanley Mitchell!”

Everyone begins to clap and the tiny waif of a gal seems to be ready to burst with happiness. The men walk over and help the two down as everyone else approaches to congratulate the pair.

Vicky admires Kitty’s pink lace Fit & Flare strapless dress with its short round skirt. Her tiny frame seems to swim in it, but her bodice is quite filled in. Her little pink sling backs are the exact shade of her dress and those pink pearl earrings are just gorgeous against her frosty blonde short curls. Gosh, Vicky just loves pink so much.

Margaret leans in and startles Vicky out of her pink daydream. “Did you know about this? Did you know about her? How long have they been dating?”

“Well, I have no idea,” Vicky says. “I thought that was your department. This is the first time I am hearing of any of it.”

The ladies whisper in hushed voices. Carla says that she and Bill bumped into them at the Golden Ranch Steakhouse a few weeks ago and had a brief drink with them, but they thought nothing of it, just another one of Stan’s girls.

“Well, we will have to get down to the bottom of this. Someone will have to do some recon on the matter. Margaret, this is your territory! See what you can come up with.” Nancy firmly states.

“Why is it always me who has to find out…” Margaret stops in mid sentence, noticing all the ladies giving her a certain look.

“Yes, yes, ok, I will find out what I can,” she says, and with that, Margaret walks away from the group to approach Kitty.

Mary Peterson seems to be ready to burst. “Ladies, a wedding! This means we get to shop for a wedding.”

A round of sighs, oohs, and ahs circle the group of ladies. The atmosphere of delight is palpable as visions of dresses and hats dance through their minds.

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Finally, the punch bowls are empty, the grill has cooled, and little cocktail umbrellas are strewn about the patio tables.

Carla stays to help Vicky clear up even though Vicky states it isn’t necessary. Carla knows that Vicky doesn’t have a house cleaner like most of the other ladies, though. Vicky can hear John and Bill laughing on the patio through the kitchen window and cigar smoke comes wafting in. Vicky hurriedly shuts the kitchen window so the smoke won’t get into the house. The men are instantly silenced and the sounds of chairs being pushed into tables begin.

Vicky glances over at Carla and they both begin to laugh hysterically as they dry the last of the dishes in their stocking feet.

“Well, seems like we’ve still got it! ‘The moment your husband doesn’t fear you, the marriage is over,’ my mother would always say,” Carla says in between giggles.

Just then John and Bill come in from the back patio. “Ready to go, dearest?” Bill asks his wife.

“Oh yes, just finishing the last dish here,” Carla replies while wiping the tears from laughing off her cheek.

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“What is so funny?” John asks.

At that both ladies begin to crack up again. The men look at each other and just shrug their shoulders.

John and Vicky wave to the last of their guests as the car pulls out of the driveway.

“Job well done, dear! It was a smashing party,” he says to his wife.

“Couldn’t have done it without you,” she replies.

“But, oh my, this business about Stan getting married, what do you think? How long has he known her? Has he said anything to you?” Vicky breathlessly fires off.

John puts his arm around his wife and ushers her down the hallway towards their bedroom.

“I will leave all of those details to you ladies. We men, we never know anything,” he says, chuckling. “Time for bed now, dear.”

Vicky lays her head on her husband’s shoulder as they walk down the hallway. Whatever will she wear to the wedding…


Retro Stories, The Ladies of Bridge Grove

Nancy Does Bridge… But Prefers Canasta

It’s 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday and Nancy is enjoying her last cup of coffee while flipping through the latest copy of Redbook. “You Send Me” wafts softly through the kitchen from the turquoise blue Motorola clock radio that is perched atop her dreamy canary yellow Westinghouse refrigerator. Just a few more puffs of her Lucky and another sip of Maxwell House, and Nancy will have to get into action.

Today’s bridge game is sure to be full of excitement. Nancy and the other wives take turns hosting their Wednesday afternoon card games. Today, Susan Schaeffer is hosting. Nancy has not seen her since Gladys’ Cocktail Party last month.

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Margaret Prescott called Nancy Saturday to tell her that she drove by Susan’s house and saw her walking to the mailbox from the car with a bandage across her nose. Margaret could hardly breathe, she said, as she did her best not to run over the Miller’s cat and end up on the sidewalk. This sounds like it’s going to be a very interesting day of bridge. Nancy loves a mystery!

And thank goodness Susan serves cocktails at her house. If this were Vicky Pool’s turn, it would be much less fun, as she never serves alcohol. The ladies have not mustered the courage to find out why, though. The Pool’s don’t seem particularly into the Church. Poor Vicky always seems so excited about her new iced tea discoveries: Sun Tea, Instant Tea, Lemon Tea. How many iced teas can one drink in an afternoon? Nancy even saw Mary Peterson dump her glass into a plant once.

