A food writer can always find an opportunity to test recipes, like my daughter-in-law, Jennifer’s, baby shower. The entire menu came from recipes I’m testing for my next book on the history of salads. Each salad fit the occasion well, yet each has been served for well over a hundred years.
Instead of mayonnaise, the chicken salad was dressed with sour cream and could easily have been served at any historic dinner. Aspic was commonly served for 18th century special occasions, yet today several guests asked for the recipe without realizing its long history. No ladies luncheon would have been complete without it in the 1950’s. With the aid of unflavored gelatin it can be made in minutes instead of the hours it took in decades past. Good food never really goes out of fashion, but in a modern kitchen it does get easier to prepare.
My other daughter-in-law, Jessica, and her friend, Annie, made this gorgeous fruit salad in a carved watermelon basket. The fresh fruit was as delicious as it was beautiful. With the temperature hovering at 90 degrees, it was very refreshing.
Chicken salad with sour cream dressing, shrimp salad, tomato aspic, cucumber salad in sour cream, home-made rye bread, heart-shaped cornbread muffins, honey butter, carrot-raisin salad, and green bean salad rounded out the menu. My friends, Jason and Dawn, from near Tampa, Florida provided the honey that was used in the honey butter.
Jennifer’s mother, Becky, did a wonferful job with the dessert table. An Italian cream cake, an assortment of cookies, and mini-cupcakes with strawberry glaze from a Giada de Laurentis recipe were delicious. I am looking forward to some of the cupcakes with my coffee in the morning! The table was covered with an antique quilt top from the depression era that I bought when my friend, Betty, and I attended an auction in the mountains last April. With special touches like the tablecloth to remind me of the wonderful weekend we spent at her mountain cabin, and the honey processed by friends I look forward to seeing every spring, I felt blessed even though distance prevented most of my friends from being here.
As a remembrance, and a way of including my grandmother, the flower arrangements were made up of her favorite flowers, snowballs and roses with some wisteria, azalea blooms, rosemary, lemon balm, and mint. The herbs smelled wonderful, and the greenery looked amazing against the snow white blooms. She was a graceful loving lady, a true Southern lady, who loved her family dearly. I have never felt her presence as much as I did this morning while cutting these fresh flowers from my yard. The snowball bush is a family tradition. No matter where the men in this family move us to, we Gray ladies always plant a snowball bush the first thing. We have rooted cuttings from one generation to the next for several generations, always moving them with us wherever we go, so, as you can see, cutting flowers from that bush whose ancestors once graced my grandmother’s yard, for a shower for her great great granddaughter was my way of honoring her.
It is not everyday I get to celebrate such a wonderful occasion, and I enjoyed the day and my guests immensely. We are very appreciative of all the wonderful gifts Jennifer received, and Madie Isabelle is going to be one very loved, very treasured, and probably one very spoiled young lady. What else are grandmothers for?