Wednesday, June 17, 2009


I’ve been following the wedding preparations of one of my favorite young writers, and since the wedding a couple of weeks ago, she’s been posting pictures of lead-up-to and the wedding and reception. I was really looking forward to both, because of my lifetime of attending and helping with and cooking for Southern weddings.

And this one was everything a Deep-South wedding should be---a gathering of family, good friends and neighbors and church members to celebrate and affirm and support the new family.

With my very best wishes to Keetha and The Husband:

(A much later, edited-in PS to my dear Readers: What you want is the WEDDING POST. Not the one for today, the 17th. No, anything but that).

It was beautifully, classically simple, with the colors chosen for springtime and for the groom’s Alma Mater; it included parents, grandparents and the young son of the bride. The wedding was in a beautiful old church, with lifelong friends and relatives as attendants; the reception was in a lovely old house, with wooden floors and furniture polished with the steps and touches of a century. And the Southern touches were there, in the flowers---lush bouquets of hydrangea in enormous vases like julep cups, and in the patina of the sideboard holding tall tiered stands of chocolate-dipped strawberries, and a tray of golden, perfect cheese straws---both de rigueur at a serious Southern affair.

There were small biscuits of several flavors, with the juicy pink slices of ham in its garnishes of pineapple and cherries; a footed bowl of chicken salad and regal rows of fancy crackers on a silver tray, tulle draping the lattice backdrop and damask beneath the tiered cake. I even spied a small silver bowl of Richardson’s mints among the artistic array of forks and monogrammed napkins.

And the Groom’s table, with chocolate layer cake and the Mississippi State helmet and colors, right down to the carefully-chosen M&M’s---that says HOME to me.

I loved being taken back to so many happy, happy occasions, the times when a gathering meant hugging and laughing, when a group of people stood together to celebrate the beginning of a whole new group, whose own gatherings will grow and encompass and spread to welcome other new beginnings.

I’m going to get out Mrs. Jennings’ recipe for Cheese Straws and see if I can unearth the cookie press. Last time I saw it, the Grandchildren were using all the little insert doohickeys like a Spirograph to draw shapes on most of the printer paper in the house. The wedding straws circled round that big silver tray in perfect symmetry were rolled and cut, with a little pinking-shears ravioli-edger thingie, but Mrs. J’s straws were always the squeezed-out ones.

The dough is thick as piecrust, and has to be extruded in one smooth line (oh, the tales of breakages and cracks and tapery little bits and pieces when I'd waver just a little in strength and my hands would give out) so I could never imagine how such a fragile-looking little woman could make dozens of those things practically every Thursday and Friday, for whatever goings-on were happening on the weekend.

They were flat on the bottom from the smooth side of the shaping-tip, and had tiny ridges atop, like the horizon-stretching rows of good rich farmland we lived amongst, and those tapery tops had a crispness that crackled to the bite. They were rich and crisp and made with “real butter”---stressed with each and every order, as she apologetically quoted the price, and seemed to need to explain the expense. I can remember that they were twenty dollars for two pounds, her minimum order, back when I was first learning to decorate cakes.

They’re supposed to be made with a mixer, but I short-cutted the process many years ago, after Mrs. J. retired---Putting the finely-shredded sharp cheese into the processor, then the butter, then the sifted flour and seasonings, just for enough whirls to make the dough clump---those make a mighty fine approximation, and can be rolled, wrapped, frozen and sliced into “Cheese Pennies” just as well.

Oven 300. 5 dozen.

Put 2 c. Kraft Extra-Sharp fine shreds into processor and whirl for a few seconds. Drop in a stick of room-temp butter and whirl.

Sift 1 ½ c. plain flour with 1 t. salt and a big sprinkle of cayenne. (Old Bay is permissible, if you're bent that way).

Add to processor and whirl just til it holds together slightly. Put out onto cool surface and knead just a few seconds, then fill cookie press, and add ridged-line tip or plate. Squeeze out onto Silpat into 2” lines, cutting ends neatly flat. Bake 10-13 minutes til golden. Cool on racks.

For Pennies, halve the dough and roll into two rolls about the size of a quarter. Wrap tightly with waxed paper or Saran, bag, and freeze. To bake, slice into 1/4” slices and place on Silpat-lined cookie sheets.

From thawed, add a minute or so to above time. From frozen, add about 3 minutes. Cool on racks.

Stack either shape gently between layers of parchment or waxed paper in air-tight containers.
They keep nicely for three or four days.

Mrs. J. always required us to bring her our own Tupperwares a couple of days before she baked. I guess you can use up just so many Hostess Fruitcake tins before you run out.

1 comment:

Keetha said...

You are too sweet - these words are high praise, yes, except for today's post. I'm just keeping it real. :-)

Thanks for sharing the cheese straw recipe. Love those things!