On Monday morning, Nancy awoke with a well thought out plan of attack in respect to the outfit she would wear to this week’s bridge game. After a quick phone call to Rogette’s, Nancy’s mind was at ease; the shop girl, Jacqueline, assured Nancy that she had a wide variety of the latest day dresses in stock.

The ladies typically look to Nancy for style advice since she worked at a fashion magazine as a receptionist before she got married, but little do they know, Nancy really doesn’t know as much about fashion as they think she does. None of them know that she is from a small farm town. But, it was a good way to get into the group when she and Chip first moved to the neighborhood.

One must keep the show going though, so it was a serious job. Nancy had every magazine known to the fashion world delivered to her house regularly. She spent hours combing through the pages, memorizing the names of designers and upcoming looks and trends that these magazines anticipated. Luckily, Chip was willing to give Nancy just about anything to be able to golf every Sunday or go to the club with the fellas. And, Nancy was happy to exchange a new frock or two out monthly.

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Tuesday was a very productive day. Nancy got her nails done, had her hair set at the beauty parlor, and at Rogette’s, Jacqueline was reliable as always, having several perfect dresses set aside. They were just peachy, so much so that Nancy had to have all three of them. She decided to grab an extra bottle of Chip’s favorite gin on the way home, and to prepare his favorite meal, a nice roast, just the way he liked it.

Shoot, it’s 9:00 a.m. already; she must be ready by 11:00. Nancy closes the magazine, puts her coffee cup in the sink, and begins to head down the hall towards the bedroom, carefully making sure to trip over the cat. Those ballet lessons she took in her late teens never really helped her grace as much as she would have hoped. Pat Boone’s “Love Letters in the Sand” is now on the radio; oh, how she adores that song. She must remember to ask Chip for the new Pat Boone record for her birthday next month.

Nancy enters her bedroom and lets out a bright sigh of happiness. She just adores her bedroom; it is by far her most favorite room in the house. The walls were done in a perfect shade of Chantilly Blue, her absolute favorite color.

Yellow and gray lace curtains hang over the large windows with little cream colored pompoms hanging from the hems. She spent months looking for the perfect carpeting for the room when she and Chip moved into the house. In fact, they had to live with the horrid old wood flooring for several months until she found the exact shade she was looking for. It was the most gorgeous color named Imperial Ivory; the name alone just made her squeal with delight. Chip was so handy that he was able to find the same color in paint and have Nancy’s dressing table painted to match.

And the bedding, well, that was also a treasure hunt. Nancy really wanted the bedding to match the walls, so finding the exact style in Chantilly lace was quite a feat. Finally, she had to visit local decorators, an older Italian couple, who were able to have a Chantilly Blue bedding set made as she described. Lots of lace she required and lots of pompoms. And oh, what a spectacular job they did! The bedspread and all of the dressing pillows were all finished in cream lace and pompoms, and the bedspread had a beautiful lace pattern, too.

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Nancy opens her closet doors and realizes that she is going to have to take another set of dresses to the guest room closet. How she is always running out of room, it’s so puzzling.

She takes the three dresses from Rogette’s and lays them on the bed. This is a very difficult choice indeed. All these dresses would be perfect and all of them will work nicely with her bouffant up do. After much internal debate, Nancy chooses a yellow polkadot shirt dress with cap sleeves and scalloped edging. Luckily, she has a pair of cream sling back heels that will match just swell, and the perfect yellow bow to attach to her rather large bouffant.

Just as she sits down at the dressing table to begin making up her face, she hears the clacking of rain on the window. Oh no, Nancy cannot risk having her hairdo ruined! She studies herself in the mirror. There is no way that a hat will fit on the work of art atop her head. She digs into her bottom drawer and chooses a pretty floral scarf with plenty of yellows and golds. This will do; this will do nicely.

Two hours later, Nancy is in the Ford on her way to Susan’s house, only a five minute drive, thankfully, and the rain has subsided. Chip doesn’t think Nancy is a very good driver so he makes sure to keep her in a new car with all the latest safety features. Nancy probably drives a lot better than she lets Chip believe. After all, she did grow up on a farm and had to drive the tractor quite often to help her father out. But, if it means a new car every few years, then Nancy will continue to keep up the ruse.

As she pulls in Susan’s driveway, Nancy sees that all the gals have arrived. She prides herself on being the last one to arrive at all gatherings so her entrance is uninterrupted. She knows she will be showered in comments about her outfit.

Nancy has chosen to bring a bunt cake. She has never been very good at baking. When she and Chip lived in Chicago when they were first married, Nancy would purchase cakes and pies and then warm them up in the oven or cool them in the fridge on her own plates to give the illusion that she baked them. She even took baking classes, but still, no success. Now she has Margarite, her housekeeper, who does all of her baking and no one is the wiser. Everyone particularly loves the lemon bunt cake with powdered cinnamon sugar.

