Apple Gorgonzola Salad
Chili-Spiced Roasted Acorn Squash
Almond-Chocolate Blondies with Spirited Irish Coffee
It's almost Christmas; heavy blankets of snow are lounging on the trees outside my window (another six inches during the night), and I'm thinking of what to serve for dinner. The plan is to dine early, around one-ish, strap on snowshoes for the traditional river walk where we break open "light sticks" and hang them on spruce trees. When our cheeks are notably reddened, we hike back home and break open a bottle of wine to redden the cheeks a tad bit more. As daylight fades, from above on our little mountain, we can see the faint yellow and orange glow on the trees in the distance.
If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.
Ah, yes. J.R.R. Tolkien surely had it right. While thinking of my dinner menu, I came across vintage menu covers, works of art from decades ago when the only people who "ate out" at restaurants were the eccentric and wealthy, well before hot food served on silver platters became, in a sense, democratized, or inexpensive enough for everyone to enjoy. It was in the 1940's and 50's when the American economy, right after the war, was chugging along super well. With the building of interstate highways and a new mobility, plus increased income to spend, independent restaurants began popping up all over the country. To gain a sense of identity, a good deal of money was invested in the design of restaurant menus by artists of the day.
I'm not so sure hamburgers and french fries are all that good for your health (as they claim), but I'm told by a friend in California how her parents found it a treat to take the family to McDonnell's in Los Angeles. Sort of a pre-cursor to the McDonald's empire of today. They reportedly served some of the state's best and freshest fried chicken in the land; their poultry raised right down the road on a 200-acre ranch.
Was the Ritz a well-kept secret in its day?
I love the 1940's cover.
It reads: "Stop and spend a social hour in harmless mirth and fun.
Let friendship reign. Be just and kind and evil speak of none.
And in the interest of providing clients the best in entertainment, food and drinks, this super-classy club is requesting that each person spend at least $1 for the evening."
Wow! A buck for the whole night? Wonder what that got you besides dancing, naked ladies?
Merriment is indeed, harmless.
Here's what they served the Steinways (the famous piano people):
Petite Marmite Henri IV (huh?)
Hearts of Celery (do they beat somewhere in the stalk?)
Crown of Bass Newburg (do they mean just the head?)
Breast of Chicken Montmorency (huh? again)
Black Cherries (I got this one)
New Green Peas (as opposed to old?)
I bet it was the superlative of delicious.
Allow me to ring in the bells with menu as we eat a healthy meal at home. No restaurants to drive to; no traffic, no noise, except the cheesy Christmas tunes we love to play, like Alvin and the Chipmunks:
"Want a plane that loops-de-loop. Me, I want a Hula-Hoop. We can hardly stand the wait. Please, Christmas, don't be late!"
As of this writing, I remember my immediate family of seven, my parents who have passed on, my brothers and sister who live a day's plane ride from my home in Alaska.
And I chuckle, thinking of them.
"The most remarkable thing about my mother is that for thirty years, she served the family nothing but leftovers. The original meal has never been found." -calvin trillin
We never went hungry, though.
There was always good food to share.
Who needs a menu, really?
Sit down with your friends and family and break bread.
And have yourself a very, Merry Christmas.