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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

Oh Devil!

The deviled egg, in my opinion, is another one of those bastard dishes that gets a bad rap. The poor guy used to be so attractive, sexy, even. Often he was exotic and ladies just couldn’t live without him. And now, he’s the pot-bellied, balding uncle who drives an old, rusty Corvette, listening to Bobby Darin a little too loud, mostly due to his hearing. Sadly, he is completely unaware that he’s just not cool anymore, yet there is a strange draw that is unexplained. Maybe he really is still cool and we just don’t know it?

Okay, I was about to say that I actually like deviled eggs, but after reading the paragraph above, I’m kind of grossed out by the idea that an old fat uncle is delicious. Ew!

Anyway, back to the egg.

Vintage 1950s Deviled Egg recipe[3]

Have you ever walked through a thrift store, an antique mall, a yard sale? The number of dishes specifically designed for deviled eggs suggests that this was one hell of a popular item.

In fact, so much so, that I recently heard an amazing tale of a church bazaar in the early 1960’s that illustrates the power of the deviled egg. The bazaar was to be well attended, so the church ladies agreed to pull double duty and make double of their dish of choice to bring.

On the day of the bazaar, all of the ladies arrived and rushed down to the basement to set out their dishes. The first couple ladies laughed when each of them uncovered plates of deviled eggs. “Oh my,” one said, “Well, you can’t ever have too many deviled eggs.” Then came a coffee cake, another coffee cake, then three more. The deviled egg ladies whispered to each other how silly it was that there were now five coffee cakes. Who needed five coffee cakes at one church bazaar? Good thing they had made deviled eggs!

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A few minutes later, the rest of the ladies came filing in with their dishes. “What have you brought, dear?” Deviled eggs!

“And how about you honey? Those are awfully large dishes!” Deviled eggs!

Soon enough, the food tables were filled end to end with plates of deviled eggs (and five coffee cakes). Quickly enough, the ladies began defending their eggs: “Well, mine are made with Spam;” “Mine are made with horseradish and dijon mustard;” “Ladies, clearly mine are different, they are made with crab.”

And so, the professing of one’s unique and clearly more exotic and delicious recipes continued until the reverend’s wife came by to referee and asked the ladies to quiet down. She claimed that there was a simple fix to this: they would announce that today the church bazaar would include a deviled egg contest. And in the future, they would constitute a sign-up sheet for baking/cooking for all church functions. Good idea, ladies!

And, well, to this day, the church has an end of summer bazaar and hosts a food contest. But deviled eggs are no longer the main focus. It seems that the damn egg held on until the mid 1990’s, which is a pretty long stretch. The “church ladies” of the deviled egg days had all retired from their cooking posts and it seems that the young folks today just don’t understand a good deviled egg. And I should mention here that these gals referred to the deviled eggs as stuffed eggs, as they didn’t feel it made sense to devour a food named after the devil while in church.

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So, I began to think about my own fascination with the deviled egg. I will eat them when I see them laid out at parties, knowing full well that this is a 50/50 gamble. There have been a few eggs that have put me off the deviled egg game for years, the ones usually containing Miracle Whip. (No, no, we won’t get into that battle right now; I will save that for another time)

A few times, there have been sweet deviled eggs. Nope, can’t do it. Then there have been the deviled eggs that were so spicy, I couldn’t taste anything for the entire night. And a few times I have gotten some fun surprises in the eggs, like cranberries or nuts. WHAT???!!!!

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But, I still walk right over to the damned things and shove one in my mouth. I don’t even smell them first. It’s like they have some strange power over me: “Just eat me! Don’t smell me, don’t inspect me, don’t worry about your food allergies. No, I can’t harm you. I’m a good egg!”

Bologna, I say! Oh, and I have gotten that too, once, inside an egg. Yuck!

The deviled egg has been around for a long time, actually. It first shows up in written text in the 1700’s and is not, obviously, an American born food. Nor is deviling specifically linked to eggs. It refers to a spiced or zesty food. Think of deviled ham. And yep, got that inside a deviled egg once, too!

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A deviled egg, for those who may not know, is a hard-boiled egg, sliced in half. The yolk is removed and put into a bowl, then various things will be added to “devil” it, usually mayonnaise, mustard, and paprika. But some also add sliced olives, ham, and horseradish. The combination is mixed and mushed well, and then either spooned or piped into the half hard-boiled egg-white. These are the basic deviled eggs, but everyone has their own version or family recipe.

The deviled egg, though, saw its absolute heyday in the 1950’s and 1960’s. It was the rock star of hors d’oeuvres! People just could’t get enough of them. Card games, picnics, BBQ’s, appetizers, potlucks, buffets, these guys were everywhere.

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My paternal grandparents had a small cabin on Lake Ontario when I was a child. They would stay for a month, and the entire family would come on the last weekend of our time there for a last hoorah. There were a lot of people, so many that the entire lawn was lined with tents.