Just as Nancy walks up to the door with her cake tin, she feels a rush of excitement. Will Susan open the door with her bandage still on? Will there be a new nose on her face? She can hardly make it to the door without tripping over the walkway. She takes a moment to breathe, adjust her dress, tighten her gloves, put a smile on, and rings the doorbell.

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And there is Susan, smiling and looking, well, exactly the same: no bandage, no new and improved nose. Come to think of it, Susan’s nose is just darling, actually. Is Nancy just not remembering what it looked like before?

A little puzzled, Nancy walks through the door, gives a quick kiss and hug to Susan, and accepts all of the squealing and admiration for her beautiful dress. Nancy can barely get into the foyer as the girls rush over to admire her hair and her scarf: “Is that Hermes?”

“Why no, of course not, ladies,” she says. “It was a gift from Chip when he traveled to New York.”

She turns to Susan to tell her how lovely she looks in her pink circle skirt and cream cardigan, then shoots a look at Gladys, already mixing up cocktails, who shrugs her shoulders. Could Margaret have been wrong? Is it possible? It seems so unlikely, as Margaret has been the trusted news source of the ladies’ group for the last six years, and she has yet to be wrong.

Nancy notices Gladys’ absolutely darling dress, a mint green gingham printed Sheath with matching green pumps. The way it sets off her hair color is very becoming. Nancy is going to have to keep her eye on Gladys; she has really been close to outdoing her in her wardrobe lately.

After a few minutes of chit chat, everyone follows Susan out to the Florida room. Nancy pulls Margaret back for a moment and asks her if she is absolutely sure that she saw Susan with a bandage on her nose. Margaret emphatically states that she is absolutely sure and that she can even remember the exact time that she drove by. Both ladies admit that they don’t see anything different about Susan’s nose; it looks exactly the same.

“Well, now this is a mystery!” Nancy says to herself. How are the ladies ever going to unravel this one?

Susan has a delightful spread laid out for the ladies: egg and tuna salad sandwiches, bread and butter pickles, and bridge mix. There are several delicious sweets that the ladies have contributed, a gorgeous lime and apple jello mold, Vicky’s rather runny Ambrosia salad, which Nancy makes a mental note to skip, Nancy’s bunt cake, and a chocolate mousse cake, which of course has to be donated by Gladys; she is a terrible chocolate addict.

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As the ladies nibble on their sandwiches and sweets, they talk about the big news that has been occupying everyone’s minds lately: the highway. The state is planning to build one right next to their development in Bridge Grove. Some of the ladies are up in arms about it. Surely driving fifty miles an hour can only attract hoods and criminals. Vicky seems to be beside herself when she hears that there will be a fifty mile an hour speed limit; she can’t imagine why anyone would want to drive that fast. Nancy is no speed racer, but she did ride with Vicky once to a picnic and was sure that Vicky never broke fifteen miles per hour the entire drive! Nancy thinks Vicky is one of those people who was just born a middle aged woman; she can’t imagine her as a young girl.

Nancy manages to lure Mary Peterson into the kitchen as she gathers up a few plates. There, they whisper quickly about Susan’s nose. Does Mary see a difference? Does Nancy think Margaret got it wrong? Could there have been a change that they just don’t seem to notice?

Susan interrupts them as she walks into the kitchen with a stack of lunch plates. Nancy thinks quickly and tells Susan how much they admire her kitchen decor, the tropical wallpaper, and florida oranges motif is just darling. And even her Corelle-ware has little oranges all over it.

“How ever do you find these things, Susan?” Nancy asks.

“Well, as you know,” Susan replies, “Bob travels to Florida regularly for business and we have been vacationing there for years now, even before the children were born. Every time we are there, I grab anything I can find with oranges or with a tropical print. I just adore everything about the tropics.”

“This is true,” Nancy thinks. The entire house looks like one of those themed restaurants that serves Hawaiian style food. And Susan always has a tan, no matter what time of year, she is perfectly brown or brownish orange.

As they walk back into the Florida room, all the ladies are whispering and stop the moment they see Susan. “Rats,” Nancy thinks to herself, “it looks like Susan knows something is going on.” And when Susan asks what everyone was just whispering about, the group looks like deer caught in a headlight. Finally, Gladys bursts out with: “We were all talking about how watery Vicky’s Ambrosia salad is,” and everyone shakes their heads. Vicky frowns and tries to say something, but Nancy catches Gladys kicking Vicky’s foot.

Susan, beginning to grow suspicious, suggests that everyone settle down for bridge. As everyone takes their seats, Gladys whispers to Vicky that she is sorry and of course it isn’t true but she had to say something to break the silence. Vicky grumbles but accepts the explanation.

