Years ago, when we were working in our business Presentation Is Everything, we were always busy and never attended parties for our own pleasure.
The one exception was Bobo and Cutlass’ annual mid-summer Fats, Carbs and Sugar Extravaganza Saturday. That’s not what they called it however that describes it. This was the party we never missed. Excess is fun at times, especially if the food is yummy. So what if you wind up in a food coma?
Excess is fun at times, especially if the food is yummy.
They celebrated the fete in a rural country home in Upstate New York, a second home in addition to their New York condo. Apple Butter Farm, as they called it, was a remodeled Colonial stone house rambling along a creek. The shape of the house conformed to the babbling stream beside it.
The 1700’s house was constructed of wide plank floors, wainscoting, rough wood beams, plain washed walls, small recessed windows. Additions were added on through the centuries as need arose.
The furnishings were a feast for the eyes. Bobo and Cutlass decorated the interior with items true to the period. Ladder back chairs, pine tables, quilts, pewter, yellow ware, stone bottles, blue and white pottery, pewter bowls, oil paintings, primitive sculpture and dozens of hand dipped candles. The result was charming and cozy.
Bobo loved everything colonial including food. He tried every early American recipe ever unearthed. This type of food, loaded with calories was meant to sustain hard laboring men and women who toiled sunup to sundown. All calories were used up. No vacations for these folks.
The center of Bobo’s activity was the kitchen where he, a fearless cook, triumphed. Cutting meat, chopping vegetables, rolling dough, patting down pie crust, whirling from sink to fridge to chopping block, he became a blur of activity.
Dominating the room was a huge fireplace built of bricks with a wide plank mantel stacked with pewter and iron cooking utensils. Here he baked lattice topped pies with butter crusts, loaves of fruitcakes and corn bread, muffins bursting with fruit, donuts, ginger bread cookies, tarts filled with jam. Every baked good seethed with butter, sugar and honey.
He roasted sides of pork and beef dripping with fats and juices in a sheet iron reflector oven placed in the fireplace. Goose turned on a spit.
Fish fillets were breaded and fried in butter. Seafood oozed from biscuits covered with cheese rarebit sauce. Mussels and oysters steamed with spirits were served with ramekins of clarified butter. Fried oysters were piled high on platters.
To be fair, Bobo cooked vegetables, too: corn chowder swimming with butter and cream, squash pie with a flaky lard crust, corn and spinach fritters fried in bacon drippings, onion pie encrusted with cheese, and succotash made with oil, butter and garlic.
Whew! The name of Apple Butter Farm was the healthiest thing about it.
Guests made reservations months ahead in nearby country inns but Max and I were privileged, invited to stay at Apple Butter Farm. Max was exonerated from any vegetable carving. Bobo wanted all the foods to look plain and simple like the early Americans did them. Colonial women, too busy with everyday chores, didn’t carve radish rosettes.
At one particularly memorable fete, we arrived on Friday night before the other guests. Cutlass and Bobo greeted us with their usual warmth and endearments. Cooking fragrances spiced the air like incense. Cutlass showed us to our room on the second floor – slanted ceilings, quilt covered bed, water pitcher with washbasin, wall pegs for clothes, and braided rug. Adjoining was a tiny bath with shower, washbasin and commode.
Max, hanging his good pants and shirt up, said, “I feel like I should go to the window and shout: The British are coming!”
“Actually, you’re not far off,” I said. “Bobo told me a food critic from London is invited.”
“In that case, I’ll put a lantern in the window.”
“Hurry, Max. Cutlass and Bobo are waiting downstairs to kick off happy hour.”
It was a cool evening after a chilling summer rainstorm and we sat near a crackling fire in the living room. Wood smoke scented the air. Light from the flames and candles flickered over art created centuries ago.
On the low pine coffee table, among stacks of decorating books, sat platters of hors d’oeuvres: corn and shrimp fritters, seafood hush puppies and homemade sausage in sourdough biscuits.
Bobo served champagne cooled in massive copper tubs stuffed with ice. Champagne was one of the few concessions he made to modern times.
“Beer might have been the beverage of choice for colonials,” he said, filling our flutes, “but, my dears, it’s just too fattening. A calorie here, a calorie there. Calories have to be counted somewhere.”
I thought of the food we would tuck away this weekend and I kissed him on the cheek. “You do watch out for us, darling!”
The dance with fats had begun! And oh, what a lovely melody!