On beach days, we would take the boat across the inlet to the beaches, and it took several trips to ferry everyone there. We would stay all day, which meant that my grandparents had already taken several trips to the beach before any of us were really awake to bring beach chairs, folding tables, the grill, and the food.

When we arrived, there would be a huge tent set up and my grandmother would be working away. Whatever you wanted, she had it! You wanted chips? OK, there were the choices. You wanted ice cream? OK, there were the choices. Hot dogs, hamburgers, salad, chicken, cake, pie, whatever you asked for, by God she had it. And always, there were the eggs, a huge plate of deviled eggs. I would sit and stare at them while she was getting whatever treat I had requested, and I would think to myself: “Who wants that weird egg at a beach?” I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. I loved eggs, but this was a weird egg. And sure enough, not even halfway through the afternoon, the plates would be empty or have just one egg left.

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I once asked her who ate the deviled eggs. She looked at me in surprise. “Everyone!” she said. “No one has a picnic without deviled eggs; it’s unheard of,” she told me.

And that was that. I had to accept my fate that the eggs would always be there, everyone ate them, it’s not a picnic without them, so that all equals I was the weird one. Well, dammit, I wasn’t ready to accept that just yet, so one summer, I ate a freaking egg. There was a lot of praying and sniffing before my first bite, but I ate it. And you know what, it wasn’t so bad. Maybe it was actually even good. Yep, I was hooked. The devil had me, and I would forever be weakened by the powers of the deviled egg.

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So, next time you are at a party or a picnic, grab that egg, enjoy and relish it. There is no point in fighting the deviled egg! Just go with it.

xox – Sailor


Retro Stories, The Ladies of Bridge Grove

Gladys Is Having a Cocktail Party and You’re Invited!

It’s 1957 in a suburb outside of Chicago. Gladys Richmond and her husband Jack, who works in aviation in sales, are very proud of their newly built ranch style home. They are a typical middle class American couple, enjoying their postwar modern conveniences and the comfort of being a two car family. Gladys adores her 1955 Chevy Bel Air almost as much as she enjoys juicy gossip.

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Tonight Gladys is throwing a cocktail party. Every detail has been carefully planned. She has been waiting to put on this party for almost five months; she just needed the new carpet to be installed, and then the brand new living room would be ready to show itself to the neighborhood.

It took a lot of convincing and many perfectly crafted gimlets to get Jack to agree to an entire living room redesign. After all, he did get that promotion he had been gunning for last year, and they were still using the furniture Gladys’ parents gave them when they got married in 1950. She squealed with delight when he agreed to the plan: brand new wall-to-wall carpet in the perfect shade of almond, and a delightful wallpaper pattern that is most popular among Hollywood stars. The wallpaper store clerk assured her that the print called “Tropical Paradise” with its gorgeous hues of teal, yellow, and pink, the name alone saying it all, is like having a piece of Maui right in your living room. And of course, she found the new Starlight sectional sofa in canary yellow and dual turquoise sitting chairs. It’s just a dream, this set. It perfectly compliments the new modern cherry wood Hi Fi cabinet and matching coffee table they purchased after the promotion came through. The purchase of a top of the line Hi Fi took a few less gimlets for convincing.

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All of the furnishings have now been placed perfectly, even the gorgeous, new pink ceramic lamps with whip-stitch shades, a gift from Mother that accents the room wonderfully. Gladys was even able to find matching pink ceramic ashtrays with tiny little gold boomerangs inlaid, what a hoot. The last item that she needed was the perfect size starburst gold clock that she had seen in an advert somewhere, which took some searching. But finally, a fellow that Jack works with had a cousin in furnishing and found the largest one she had ever seen. She put it in its place right over the couch. The room was finished with perfection.

It’s now 4:30 p.m. Gladys has just returned from the Beauty Parlor and the groomers. Her apricot locks have been expertly coiffed in a stunning foot high bouffant and her nails freshly polished in the perfect shade of blush. The poodles, Petra and Petey, have been groomed and donned with pink and blue bows, accordingly. Jack should be home within the hour to prepare the bar. She has another cup of coffee from the electric percolator and takes a brief moment to observe the arrangements that she’s been up since 5 a.m. preparing. She spent all weekend planning the buffet and cocktail menu. Last month, when the Benson’s had a cocktail party, Carol laid out a spread of very exotic Asian hors-devours, such as Peking wings, pineapple and ham rings, Spam and cherry tarts. It was very impressive, so Gladys had to be sure to raise the bar.