Nancy lights a cigarette and begins to shuffle and realizes that Susan is at her table. Well, maybe this is a good thing, since all the ladies think she is the best one to figure out the mystery for some reason. So, Nancy decides she will put her detective cap on and try to suss it out.

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After an hour or so of bridge, Nancy catches Carla staring at Susan. Nancy gives Carla a light kick under the table to break her stare. Carla squeals and then laughs when Susan looks at her with confusion.

“Everything okay over there, dear?” Susan asks Carla.

“Why yes, I’m fine, just fine; I seemed to have kicked my own ankle by accident,” giggles Carla.

Nancy is sure Susan suspects something now, so she quickly changes the subject to the new Elvis Presley movie, Jailhouse Rock. Everyone immediately swoons. The two things this group can always agree on are Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. Vicky Pool, of course, favors the latter. She and her husband, John, don’t care for rock music, but she sure does think Elvis is dreamy.

It’s been three games and Nancy has yet to win a hand or pick up very many tricks. Why can’t these ladies play Canasta like most civilized people? Nancy is going to have to put more time into her bridge learning.

She looks out onto Susan’s backyard, noticing that she does do an awfully good job with her garden. In fact, her roses are stunning. Nancy admires the way the sunlight comes into the Florida room and the way the swirls of cigarette smoke dance around the ladies heads, it’s such a calming sight.

Mary takes another trick. Nancy sips her gimlet and is just reaching into cigarette case when she hears Susan slam her cards onto the table and say to Carla: “What is it?” Why do you keep staring at my face?”

Nancy freezes. Oh no, she knew that Susan suspected something.

Carla is absolutely flustered, beginning to stammer nervously: “Oh, nothing dear. I was just um, just, I was looking, at, well, you see…”

Just then Gladys jumps up and shouts: “Who is up for another drink? Anyone care to join me in another cocktail?” The ladies all immediately jump up and starting chattering about their drinks when Susan stands up and silences the room.

“What is going on?” she asks. “Now someone had better fess up and tell me what in green gables is going on with all of you? Why has everyone been staring at me and whispering?” At this point, she seems to have gone from annoyed to very near to tears.

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Everyone is frozen. No one moves, and no one says anything. Nancy is praying that Gladys will break the silence, but she says nothing. So, finally Nancy decides that honesty, decorum, and grace will surely solve this problem.

Nancy walks over to Susan and grabs her hand. “Now dear, you know that we all just adore you, and it seems that one of us should have just asked you plainly when we arrived. But it seems that you were injured last week, and well, we were all just so concerned and now nothing seems to be amiss. That’s all it was dear, concern for you.”

Everyone lets out a silent sigh and looks to Susan for her reaction. You could power an entire city with the silence in the room.

Susan begins to laugh, hard, then uncontrollably. “Oh, my,” Nancy thinks. “She’s drunk. How many Gimlets has she had?” She looks to Gladys, who seems surprised and shrugs her shoulders. She only made one drink for Susan, she recalls.

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All the ladies are looking around the room at one another in shock.

Finally, Susan gathers herself and turns to the group. “My dear friends, I am so lucky to have your care and concern. You see, my Skip had tryouts for the junior varsity football team, and well, Bob was practicing with him in the yard while I was tending to my roses. Bob called out to me to watch Skip kick the ball and well, he did. He kicked that darn ball real well, right at my face! The doctor thought my nose was broken, but it was just a sprain. There was terrible bruising for several weeks, so I didn’t leave the house the entire time.”

The ladies all begin to look to Margaret.

Susan continues: “I had to leave the house finally last week to pick up Skip from school one afternoon because he was sick.”

Margaret looks over to Carla and shrugs her shoulders. “Well, I never said that she actually had a nose job! I said that I saw her with a bandage on her nose. I can’t help what you all take from that.” She crosses her arms and sits down.

Susan begins to laugh again and then everyone follows. She looks over at Nancy and nods her head. “Well, I see how fast news travels! You all thought I had a nose job? I can’t believe it. Actually, I can’t believe that you all managed to keep quiet for this long. I think I would have burst by now!”

Gladys, in between snorts of laughter, tells Susan that Vicky was on the verge of passing out. At that, everyone cracks up laughing again. Vicky frowns again and pours herself another glass of iced tea, which makes everyone laugh even harder. She looks around at the ladies, completely confused.

That evening, back at home, Nancy lounges on her yellow Danish modern sofa with Chip, relaying all of the events of the day. She stirs the little glass cocktail stick in her box car as she giggles, remembering the look on Carla’s face. Chip states that he just will never understand women. “Why didn’t someone just call Susan up after Margaret saw her and ask if she had a nose job?”

“Oh, Chip, you see this is why you men need us!” Nancy says. “You would completely foul up every social situation with thinking like that.”

Nancy lays her head back on the sofa and lets out a long sigh, turning her attention to the next big event: What will she wear to Vicky’s Barbecue?

xox- Sailor


Cooking Stories

The Joys Of Jell-O!

