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    Sunday
    Jan202013

    please come to dinner

    Over the summer I bought a cool old book called “Esquire Party Book for Entertaining Around the Clock” You could call it ‘vintage’, but I’ll just call it old. First printing 1935, my copy is from 1965.  I bought it because I’ve always loved Esquire Magazine. And I have a fascination with the era of my youth.  (In 1965 I was 3) I thought it would be fun to see what was recommended for menus & drinks in 1965. There are menus and recipes for breakfasts, brunches, lunches, cocktail parties, dinner parties and supper. Yes.  In those days people knew the difference between dinner and supper.

    Don’t we still all secretly want to be our moms in the 1960’s – dressed up all beautifully, pearls and high heels and red lipstick? It was our first introduction to elegance and sophistication – watching our parents entertain or go out to a club for dinner & dancing. I think it’s why I love Mad Men.

    That’s why I bought the book. I wanted a glimpse into that world of entertaining in 1965. I thought I might find those elegant and sophisticated ideas for menus & recipes & party themes. Alas, although I completely love this book, the ideas and recipes don’t translate well in 2013.

    The Esquire book confirms that many of that era’s most popular dishes have not survived in this generation. Some are completely extinct. Some are still around but with much less popularity.  Sausages in white wineCreamed chipped beef.  From the Esquire Hunt Breakfast Buffet:  Beefsteak and Kidney PieChicken livers in SherryWhole hominySmelt with Beer.  From the Esquire Lunch Menus:  Tomato aspic with vegetables. Chicken pickle aspicDuck casserole. For cocktail parties:  Swedish MeatballsCreamed OystersHerring in Dill Sauce.

    Crab Puree Mongole – 2 cans tomato soup, 2 cans pea soup,  2 cans consumme, 1 T curry powder, 1 lb. crab meat, sour cream & avocado.   Ewww.

    Now I know you might say “I love creamed chipped beef”. I do too. But I haven’t had it or made it for probably 20 years. It used to be part of every child’s food experience. Not so much anymore. And although meatballs of many kinds are still served for dinner and parties, when was the last time you had Swedish meatballs? And don't say IKEA - that doesn't count. I know that most of you have never had aspic, never want to have aspic, or even know what an aspic is. I have had aspic and I’m here to tell you that you’re not missing anything.

    So the kids and I had a conversation about what foods from my generation will be extinct in theirs.  They think meatloaf. Cole Slaw. And all mayonnaise based salads. I think they’re wrong about all of them – especially because in general none of them like mayonnaise. But meatloaf! Who doesn’t love meatloaf? 

    I still think it would be fun to have a dinner party with some of these old recipes – and I still may.  But there won’t be any aspic or smelt with beer.  I promise.

    The illustrations are FABULOUS though - at the left -  the illustration on the cocktail page for a sidecar.

     

     

    Sunday
    Dec302012

    victoria's italian secret

    2006 was a really bad year for my family.  And for many of our friends.  People lost parents, and jobs, and there were new serious medical conditions.  I won’t go into details because it’s not important to my story today.  But I can honestly say that I was so ready for 2006 to be over.   I general I don’t believe in luck, but I was desperate for different luck, albeit just symbolically.

    So I had a dinner party on New Year’s Eve – with good friends – many of whom had an equally difficult 2006 and wanted to make a symbolic change to 2007.  I made traditional ‘lucky’ New Year’s Eve foods– sausage and lentils, black eyes peas, pork and sauerkraut. I’m not superstitious, and in general don’t believe that these things can actually change the future.  But it’s completely harmless, and we had to eat anyway.

    In my attempt to influence a new positive trajectory for my family I researched other lucky New Year’s Eve traditions. In my research I discovered the Italian tradition of wearing new red underwear on New Year’s Eve.  Now remember that I’m second generation Italian-American – and I did not know of this tradition.  But what could it hurt?  So in 2006 we started the red underwear on New Year’s Eve tradition.  I bought red underwear for me and all my kids.  They were not thrilled by this seemingly ridiculous tradition – but humored me anyway.   It’s not like I was asking them to wear the red underwear on the outside of their clothes.  They could make me happy and no one would know.  Since 2006 I have continued the red underwear tradition.  And I’ve reminded my kids to do the same.  I don’t think they’ve continued.  They are not always with me on New Year’s Eve, and even if they were – I’m not about to ask to see their undergarments for proof.

    If you happen to see me on New Year’s Eve, be assured that I will be wearing red underwear.  Because – why not?  I will be wearing underwear, so it might as well be red.   So there’s absolutely no reason not to.  But don’t ask to see it; you’ll have to take my word.

    Wishing you a happy and remarkable 2013.

    Monday
    Dec172012

    love means never having to say you're sorry

    Stop apologizing. 

    For not being the perfect mom.  Or wife. Or sister.

    Stop apologizing for your house being a mess and your kids wearing wrinkled clothes. We are too hard on ourselves because we didn’t make gingerbread houses on Saturday morning.  Or because our kids go to school with a lunch that doesn’t include all of the food groups. 

    Stop apologizing for not living up to the ‘Martha Stewart’ standard of what women should be.  Seriously do you know how many staff members she employs to create her lifestyle?  We really don’t want to be that kind of woman.  And yet most – if not all – of the women I know are remarkable in their own right.  I’m talking about you – the woman who compares herself to her friends and only sees the stuff she’s not doing.  95% of us are doing the best we know how.  The other 5% - well I’m not speaking about them.  Every mom I know is doing the best for her family that she knows how, and that’s what will be remembered. 

    Yes.  I can cook and knit and sew and draw. I’m crafty. I’m grateful for those talents.  But I’m completely missing the musical talents, the athletic ones, and the one that would help me to understand the financial markets.  I’m missing the housekeeping talent. I feel inadequate in the areas that you excel.  I can’t run a 5K, or play an instrument, or keep a house plant alive.  I can’t tell a joke or teach a child to read. So please stop apologizing for your perceived failings.  I’m pretty sure you’re the only one perceiving them.  Own what is important to your family – and be done with the rest.  For me it means that I gave up a long time ago the notion that my house and my yard would be an orderly vision of beauty.  They won’t be – because other things are more important to me.  It doesn’t mean I am less of a woman or a mother.

    It’s Christmas – and your kids will only have memories of experiences.  They won’t have memories of experiences in comparison to what is happening in other families.  Just yours.  And it’s enough to read them the Polar Express on Christmas Eve and not re-enact it.  It’s enough for their memories to include an Elf on the Shelf that didn’t move every evening to some new and creative location.  It’s enough for them to just have memories of how the holidays made them feel part of their family.

    I wasn’t and still am not a model of motherhood.  Just ask my kids.  I’m sure they have a list.  I’ve made mistakes – some of them big – and yet they are still turning out to be smart and kind and responsible adults.  So please stop apologizing for those inconsequential things that you think don’t measure up.  I’m your friend and I don’t see them at all.  I think you’re remarkable. 

    Photograph above of a greeting card I saw at a store.  Pretty profound and I had to take a photo so I would remember.

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