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She reviews her menu before putting on her face, carefully checking each dish and noting what time she should begin heating each item:

Strawberry Cheese Salad
Bacon Wrapped Mini Franks
Deviled Eggs
Liver Pate
Pickle & Pimento loaf Pinwheels
Bologna Cheese Wedges
Curried Tuna Toasties
Cheez Whiz on Crackers with Pearl Onions
Jello Cherry Cheese Charmer Mold

Finally, Jack walks in the door with several bottles of gin, as requested, along with two cartons of Chesterfields. Gladys tells him that there is a new Hawaiian print tie waiting for him in the bedroom and to please be sure to remember to change into it after he shaves. As always, she hears a “Yes, Dear” and a chuckle as she races down the hallway to put on her face and get dressed. She chooses a brand new Midriff interest dress made of a luxurious peacock blue crepe fabric. Its softly draped bodice is wrapped in a cummerbund-effect of fine pleating; the skirt is a whirl of tiny unpressed pleats. With its scoop neckline, this dress is sure to wow, or at the very least make Mary Patterson from across the street green with envy. At Mary’s last cocktail party, she had the nerve to show off her new red Asian print dress that her husband Barry brought back from a business trip that made her look like a model, or a mistress, even! This time, Gladys would be sure to outshine all her card playing gal pals with this amazing frock.

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This is Gladys’ favorite time, where she gets thirty minutes to herself, a perfect break for pampering and running through final plans in her head while preparing her look for the evening. Taking her seat at her vanity, she spreads out her makeup items. She just had a lengthy discussion with Eva, her Avon Lady, last week about tonight’s event. Gladys wanted to be sure she had the latest in eye shadows and lip shades; pinks and misty blue shades were chosen. Shalimar will be her signature scent for the evening. Jacks knows it’s her favorite and always gets her a bottle for her birthday, which she saves for special occasions. After a few puffs, she wriggles herself into her girdle, stockings, and her new dress. And what dress wouldn’t be complete without a gorgeous pair of strappy, pink, peep toe pumps?

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Gladys emerges from her bedroom forty-five minutes later with her face neatly “on,” her eyes powdered in risky blue with her darkest false lashes draped across her lids, her cheeks perfectly blushed, and her lips decked in Double Dare red. Her dress is tighter than she remembers when she tried it on. Sitting will be challenging, but no matter; she looks ravishing, and, after all, she is the hostess.

Gladys checks with Jack to see that the bar is fully stocked and ready to go. They jointly review the cocktail list:

Vodka Gimlet
Gin Rickie
Old Fashioned
Manhattan
Sidecar
Tom Collins
Gin Martinis

Gladys reminds Jack of the fun little umbrellas that she purchased for the party. She saw them in a McCalls feature and thought they would be a darling addition to tonight’s cocktails. She admires the ice bucket they chose last year when they purchased their bar. She loves the multi colored starbursts and the gold handle, which matches the room perfectly.

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Guests are due to arrive at 6:00 p.m. Surely, Vicky and her husband, John Pool, the car salesman, will be the first to arrive, promptly at 6:02 p.m. Vicky has never understood the practice of the term “fashionably late.” Gladys is fairly certain that the Pools fast all day before a party or card game and are first to arrive so as not to miss the spread.

The food dishes are now heated and the buffet table is stocked. Jack admires the bounty and tells Gladys that she has outdone herself. Just then, at the stroke of 6:03, the door bell rings. Jack and Gladys look at each other and laugh as they simultaneously mouth “The Pools.” As
Gladys goes to the door to greet her guests, Jack starts the music, choosing Martin Denny’s new album Exotic to begin the evening. Gladys thinks one last thought before she opens the door, imagining several types of murder scenes and the possibility of prison if anyone spills anything on her new furniture. She quickly ushers the poodles off the new couch and rounds the corner to the yellow double doors to greet her guests.

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By 8:00 p.m. Gladys’ house is packed. She has clearly impressed the ladies from her bridge group, and she overhears Nancy Gold tell Susan Schaefer that Jack must have gotten a rather large promotion, because the new living room looks like it cost a fortune! And the dress, all of the ladies have been absolutely falling over for it, and even Margaret Prescott asks if Gladys has a new diet plan, and Margaret is rare to hand out the compliments as she was born a size zero!

Phyllis Spencer tells her husband Dick that she wants the exact same carpet when they re-do their family room. Gladys thinks that the shade will be odd with their country style decor, and wonders if perhaps she can talk her into another shade, perhaps a lovely orange, at their next bridge game.

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Stan Mitchell is drunk again and trying to dance with anyone who walks by. The smoke is thick in the air and the only items left on the buffet are a few slices of Jell-o mold and a couple of mini franks. Carol tells Gladys that she certainly succeeded in outdoing her own Asian inspired shin-dig and could she share the recipe for the wonderful strawberry cheese salad, Bill just adored it! She had been seen with several Martinis, but Gladys decides to take the compliment as true statements and not the booze talking.

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It’s a job well done. Gladys gladly accepts another Tom Collins (this might be her fourth, but who’s counting?), kicks off her shoes, and allows Jack to take her for spin around the living room to some Bossa Nova. Gosh, this carpet feels heavenly!

xox- Sailor


Cooking Stories

Let’s Talk Tuna

What comes to mind when you hear the word “tuna?” Personally, I think it probably depends on your age. If you are in your 20’s, you may think of sushi right away, perhaps a nice piece of Nigiri. If you are in your 30’s and 40’s, chances are you think of tuna salad, either as part of a sandwich or on a bed of lettuce. Most likely, if you are in your 40’s and above, you think of tuna noodle casserole. Oh yes, I said those dirty, dirty words, the sorry bastard of all baked multi ingredient dishes: TUNA CASSEROLE!