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Oh, the joys of Jell-O!

I am currently working on a four part blog series about what Americans were eating in the Atomic Age and why they ate what they ate. Consider this the prequel, or inspiration, to this series.

I’ve always been very interested in this topic. As a child of the 1970’s, there were still remnants of this culture in my childhood.

The research has been absolutely fascinating and I am finding it hard to stick to the main theme; there are so many subtopics in this discussion. Did the Atomic Age really liberate women from the kitchen? Did the modern conveniences of the time become an opiate for American women to soften the blow of being told to get back into the kitchen after working men’s jobs out of the the home during wartime? The economic effects created the modern consumer, created the teenager, and created American greed worse than this country had seen before, some would say.

Another question I want to explore is if the Atomic Age ended the ingenuity of the “Greatest Generation.” One of the things that I love about that generation is the ingenuity, and I think it is the main reason why I’m drawn to the 1930’s/40’s era. Of course that ingenuity was born from hardship and necessity; but still, I think today’s generation doesn’t deal with such hardship in the same way. The 1950’s were so much about convenience and letting the machines and appliances do the work, that’s when I feel Americans lost much of their spirit for ingenuity.

In doing all of this research, I have combed the antique and thrift stores in search of paperback cookbooks that consumer companies were offering to American housewives. Companies like Procter & Gamble produced these cookbooks for a multitude of their products from the “Home Economics Department” at P&G.

In 1951, Winifred S. Carter, a notable American celebrity Chef and cookbook author, was in charge of these cookbooks for P&G. Women like Winifred were hired by companies to advertise to and guide American housewives on how to use these new food products and appliances.

General Foods had its own Kitchen Cookbooks, each based on the use of a certain food product. I have one of these books that is focused on the many uses of Jell-O. The index tells you that Jell-O can be used not just for desserts, but for salads, as well. Printed in 1962, this book tells American Housewives that not only is Jell-O a trusted product for over 60 years, but it is also gives them thanks for many of the imaginative recipes found there. This book has 86 pages of recipes, all devoted to Jell-O. That is a lot of congealed food. My, oh, my!

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Jell-O is described in this book as being wholesome and exciting. Wholesome? Really? Hmm.
Jell-O going mainstream is attributed to modern refrigeration in the 1950’s, its powdered form, and Home Economics classes. Jell-O was also popular in the 1930’s and 40’s; it was considered en vogue to serve congealed salads.

But it wasn’t until the 1950’s that really saw the Jell-O boom, and that’s when the company responded with such savory and vegetablicious flavors such as celery, Italian, mixed vegetable, and tomato. Super delicious! I’m kidding.

One of my favorite recipes in this book is the Tuna Salad mold. Now, I remember eating a lot of Jell-O as a kid. At my grandparents house, there were always little glass dessert cups neatly placed in rows on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator: one with Jell-O, one with chocolate pudding, and one with Jell-O with grapes inside. But tuna? Oh my gosh, no! I would have run screaming from the kitchen. I think by the mid 1970’s, thank goodness, Jell-O had been relegated to just desserts.

Here is the recipe from 1962, sure to wow your guests and family!
(Describe as: “Tuna At Its Best,” a well-seasoned salad that stays fresh until served)

1 package of Jell-O Salad Gelatin – Celery flavor
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tsp grated onion
1 cup chopped cucumber
1 can tuna
1/4 cup sliced, stuffed olives
1/4 cup diced celery

The reader is instructed to prepare all ingredients and throw into a mold, then chill until firm. Oh, and be sure to plop your tuna amazingness on a crisp bed of greens. I highly doubt many young Americans today would find this an appetizing dish. And there are more amazing options in this book, such as: Salmon Mousse, Chicken Mousse, and a Soufflé salad, all with Jell-O! Yuck!

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Another gem recipe is Jell-O BBQ cubes to go on top of a shrimp salad. Oh yes, you can congeal any sauce or condiment! And that got me thinking; we are not actually that different today. With the rise of Molecular Gastronomy, it seems that we still have a fascination with our food being encased in some sort of edible package.

So are we really eating that differently than the Baby Boomers? I would say yes, in part, we are, or at least we are striving to get back to eating whole, fresh and local foods. Less preservatives, less manufactured. But… I do think we are still striving for the same thing: convenience, newness, and the next best thing.

What will future generations be saying about what we eat today? I don’t know, and frankly I don’t care. I’m not here to judge or poke fun; really, I’m not. Well, maybe I am about the poking fun part. The point is that I am interested in how and why food got to our table, and I think the Atomic Age is a particularly fascinating period in American History and in the history of what we eat.

So back to my Jell-O, my Crisco, Pimento Loaves, and Spam!

xox
Sailor


Cocktail Recipes

Drink Like A 1940’s Socialite

Ah, the Margarita, one of the most bastardized drinks on the planet.

