Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Miss Ardyth Mae and Miss Willa Beth went to Walmart today for their usual Wednesday. They got a late start, having to practically gallop through Goodwill, because their WMU had the County Association Meeting this quarter, and they wouldn’t have missed it, though they were both a mite put-out that it had to be on THEIR day. It DID seem to them that with Prayer Meeting tonight, and all, that was QUITE enough church for a week-day. They could’ve had it THURSDAY, for Goodness’ Sake---nothing much happens on a Thursday, anyway.
They were discussing the Luncheon at the Fellowship Hall---it had been especially nice, however, with a REAL luncheon plate, all planned, and recipes assigned so all the chicken salad would be just alike, and the devilled eggs that good mustardy kind to set off the sweet dressing on the salad. Each recipe was assigned to six ladies, to make a double-makin' of the dish, and there were four dishes on the menu. Nobody envied the six assigned the Asparagus Rollups, because of rolling out all those slices of bread, and all. The Kitchen Committee served and garnished the plates in the kitchen, with the salad on a lettuce leaf and a little sprig of mint in the middle of the maroon ring of candied apple.

The apples came out of a jar, and were just the snazziest things to garnish a party plate---they were actual slices of apple, sorta pickled in a cinnamony maroony juice that had to be blotted off each one with a Scott towel before laying on the plate, else the chicken salad woulda looked like it had been made with beets instead of celery.

Why, once when they hadn't yet assessed the cooking skills of a new member, and just assigned her to pick up the candied apple rings, they were astonished to feel the light weight of the sack she set down on the counter.
Their surprise and very quiet hilarity at finding what looked like little cellophane packages of pastel corn pads was repeated for years. She had several children, but she obviously didn't entertain much.

This had been a really special day for the WMU, hence all the formality of the preparations, with none of that everybody bring a covered dish to set higgledy-piggledy on the long counter---these ladies MEANT BUSINESS.

Miss Ardyth simpered at Miss Willa, saying “Remember that time . . .?” as they brought up yet again the Youngest Rotenberry boy’s new bride’s error of bringing her prettiest, never-yet-used piece of Corning Ware to the Church Supper on First Saturday. She’d been raised a Presbyterian, her family having to drive clear to Sumner to attend Sunday Morning Service, and didn’t know what-all Baptists did.
She’d come hesitantly into the first gathering after her marriage, carrying the empty dish in the pretty padded basket, another wedding present, and do you know---not a SOUL let on that she’d made any kind of mistake. She’d been just welcomed and made over, with compliments on her yellow outfit, and inquiries about her Mama ‘nem, and just felt as welcome as she ever had anywhere. Even her sweet little husband didn’t catch on---he just helped himself to Mrs. Pund’s good macaroni salad and two kinds of chicken, and settled right in.

Anyway---the Luncheon had been REAL nice, with the good china plates from the Church’s cupboards, instead of the usual supply of red and blue Solo. There were centerpieces---just the prettiest things, made out of the oddest stuff---the preacher’s wife had cut all their Scuppernong vines back last Fall, and had made them into the most beautiful rustic baskets, dried over the last several months. They were low, loose-twisted things, with several vines looped up into a graceful round handle, and the whole thing given a good coat of spray-on Krylon varnish and left over the Winter to season.
Then, the Preacher’s son, who came home from college every weekend to play for Church, had made a special trip home from Cleveland to do the flowers. He’d been out there before daylight, way up in the low areas around Afton road, cutting plants that nobody had ever seen up real close before. There were buckets and buckets of wild ferns, lush and green and damp with the dew; scads of Queen Anne’s lace, some Burdock and a few still-green baby cat-tails and most surprising of all: dozens of the blazing-green trumpets with their honky-tonk lipsticked mouths and speckles of gold on their frilly bonnets--- pitcher plants.   They just stood there, bright as day, like a choir just singing their hearts out.

Now WHO would have EVER thought of bringing a pitcher plant right in the house and putting it on the table? Those things lived way out in the swampiest spots, and hardly anybody there except  Nancy Fred Baxter, who had tramped every woods, bayou and swamp since she got her first .22, had ever been that close to one.

And they were beautiful. Just the most ethereally fragile things, like silk stretched too tight to bear, and those freckly goldy places like sun through the sheers. The whole basket just glowed with the vitality and beauty of all the odd assortment of flowers standing firmly speared on one of the flower-frogs borrowed from far and wide, and that spongy plastic wet-moss stuff from Michael's in Jackson.

Those arrangements could have appeared in a magazine---they all had thought so, and the two ladies told every detail to the several others gathered there at the tables in the Garden Dept.

Miss Ardyth DID feel a little peeved that she was too full for her weekly Corn Dog, but a few shoppers stopping to carry on over seeing her, and the thought that she and Miss Willa might split the cost of one of those rotisserie chickens to take home for their suppers---those cheered her right up.


Chesapeake said...

Just brings a reminiscent smile to my face. Thank you.

Nail said...

OK, go back a ways and tell me you remember the "Aunt's Asparagus Roll-Ups"!

racheld said...

You're WELCOME, Chesapeake, Dear, always.

Yep. I remember, and they're my tweaking of that original recipe with the little thing of "boiled ham"---ewww---left out. That ham was gross and flappy, like those awful turkey loaves that I always think of as being made out of the last part over the fence.

Jeanne said...

Rachel, this post is giving me a good chuckle. Being polite and congenial is more important than anything. I find that totally charming.

Thank you for you sweet comment today. You gotta love our pets. Your 'boy' sounds like such a good pup.

Hugs, Jeanne

Kat said...

Always always love to visit you! Us southerners are always polite. smile


Kim Shook said...

Love those 'Lady Lunches'! Often the best food in town, considering that they are being served to other women! I mean, where else in this day and age will you find white meat chicken salad in choux pastry puffs? Those little apple rings are one of my favorites - when I was a little girl, I was convinced that they were crab apples and refused to taste them. And I snorted out loud (at WORK!!) at the gummy apple rings.

Southern Lady said...

What precious stories you tell, Rachel. I can just picture those sweet little old ladies in my mind ... and also the "pitcher plant" centerpiece. I have never seen pitcher plants, but then I don't spend a lot of time in swamps, either. Perhaps, I should ... I'm sure they're a treasure trove of pictures just waiting to be taken!

Wsprsweetly Of Cottages said...

I enjoyed every minute of reading it. Did you experience all of this or is it a fictional story. Whatever the was fun! I was right there...LOVED IT!

It reminds me of Patrick's family who are from the deep South.
I read "THE PAINTED HOUSE" and though very also talks of the the Baptists and the Methodists etc. Baseball at the big Picnic was where they got serious!
There is definitely a way of doing things back there. In Californina...whatever! :):) My family was from Kansas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Florida.. Most migrated to California but some are still there. Things are different back there...absolutely. Best friend and her husband join the Methodist church nearby. What fun to listen to her... :) She lives in Arkansas.
I am married to a Baptist Minister..graduate of Baylor and I love listening to him.. :) He does not preach now.

OnrushPam said...

Oh Rachel, I laughed out loud and then read to my husband the part about the covered dish!

I remember once, as a teenager, helping with a similar luncheon for my grandma's "circle". I was charged with slicing a gazillion cooked chicken breasts just so, each into exactly 6 slices, to be laid neatly upon a plate of greens and garnished with a spiced apple slice! Why would they put a teenager in charge of plating? I suppose they assumed I couldn't cook?