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My grandmother once said there were only two ways to eat tuna: Tuna salad for lunch or Bridge, and tuna noodle casserole for dinner. And, of course, both types were made from canned tuna. I can hear my grandfather interrupting my thoughts, saying: “No, no, no, tuna steak, you grill up a beautiful piece of tuna steak.” Well, he was a fancy pants — a sports fisherman and world traveler. He actually spent a lot of time in Japan for business, so he preferred a lightly seared tuna steak. At the time, this treatment of tuna was a rarity in America. Tuna, like my grandmother said, belonged in a salad or in a casserole, and canned was just fine. She played a lifetime of bridge; she should know.

The sorry bastard tuna noodle casserole gained its notoriety in the 1950’s, thanks to our BFF, Betty Crocker.

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Casseroles in general became a very popular household dish in the 1950’s for a number of reasons. Mainly, the ingredients were cheap and easy to find at the store: a can of tuna, a can of vegetables, a can of soup, and a package of egg noodles. In a quick thirty five minutes, dinner for the entire family was ready. Tuna casserole could also be frozen or refrigerated, then reheated to be eaten as a leftover the next day. Tuna casserole was a very popular dish to take to pot lucks.

While every tuna casserole is different, historically, it is made with egg noodles, chopped onion, shredded cheddar cheese, frozen green peas, canned, drained tuna, condensed cream of mushroom soup, sliced mushrooms, and crushed potato chips. The cooked noodles, onion, cheese, peas, tuna, soup, and mushrooms are mixed in a baking dish with the potato chips and extra cheese sprinkled on top, and then cooked.

While researching the history of tuna noodle casserole, I came across a fantastic article from the LA Times titled “Poor Tuna Casserole Has a Rich History.” In part, it says: “No single dish has done so much to degrade the image of the casserole as the seemingly ubiquitous combination of canned tuna, canned mushroom soup, and smashed potato chips. It’s gotten so that the mere phrase ‘tuna casserole’ has become a kind of punch line.”

Casserole-type dishes show up in cookbooks from the late 1800’s, but it wasn’t until 1949 that marked the beginning of the “Baroque era,” as the Times refers to it, thanks to Good Housekeeping and that bitch, Betty Crocker.

The 1950’s also marked the beginning of ethnic foods entering mainstream America. GI’s returning from tours in Europe and the Pacific had developed new tastes, and food companies were quick to supply the ingredients. “Americanized” versions of sukiyaki, egg foo young, chow mein, enchiladas, pizza, lasagna, and barbecued meats with Polynesian sauces regularly appeared in 1950’s cookbooks.  Believe it or not, the popular casseroles of the 1950’s were considered exotic!

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It had been a long time since I made a casserole. I had to dust off my vintage Corelle ware and really ponder the ingredients in basic tuna casserole and tuna salad. How could I update these dishes and still keep them quick and easy?

In my house, we try really hard to keep to a low sodium and sugar-free diet. We also try to stay away from processed foods whenever we are able.

Originally, I crafted a recipe to turn the tuna casserole into a super chic modern dish, and then came back to this piece and decided to stay true to the recipe. I replaced frozen and canned with fresh ingredients, and instead of potato chips, I grilled pita bread and made bread crumbs. I used sodium-free mushroom soup.

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For the original Betty Crocker Recipe, see below

The flavors do work. It was delicious and took me back to memories of my mother’s attempts at tuna noodle casserole, one of her better trials indeed.

So, I am going to save this bastard from the fires and bring it back to the dining table. Be thoughtful about your ingredients and let’s give some love to good ol’ Tuna Noodle Casserole. Hooray!

xo – Sailor

Original Tuna Noodle Casserole from the 1950’s
1 can (10 1/2 ounces) Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup 
1/2 cup milk 
¼ cup pimento, chopped
1 cup frozen green peas 
1 small onion, chopped
1 can of sliced mushrooms with water

2 cans (about 5 ounces each ) tuna in water, drained 

4 ounces (about 2 cups) medium egg noodles, cooked and drained 

1/3 cup of crushed potato chips 

1 tablespoon butter, melted 

Heat oven to 425°F.
Combine all ingredients, using only 1/2 the cheese.
Pour into buttered 1-1/2 quart baking dish.
Sprinkle with remaining cheese and crushed potato chips.
Bake 20 minutes.
Enjoy!


Retro Beauty

What To Wear, Foundation Garments

A little piece I wrote for Retrocentric…

A few years ago when I was establishing Retrocentric here in Cincinnati, I started the What To Wear Wednesdays blog. It was so much fun to write about the different frocks of each era, to explain foundation garments, and to show off some of the pretty things in the Retrocentric wardrobe stash.