When you can find pre-mixed cocktails in plastic bottles, you know the drink is ruined. I am personally not a lover (or even liker) of tequila, honestly. My father used to call it “Ta-Kill-Ya,” and for me, he was almost right. We all have our tequila barfing stories and mine is just like most others, I’m sure, but I will spare you the details.

There really weren’t many opportunities for me to learn to love or appreciate tequila as a cocktail spirit. My only knowledge of it was serving up Jose Cuervo at Chi Chi’s in my late teens, or begrudgingly doing shots and praying the salt wouldn’t run out. That was how it was until I traveled to Mexico.

It was sometime in the mid 1990’s. A few girlfriends and I took a trip from San Francisco via LA to Cabo San Lucas; this was right before it became “Cabo,” aka Obnoxious-Spring-Break-American-Asshole-Takeover.

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We were staying in a really nice hotel, because one of the gals had a boyfriend in high places or something. Who cares? Anyway, there was a really nice bar in the hotel, and the bartender was native to the area, and as it turns out, a very talented mixologist. One of the first questions he asked us when we sat down were what type of alcohol we usually drank and what our favorite scents were. I was really blown away and very intrigued by this question. At the time, I was very into rum and my favorite scent was either Gardenia or Orange Blossom; I couldn’t decide. I sarcastically mentioned that my drink better not be a Margarita.

Well, he smiled and went to work, quickly chopping, muddling, dashing and splashing all sorts of things into his cocktail shakers. I was focused on his bartending skills while my friends were a little more interested in his flirty commentary. I fully expected him to present us with some wild, exotic, never-before-seen concoction.

When he was finished, each one of us was presented with a beautiful, vibrantly-colored cocktail with gorgeous floral and fruit garnishes. We all asked what they were and he said: “Just take a sip and then I will tell you.” So we did. Mine was familiar, but I couldn’t place the flavors exactly. It was absolutely amazing.

Then I asked what my drink was, and he replied: “Margarita, senorita!” I almost slapped him in his stupid, attractive, nice, talented face. “Are you friggin’ kidding me?” I asked. After the shock subsided, I took another sip. I didn’t want to be rude. Maybe I was just imagining how delicious it was. Nope, it was, in fact, delicious. But how could this be?

I finally asked him what the heck kind of Margarita that was, told him that I had never tasted anything like it, and I really didn’t even like tequila. He replied: “This is a Gold Margarita, made properly with fresh ingredients and a true Mexican hand.” After begging and flirting as much as I could, he finally told me what he put in it. Ever since that night, it’s the only tequila drink I will consume and it’s the only way I will make Margaritas. I found out sometime later that Margaritas are not even really a cocktail of choice in Mexico for locals. Clearly, this bartender had a mission to teach us silly Americans how to appreciate tequila properly.

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So, first a quick word about the history of the Margarita, which is a much debated topic. No one really knows who or when the Margarita was invented! I have read many accounts of purported claims of Margarita inventions, but most agree, as do I, that it is highly unlikely a person of Mexican descent actually created this cocktail. You can choose to believe it was named for Rita Hayworth (born Margarita Carmen Cansino). I mean, who wouldn’t name anything and everything for this stunning lady?

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One of the most prevalent stories I decided I liked is the story of an American socialite of the 1940’s named Margaret ‘Margarita’ Sames. A Dallas, Texas native, she was known for throwing lavish parties at her Acapulco holiday home and credited herself with creating the drink in 1948. Among her well-connected guests was Tommy Hilton, who eventually added the drink to the bar menu at his hotel chain. And there you have it. Thanks a lot, lady!

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So, seriously, if you do not love tequila, but you want to be cool like all the other kids and drink a Margarita, drink it like this.  Here is my recipe:

  • 3 Jiggers Reposado Tequila (Dos Lunas is a really nice choice and well priced; a quality tequila is absolutely necessary)
  • 1/2 Teaspoon of Cointreau
  • 2 Teaspoons Partida Agave Syrup
  • 2 Jiggers Fresh Squeezed Lime Juice (sweet & sour mix is just forbidden, and plain gross!)
  • 2 Jiggers Fresh Squeeze Orange Juice (this is a key ingredient)

Shake well with ice. Put some muscle into it! Then wet the rim of a wide rim cocktail glass.
Pour some coarse Kosher salt onto a small plate, tip the glass upside down, and turn like a screw to coat the rim with salt.

Strain and pour the Margarita into your salted glass, and garnish with a fresh lime and fresh orange wheel.

If you don’t have too many, I can almost promise there won’t be any barfing stories to follow this cocktail.

Enjoy!
xox
Sailor


Cocktail Recipes

It’s Tax Season, Hand Me A Drink!

