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A mountain luncheon on the deck

June 27, 2021
Elisabeth Sherwin -- ensherwin@gmail dot com

I am a time traveler.

I open my torn and stained copy of "Meals: Tested and Approved by the Good Housekeeping Institute" and I am transported back to the year of its publication, 1930.

If I turn to the back pages, past the recipes and sample menus, I find "The Etiquette of Service" for a formal dinner. The first recommendation is that a trained servant or an outside professional come at 4 p.m. the day of the event to make the salad, the hors d'oeuvres, set the table and serve the dinner at the appointed time.

The menu is: clear soup, olives, celery, salted nuts, halibut fillets, dressed cucumbers, rolls, roast chicken squabs, duchess potatoes, glaced carrots and peas, grapefruit salad, roquefort dressing, bombe glace, small cakes, fruit, candy and coffee.

Well, maybe a luncheon will be less work. I look up "informal luncheon."

The authors have something to say about this.

"There is no more charming a way of entertaining one's friends informally than at the luncheon hour-- particularly if an afternoon of bridge is to follow. The popular hour at which such a luncheon is served is from one to two o'clock and although invitations may be sent, it is quite proper now to give the invitation over the telephone." OK, good to know.

The suggested menu is: fruit cocktail, creamed lobster, broiled mushrooms, buttered peas, ripe olives, watermelon pickle, hot baking powder biscuits, lettuce and celery salad with French dressing, toasted rounds of bread, coffee souffle, small cakes, candy, nuts, and tea.

The authors further explain that such a luncheon is usually composed of women, "as men are rarely available at this time of day."

Let's stop right there. Fast-forward 91 years to Allenspark, Colo., and a home where there is no separate dining room, no separate kitchen and the ill-trained servant helping to prepare a guest luncheon is my husband who is almost always available for any meal. He spent all of last summer building a new front deck and the luncheon that we are having with out-of-town guests is the first new-deck event.

I think two card tables set up outside will probably work but I have to make sure we have a tablecloth large enough to cover both tables. If it rains, we can move inside to the sun room but then we will have to put the rowing machine outside because it takes up the whole room. We have an odd assortment of chairs to put around the tables. It will look fine when everyone is finally seated.

The potted red geraniums are looking good, blooming just the way they are supposed to, and the impatiens are gorgeous with their pink, red and white flowers. I will also put a vase of wildflowers on the table. I would never pick a columbine, for instance (and I think it's illegal) but some of the more common flowers would look sweet.

Our guests will be seated with a view toward the ponderosa pine forest and the hill down to our creek. At this time of year it's covered with grasses, butter cups, bluebells, sage, pine needles and pine cones. The columbines are a little late this year but they are on their way.

The menu is Mediterranean with a chickpea salad, a caprese salad of tomato, basil and mozzarella, a caesar salad with cold chicken, rustic-style bread and cold lamb chops. Notice that everything is cold and can be made the night before. I think the Good Housekeeping Institute would approve.

I check my email the day before our luncheon.

My friend writes: "Sorry to report this, but disaster has struck. I've got to have unplanned oral surgery/and bone graft on Wednesday afternoon, and our trip is cancelled. Really bummed about this -- was beginning to pack today when I found out. "

I look up both "disaster" and "cancellations" in the Good Housekeeping book and find no advice on how to proceed. So I go ahead and cook the entire menu. Mike and I sit down to lunch the next day and I'm happy to report: Everything was delicious. We did not play bridge afterward.

-- Reach Elisabeth Sherwin at ensherwin@gmail.com

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