Then it seemed like overnight we were busting at the seams, changing locations with a major renovation, having a fire and moving once again. Somewhere along the way What To Wear Wednesdays took a backseat and sort of fell asleep, Rip Van Winkle style.

Happily WTW is back! Yay.

So let’s circle back to the beginning a bit and discuss foundation garments, crucial to any ensemble.

A foundation garment is what is worn underneath clothing. This typically refers to a girdle, corset, or slip.

Let’s talk girdles. Since the 20th century, the word “girdle” has been used to define an undergarment made of elasticized fabric that was worn by women. It is a form-fitting foundation garment that encircles the lower torso, perhaps extending below the hips, and worn often to shape or for support.

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I am sure you have seen images from the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s and said to yourself: “How in the heck did she wriggle into that outfit?” That’s a girdle my dear, a wonderful invention!

A girdle is a nice way to smooth out your shape and to enhance your lovely curves, wherever they may be, or wherever you may want them to be.

I think the best girdle, really, is a full open bottom girdle. It replaces the need for a bra and you can clip your stockings right to it, so there’s no need for a garter belt. A full open bottom is perfect for a wiggle dress or one with very thin and sometimes unforgiving material.

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Now, if you are choosing a pencil skirt with a blouse that is not form fitting, you may want to go with a half open bottom girdle. This way, you can choose your own bra, perhaps in a color better suited for your top while still having the blessing of a girdle for the form fitting skirt. And again, there’s no need for a garter belt as you can just clip your stockings directly to the girdle.

Now, for the gentlemen who enjoy ladies’ clothing, girdles are really an excellent way to create that desired shape. Some choose to wear padded gear to create more curvature in the hips and buttocks, but a girdle for some is just the right measure.

And that brings me to stockings and garter belts. Modern garter belts are really made more for show than for utility, so they are of course prettier. However, they often don’t work well under certain skirts and dresses.
When choosing a garter belt, be sure to think about what you will wear it under. Vintage garter belts are often larger. They are fairly plain and stretch from the natural waist down past the lower pelvis, which gives you a little extra support in the midriff. If your dress or skirt is tight, you don’t want to have bows and such accoutrements, as they will show through the material of your outer garment as bumps and creases. The same goes for very thin material if you choose not to wear a slip over your garter belt and bra, as usually in modern times women often do not.

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So for your arsenal, you should typically have three types of garter belts: a nude or white belt, a very utility-focused garter belt to provide some support, and one that is a little more decorative, perhaps for evenings out or for a little spice in the bedroom.

And last but certainly not least are stockings! Love them or hate them, every gal usually has very strong opinions about stockings. But if you are going for a true retro look, stockings must be part of the package. In days past, stockings were so important and it was such taboo not to wear them that, during the war when there were silk and nylon shortages, women would paint their legs, use eye liner to draw lines up the back, and use all sorts of other tactics to create the look of stockings.

Seamed stockings are really the best way to go if you are recreating a style in the eras of the 1920’s through the mid to late 50’s. Thankfully, these days, seamed stockings are not as exclusive as they were a few years ago and are much easier to find!

A pale nude stocking with either a nude or a black line is best for daytime or light-colored frocks. A black or darker nude with a black seam is best for evening and dark colored frocks. So, it’s best to have a light and a black option in your dresser drawer.

Always be very careful to prevent snags when putting on your stockings. The best way you can do this is to throw on a pair of gloves (not winter gloves of course, but a dainty vintage pair, like church gloves) when putting on your stockings. And be sure to pull down on the clip so you are sure your garter clip has a good bunch of the stocking to stay secure.

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Well, that is all for this edition of What To Wear Wednesdays. Until next time, wear it well and be happy!

xox Sailor


Vintage Collecting

Bye Bye TV Life

Almost two years ago we decided to dump cable in our house. I felt that we were watching too much TV and frankly I was sick of paying for shows that I didn’t watch.

We decided we could certainly live with Netflix and our Roku.
A few months later I talked myself into getting an Amazon Prime account, with it came the Amazon Instant Channel.
And there we were, watching the same amount of TV as we had with Cable. What the hell?!

No more excuses, I was done with it and sick of seeing that damn couch every time I walked in the door, the cozy, comfy jerk that called out every time you walked by it; “I’m so squishy and cozy and soft, don’t you want to lay down with me with a blanket and watch a movie?” I was strong enough to resist fifty percent of the time.

Of course my recent surgeries were a terrible excuse as well.
It wasn’t the couches’ fault so much as it was the TV’s. Or maybe they are equally to blame.

So that was it, I stood in the middle of the living room and redesigned it in my mind, without a couch and without a TV.
After sometime searching for the perfect Vintage sitting chairs, Queen Ann style preferably, I stumbled upon two gorgeous green retro inspired chairs from the local giant box furniture store.
They would have to do, easier on my wallet and I was tired of waiting.
So the high back chairs replaced the couch and the mid century modern Hi Fi system replaced the TV.

Retro Inspired Chairs

Now if we want to watch a show or a movie, if we want to lay on the squishy comfy couch, we have to go down to the basement. And that’s where it will stay.