You are either someone who is usually prepared in life or you are a procrastinator. Perhaps you have already filed your taxes and spent your return on an amazing pair of shoes or a snappy new tie.

However, if you own a business or property, had a move or maybe a divorce, or bought or sold a house, you may wait until the very last minute to file your taxes. In either case, my friend, you need a drink to celebrate or cope with the pain.

Well, I have the perfect cocktail for you called The Income Tax Cocktail. True story.

The Income Tax Cocktail is actually the Bronx Cocktail (not to be confused with the Brooklyn Cocktail; we take our burroughs very seriously), with a couple dashes of bitters added.

As we have discussed previously, I like to alter every recipe I come across. So, here is my version of this quick and easy little ditty that is sure to please a crowd, or keep one from jumping out a window when the tax bill arrives.

  • 1 1/2 jiggers of Organic Prairie Gin
  • 1 teaspoon Dry Vermouth
  • 1 teaspoon Sweet Vermouth (I know, crazy right? Trust me…)
  • 1 jigger of Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
  • 1 jigger of Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
  • 2 dashes Orange Bitters
  • Shake with ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into a vintage cocktail glass
  • Many recipes suggest to garnish with an orange wheel. When using my vintage goblets, I prefer rind corkscrews or no garnish at all as they over- take the delicate glass, so I would suggest to garnish based on your glass of choice.

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And voila, there you have it, a refreshing simple-to-make but complex-to-taste vintage cocktail! So, please drink one per day until April 15th. Doctor’s orders!

Enjoy.

xox

Sailor


Cooking Stories

How I Learned To Cook

Since I am starting at the beginning, or well, near the beginning, I’ll tell you a little bit about how I learned to cook.

I always assumed most people had a really nice mom who wore an apron and on Sundays, that really nice mom would say to her daughter: “Sweetie, let’s bake and cook together.” Said daughter would learn how to properly crack an egg, separate the egg white, learn about folding verses mixing, you get the drift.

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Now I did learn specific things from my great grandmother in reference to making certain Greek dishes, but she was more of the type of grandmother who didn’t want me to work. She wanted to do it and I don’t think she understood that I was actually interested. She was so humble about her mad skills, she really thought it was nothing.

So in my mother’s house, there was not a whole lot of teaching or passing down of technique. Most of my learning came from getting up at the crack of dawn while everyone was sleeping and making strange food concoctions while watching a whole lot of cooking shows on PBS. For you youngens, PBS in the 70’s and 80’s was our Food Network.

My favorite TV cook was Jeff Smith of the Frugal Gourmet. I would get so excited every time his show was on. A few times I tried to convey my excitement to my friends. Big mistake! My cool status took a nose dive. What 10 year old in the 80’s watched some old guy cooking on TV? Umm, me!

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And that is how it all began. I actually owe a lot to Jeff Smith, now that I think about it. The first thing I ever attempted to cook that I learned from watching him was Baked Elephant Garlic. Sounds so simple, but to a 10 year old, hell no!

First of all, what the hell is elephant garlic? As an adult, there aren’t many possibilities of what it could be, but as a kid, there were so many.  So I asked my mom when she woke up and she told me it was just really large bulbs of garlic. “Okay,” I thought, “that makes sense.” And later that day, she actually bought some for me.

So the next morning while everyone was sleeping, I started my foray into this dish with the recipe committed to memory:

Remove the husk from the garlic bulb, brush with olive oil, bake for 20 minutes at 375 degrees, remove from oven, open shell and spread on a nice crustini. (Wait, what is a crustini? Sounds like crust, must be bread, okay I’ll make toast.)  Sprinkle with a little salt and bon appetite!

It was a success! I loved it, and so did my mom. Hey, I cooked something fancy! Woo hoo!

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Not all of my early attempts were as successful, though. There was the time that I tried a microwave quiche from a cookbook I found on a kitchen shelf. It professed that you could make anything in the microwave and it would be amazing. They lied, or I sucked at it. The result was a runny omelet-like odd substance. I tasted it, then threw away the evidence.

A family favorite story is the time I tried to substitute spaghetti sauce with a can of Manwich when I was living with my dad. He was an actual chef, as a matter of fact, and even co-wrote a cookbook called How To Garnish.

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It was my turn to cook dinner. I was a teenager, had better things to do and the cupboards weren’t very well stocked. I saw a box of spaghetti. Bingo, I thought I’d whip up a nice salad and we’d be good to go. I threw the spaghetti in the water, opened the cupboard to grab the sauce, and oh crap. No sauce, NO SAUCE!  “Okay,” I thought. “Think! Think! What else could I use? Manwhich? Hmm, I’ve never had it, but it looks close enough. How bad could it be?”

So I put it all together, tasted a tiny bite, and it was totally gross. Crap crap crap. More parmesan, more salt, some oregano made it better, right? Not really. I chose butter and cheese for my spaghetti. No way was I eating that Manwich stuff.