My living room is for conversation, reading, writing and board games.

And bonus, even the dogs agree.

Bye bye couch potato!

xox
Sailor


Vintage Collecting

For The Love of Corningware

Recently I was browsing through my favorite antique hot spot, and as I scanned the aisles looking for a few specific pieces, my eyes stopped on a Corningware dish that had the exact same pattern as one my mother had when I was a child.

Now I have no interest in 1970’s or 80’s nostalgia. Perhaps that will change when I am in my 60’s or 70’s and the timespan between now and then somehow makes those decades more appealing to me. However, I doubt it. I’ve never really been attracted to the aesthetics from back then.

And yet, I grabbed that Corningware dish with “Garden Harvest” print and it now lives in my kitchen cabinet amongst the much earlier 1950’s and 60’s dishes. I guess he is the newbie of the bunch. I imagined the other dishes saying “What are YOU doing here?” and “Tsk. You and your earth tones and veggie print.”

He definitely stands out; that’s for sure. But for some reason I have decided that I like him. I think that’s the first time I have picked up a piece of something from the 1970’s as a collector. I will admit, though, as much as I love him, that he is not my favorite Corningware child.

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I have a weakness for Corningware, as well as Pyrex and Correlle, which fall into the Corningware house. I have a mix of all three. Those of us who are collectors (the nice term for Corning-obsessed people) know which patterns are the most coveted and usually have our favorite color palate, typically associated with what era we prefer. You see, there are entire websites about Pyrex, Corelle, and Corningware, some with heated debates on message boards about the rarest and most worthy.
Obviously, I lean to the 1950’s and early 60’s in the patterns I adore.

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Pyroceram, a white glass-ceramic material that makes up these beauties, was discovered by accident, which just makes them all the more endearing. You almost want to take them, hold them in your arms, and say: “You were a happy accident and we love you.”

My favorite dish patterns are without a doubt the following: Blue & Gold Starburst (still looking), Blue Balloons (saving up for), and pretty much any pink pattern or color. I have collected several pink and am still looking to beef up my collection. As a matter of fact, any of these dishes can be found in the Retrocentric kitchen! So look closely at kitchen images on the website and see if you can pick out any of these dishes. I have included, two, can you spot the Corningware? (Click the photos to enlarge)

Retrocentric Kitchen

Now, it’s not a matter of finding these; it’s a matter of affording them. One cooking dish could go for $80-$100 dollars! If you are lucky, you can find them for around $30. And sometimes you are just lucky and find them in yard sales or thrift stores for a few dollars. One of my friends recently came upon such a discovery.

What exactly fuels the obsession with these creatures? Well, for me I think it’s a combination of them being almost indestructible and flawlessly pretty at the same time. And what could be better to house your delicious casserole dish right from range to table?

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I mean, sure, once you have filled your pretty dish with the 4,500 ingredients it takes to make your casserole, and along with the dish itself, it feels like you are carrying a small elephant. And yes, it’s not as snappy handy-dandy as Tupperware when saving your leftovers, but hey, tinfoil is still a marvel!

There is something about the milky white 500 pound dish with its impressive, dainty designs that just makes your food taste better. So, next time you happen to spot one of these dishes at an affordable price, grab it! Cook in it once and I promise you will adore it; and if you don’t, well, I will gladly take it off your hands.

xox
Sailor


Cooking Stories

For The Love Of Food, Happy Birthday

Well, today is my birthday. I was born on my father’s birthday, something he seemed to think he made happen. I always found that funny.

Sadly, last year he passed away from a massive stroke, so this is the first birthday that I will spend without exchanging wishes to each other. That’s not entirely true, actually. Our relationship was challenging, and the birthday before he passed, I didn’t take his call. I have his voicemail saved, but still have not been able to bring myself to listen to it. Perhaps I will tonight.

Guilt can be a monster and regrets can threaten to drown you. These two things I don’t care to focus on or drown in. We all do the very best that we can in life, and the fact is that every human is flawed and imperfect. The beauty is in the imperfections.

After he passed, I posted a lot of stories on Facebook about him, which was a very cathartic process and helped me tremendously. I told a few stories about his involvement in some of my early failures in cooking, or maybe I should say “experiments.” He was a trained chef, a very talented artist, an immensely creative person, so he could be a tough critic.

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One story I haven’t told is the first time that I really cooked for him as an adult.
I was living in Brussels at the time and he was coming to Europe for his job. I hadn’t seen him in several years, so I was really nervous. He knew that I was interested in food, but I don’t think he knew just how much I loved cooking and how successful at it I had become.
So, I chose to showcase my favorite dishes and also make some Greek dishes that I knew he loved and missed from my mother’s side.

I made us a traditional Greek salad with fresh mint and my secret lemon vinaigrette. I also served Avgolemono soup, a favorite of mine that I learned from my great grandmother. The courses went on and he cleaned his plate completely with each dish. But I wasn’t congratulating myself for a success just yet. He still was a very harsh critic and I knew he would eat anything I put on the plate and tell me it was wonderful; that’s just who he was.
It wasn’t until I brought out the seared Ahi Tuna that I saw it in his face. I knew he loved Tuna Tartar, so I hoped he would really enjoy the seared tuna I had been perfecting, along with a new passion fruit Ponzu sauce I had been experimenting with.

After a few bites, I asked him what he thought. He said: “Wow!” which was a big compliment from him. He said he was really impressed with my knife skills, cutting the tuna how I did, and that my sear was impressive. It might have been the first time in my life that I felt we had a real connection. I started to chatter on and on about how I chose the fish and learned to cut it, etc. etc., and he just laughed. He said: “Well, you’re my daughter. Of course you’re a great chef!”

That was the type of conversation with my father that I had waited my whole life for. I had to wait until I was thirty, but that’s okay. I have that memory. I sat across the table from my father as he told me how proud he was of me. I think that night is like a slow release capsule of healing that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

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The challenges in our relationship did not end after that night, but I have a few more experiences that I cherish. Once again, food was our connector – I was able to tell him who I was and who I had become through food. I showed him my experiences, my strengths, and my weaknesses through food, and he was able to let me know that he saw all of it and understood. I am grateful for the good moments we had together and even more grateful to forgive the not-so-great moments.
 
So, Happy Birthday to me, and Happy Birthday to my Dad, wherever his soul may be.

Now let’s eat!
Xox
Sailor


Cooking Stories

I Was Dating The Food And We Were In Love.

Somewhere in my twenties while living in a broom closet in the not-so-nice part of San Francisco with two other girls and barely getting by, I was friends with a gal who had a thing for chefs. She was very attractive and very charming, but just didn’t seem to like a guy for longer than 2-3 weeks. Our group used to put imaginative expiration dates on the foreheads of her suitors. Lucky for me, she always wanted a wing man for the first few dates with these fellas. Usually it was a double date situation, and sometimes, even though I was the third wheel, I tell ya, I didn’t mind a bit, because we ate. And I mean, WE ATE!

Poor me was being dragged to some of the newest and hottest food spots in the city as a third wheel! So, if I didn’t have my own dates, well, that was okay; I was dating the food and we were in love.

One of her suitors, a really excellent guy, took us to what he called “his friend’s joint.” This joint was no joint, and his friend, well, if he isn’t a celebrity chef by now, I’d be surprised. This guy was incredible. He sent out chef plate after chef plate and each one was more impressive than the last. I was young and poor at the time so I ate everything that was put in front of me.

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The dish that stuck with me that night was his rendition of French toast. It was sort of like a cross between French toast and kind of a Tiramisu. Imagine a thick slice of brioche soaked in Amaretto and Cointreau, pan fried and then topped with marscapone, ricotta, lemon juice, and paper thin tangerine slices. It was a knock-your-socks-and-pants off type of dish. Just the socks was not enough; clothes from the whole bottom half of your body, knocked right off!

I did not get the whole recipe. He wouldn’t give away his secrets, but if I guessed an ingredient, he would confirm if I was correct. There were some other spices and elements in the dish that I could not place. It was very complex and my pallet wasn’t educated enough yet. But what I identified I loved and wanted to try to replicate.

Many failed attempts later, I finally got a result that was a great balance of flavors. It was not nearly as good as his, but good enough to call a yummy dish. And thus I opened the door to what would be my wide world of trying to soak everything in booze before I cooked it.

Sometimes this was successful, much by happy accident, and sometimes it went right in the garbage never to be spoken of again.

One day, I woke up craving a Bloody Mary. I didn’t have the money to go out to brunch and sadly did not have all of the ingredients needed to make one at home, so I decided I would settle on a brunch Martini and whip up a grilled cheese.

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As I began prepping my grilled cheese (throwing it in the oven on broil for a few minutes after having cooked it halfway in the pan), all of a sudden a huge splash of vodka soaked my bread, pissing me off. We all know you can’t start a grilled cheese with wet soggy bread. Then I thought: “Wait a minute….What if you can?”

So I decided to try it! Hell, I had an entire loaf of bread and was willing to sacrifice a few shots of vodka. The result was amazing, totally unexpected, and absolutely delicious!

Here is my happy accident:

2 slices of your favorite bread. Make sure it’s a thick bread that can stand up to being soaked
1 shot of a nice quality vodka
1 tbs of real whipped butter (hey, I never said it was a diet dish)
2 slices of a nice meaty ripe tomato
1/2 tsp of horseradish
1 pinch of celery salt
1 pinch of garlic salt
2 slices of your cheese of choice. My favorite cheese with this dish is a nice provolone or muenster
(If you are feeling really fancy, throw in a few sliced olives)

Toast your bread slices to a light to medium darkness.
Soak each slice in a shallow dish of vodka for a few seconds on each side.
Slather each slice with horseradish and butter.
Sprinkle celery & garlic salt on both slices.
Place slices in a hot pan side by side.
Add cheese slice to each piece of bread.
Cover pan with lid on med-high heat for 3-4 minutes until cheese begins to melt.
Remove pan from stove.
Add tomatoes on top of each bread slice.
Place pieces together into a sandwich and place in the oven on bottom rack to broil for 2-3 minutes until top of bread is golden brown. Flip over and repeat.
Remove, let cool so you don’t burn your tongue out of your mouth, and enjoy!