I put the meal on the table. My brother had already witnessed my madness and decided on butter and cheese as well. Our dad sat down, looked at the dish, smelled it, tasted it and… ate the entire thing! After he was finished, he got up and said: “By the way, what the hell was that?” Haha he knew it was gross but didn’t want to hurt my feelings. Poor guy.

But experimenting brings amazing results more often than not, and it’s really how I learned to cook: bake and infuse. Just pick your balls up off the floor and try it! You can always throw it away if it sucks.

xox

Sailor


Cocktail Recipes

The French 75, Ooh La La

This delicious cocktail is literally heaven in a glass. Okay, well maybe not literally, but pretty friggin close.

I recently had a French themed dinner party, for which I chose the French 75 as our aperitif. Of course since I can never be satisfied with a regular old recipe, I had to play with and be all mad scientist about it. Usually I will test out a few trial runs by myself so that I don’t poison my guests, or at least start the night out with the fancy flavor of vomit on their palettes. That happened once.

This night, however, I wasn’t feeling my usual self and had taken on a rather large 4 course menu with many complex elements, so I decided to wing it. Screw it if they don’t like it, it’s booze, what the hell can go so wrong with booze? I know, the vomit thing.

Anyway, I searched out a few recipes in one of my favorite resources, an amazing little cocktail book ‘Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails’ suggested by some dear friends and given to me by the wonderful man in my life.

And there it was: the French 75. The photo looked splendid, and the drink sounded very clean and refreshing, perfect to prepare the pallet for my meal.

The story goes that this lovely cocktail is named after the French 75-mm gun, model of 1897. This bit of heavy artillery was the mainstay weapon of WWI, and its recoil system made for soft, smooth operation. It was really the first technical weaponry advance of the twentieth century, and its use continued into WWII.

This cocktail was very popular in the US at the famed Stork Club in New York, my absolute dream club! Too bad it closed 10 years before I was born. But just imagine sitting in the Stork Club, sipping on a French 75 while a bedazzled singer croons soft ballads in the background.

So I decided it’s bad ass and smooth. I like it, done deal!

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To my surprise, the simple recipe reads like this; 2 ounces of gin, 1 ounce of lemon juice, 2 teaspoons of sugar or 1 teaspoon of simple syrup and champagne to fill the glass.

Hmmm, that’s it? That’s all? It sounded so easy and boring, there is no way that was it.

So I said ‘screw it’ and decided to mess with it. I had time for just 1 test run and I didn’t want to be passed out on the floor with my crinoline over my head before the guests arrived.

Here is the Sailor version of the French 75:

  • 2 ounces of basil infused gin ( my fav gin at the moment is this organic Prairie gin)
  • 1/2 ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 ounce of fresh squeezed orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon of homemade simple syrup from organic raw sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of apricot brandy
  • pink champagne to fill the glass (I usually prefer vintage goblets, but for this I chose a flute)
  • garnish with a lemon rind twist rolled in raw sugar

And voila! It was superb.

So there you have it, my ooh la la for the evening. Try it at your next cocktail party or dinner and let me know what you think.

xox

Sailor


Cocktail Recipes

I Love Bourbon

So I thought it would be nice to carve out a little cottage in a dark, dusty corner of the internet; a place for me to stack my recipes, throw down my cocktail concoctions, hang my photos, display some of my beloved vintage items from my vast collection, and pin notes about my favorite re-purposing designs.

And here we are! What better way to start filling up my little cottage than with my favorite spirit, bourbon. And my favorite bourbon at the moment is Bulleit: flavorful, complex and priced really well.

Bourbon not only makes amazing Old Fashioned’s (my favorite cocktail), but it is one of my favorite go-to ingredients when cooking and baking. Bourbon Apple Pie, yes please! Bourbon French Toast, oh yeah! Bourbon soaked peach preserves, yes M’am!

There is definitely a bit of a mad scientist somewhere inside my crazy noggin. I love to mix unusual and complex flavors with a little bit of praying, and it usually turns out pretty yummy. And when it doesn’t, well, just have another cocktail!

Each summer I grab as many fresh cherries as I can (always organic), grab a stack of my trusty little mason jars, stuff those puppies in tight, and pour in as much bourbon as I can fit. If I can get a hold of tobacco leaves, I might just sprinkle in a tiny bit. And I always prep one jar to be a kit for my favorite cocktail: just add 1 orange’s full rind and a spoonful of sugar. It’s a fabulous way to mix an amazing Old Fashioned!

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After a few weeks (or even a few months, really), the cherries will be deliciously spicy and the kick is pretty fun.  Spirit infusing is so much fun and the possibilities are endless, I will definitely pin more of my little crazy infusion recipes here in the future.

Enjoy and cheers!

xox

Sailor