Note:
*You are not allowed to use Velveeta cheese! Somehow I will know, and I will find you and I will make you wear a stupid hat and sit in the corner and then I will take pictures of you and post it on the internet.
*I would stay away from the sharper cheeses due to the vodka; stick with a mild, buttery cheese.

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To get creative with this sandwich, basically think of anything and everything that you could put in a Bloody Mary and add that inside this delicious grilled cheese.

I hope you find it as dreamy as I do.

The moral of the story is: cook with booze. Cook everything with booze! It’s always better.

xox
Sailor


Cooking Stories

The Sunny Side of the Street

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Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, or so we are told. What food items come to your mind when you think of breakfast? Eggs, sunny side up? Bacon? Crepes? Cereal? Bagels? Spam?

We know that lunch and dinner dishes have changed throughout the decades in America, but how much has breakfast changed?

For much of the 1920’s, 30’s and 40’s, for city folks in less than comfortable financial circumstances, sweet rolls or a slice of bread with milk or coffee were pretty much breakfast staples.

The middle and upper classes were eating pretty much the same staples as the middle and upper class Edwardians, such as eggs, fish, meats, breads, and hot cereals. Their breakfast was much like what we do for brunch today. Cold breakfast cereals were established in the 1920’s, such as the popular Rice Krispies, which came along in 1929.

In the 1930’s & 40’s, much was the same. Larger breakfasts were more common for farmers and country folk, as they would oftentimes not stop working for lunch and just have a small snack, instead.

A very important invention occurred in the late 1930’s. No, it wasn’t the kitchen microwave or the breakfast fairy. It was the donut machine. Oh, yes! And then by the 1940’s and 50’s, Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts had been introduced, so coffee and donuts had officially secured itself as a popular pairing in American history.

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“Drop” donuts had become very popular in the 1950’s, thanks to Betty Crocker. Since no rolling or cutting were required, this quick and yummy food caught on quickly.

In the 1950’s, the farm industries really started heavy marketing and lobbying. A well balanced wholesome breakfast was now a requirement for every American Housewife to prepare for her families. The model was basically the works: eggs, a breakfast meat, cereal, toast, pancakes, baked apples, or a fruit item.

However, in the 1950’s, the age of experimentation on behalf of food brands did not leave out breakfast meals.

Here are a few, well… interesting, suggestions:

Banana Coconut Rolls, Bacon Strip Pancakes, Breakfast In A Glass:

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For the most part, not much has changed in typical American breakfasts since the 1950’s.

I think what we can say has changed are the regional differences, or, the introduction of regional, ethnic food items. For example, in New York City, you may grab a bagel & cream cheese on your way to the subway. In San Diego, perhaps you will have a plate of Huevos Rancheros or a breakfast burrito. In Boston, you will definitely have Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, and you may choose whatever breakfast food you like. But, don’t even think about Starbucks.

In the southern states, you may have a big plate of biscuits and gravy. New Orleans, well, come on, everyone know this one. Of course you will have 1 or 10 beignets. In San Francisco, you might order a breakfast crepe, and if you happen to wake up in Seattle, well, you will have some very, very strong, dark coffee.

Now, in looking through many of my cookbooks and researching commercials and ads, another question has popped up. Do we even have the time to offer big, complete, homemade breakfast meals today? My grandmother said that in the 1950’s and 60’s, she would get up at 5am, get herself dressed, do her hair and makeup, etc, then prepare breakfast and even lunches for everyone. The family sat at the table and ate together. I don’t know how many American families still do this on work/school days. These days, everyone works, schools are much further from home, and time just seems short.

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I know that I don’t have time in the morning to lay out a huge spread, but I do have fantasies of sitting in a sunny breakfast room with a spread laid out in front of Mark and myself, pouring coffee or tea from a fancy pot, reading the paper, and discussing the Opera or something.

Unless I win the lottery (that I don’t play) tomorrow, this vision of breakfast will not be coming to my house anytime soon. I suppose I will just have to stick with: open eyes (check weather channel, check news), brush teeth and hair, put on makeup (check email), get dressed (check email, send some tweets), feed dogs (check Facebook), pack lunch, make tea (check email, check Instagram), cook egg whites, put gluten-free bread in the toaster, pet dogs and promise to come back (check email), feel guilty about sad dog faces, grab coat, grab gloves, turn on NPR for the dogs so they won’t be lonesome, drive away.

Are these big family breakfasts something that Americans still desire? I suppose I see it as a choice: get an extra hour of sleep, or make time for a sit-down breakfast. I think I will take the sleep and let Mark fend for himself.

xox
Sailor