We’re not “social people” and with our peculiar politics (we supported Ron Paul, but were thrilled to have an intellectual for president) and hectic schedule (two law practices, two children, no maid) we are unlikely proponents of a weekly supper club. But ours happened organically last spring and we’d never give it up.
We all know lots of people who have supper clubs; though the typical members are balding fraternity brothers and their gracefully-aging sorority sister wives, whose longing for evenings at the KA house and weekends at Tri-Delt dances have morphed into a monthly covered-dish supper replete with heavy cocktails, charades, and good gossip. My business partner and his wife have participated in such a club for nearly two decades, supporting one another through illness and divorce, baby showers and high school graduations, prosperity and pain. My brother and sister-in-law are in a similar supper club, but they use a caterer. Though I envy the companionship and good meals, I despise small talk and hate leaving my children with a babysitter during our precious weekend family time.
Our family lives in Wappoo Heights, a great little pocket of Charleston established in the 1920’s. Not only are we minutes from downtown, blocks from the children’s school, a short walk to the Earthfare, and adjacent to the Wappoo Creek boat landing, but our restrictive covenants expired long-ago and our homeowners association doesn’t give a rat’s ass if your boat is parked in front of your house or if your lawn debris spends a week on the street before pick-up. [Note: The neighborhood across the way would fine you for such transgressions and send a nasty-gram to boot. This is Charleston, after all.] As the years have passed, Wappoo Heights has become a “young” neighborhood again, with children in almost every house. We trick-or-treat and Christmas-carol en masse with a beer cooler in tow. Dogs won’t wander for long before they are gently guided home. Newspapers don’t pile up, no matter how long you are gone. Casseroles are faithfully delivered to new mothers and the infirm.
In all neighborhoods, children have “preferred” venues for summer play dates and in Wappoo Heights the “preferred” venue is most certainly Mr. Willie’s pool, which is second only to Mr. Willie’s dock. Last summer, after the third or fourth Sunday the neighborhood parents found themselves trying to pry their children away from Willie’s (and a dozen of their closest friends) in time for dinner, we surrendered. Instead, we chose to have another drink and order a pizza together at the closest house. By the time school started in the fall, we were sick of pizza, but we didn’t want to end our newly-beloved ritual of spending Sunday evenings as a large, extended family enjoying passionate conversation, a couple of bottles of wine, and the children playing together nearby.
We now alternate houses and hosts for Sunday supper. Our group includes a surgeon and a stay-at-home mom of three, a banker and a fine artist, a commercial real-estate broker and a professional head-hunter, and my lawyer husband and I – plus nine children under the age of 10. Guest appearances are made most frequently by Uncle Frank, who lives at a nearby retirement community and Lee, the bachelor neighbor. Our parents are always welcome when they are in town, no matter who is hosting. Menus vary with the season (i.e., deer, duck, dove, turkey, flounder). Dinner conversations mirror the headlines and our personal fortunes/misfortunes, which seem to be more labile in this economy. Paper plates are required (sorry, it’s the one and only rule).
In the coming weeks, I invite you to share our musings and menus. Welcome to the Wappoo Heights Supper Club.
P.S. Since you missed it, I’ll share last week’s menu (bring your own wine):
Potato chips and French onion dip
How can you refuse Lipton French onion soup mix with sour cream? I serve it with Krinkle-cut Kettle chips, modernizes the budget-friendly classic. Doubling the recipe feeds a party of 8 adults and their children, with enough left-over for you to get your fix while nobody’s watching.
Mixed green salad with apples and blue cheese
Add two Granny Smith apples (cut into cubes and squirted with lemon juice) and one small red onion (sliced thin) to any lettuce. Top with blue cheese – I prefer about 8 oz. of crumbled Clemson Blue Cheese if you can find it. In a mason jar, mix one cup of vegetable oil, half cup of sugar, half cup apple cider vinegar, pinch of salt, tablespoon of dry mustard, and teaspoon of hot paprika, then chill until serving.
Before the late economic unpleasantness, we absolutely insisted upon Carolina Plantation Rice. It is so divine you’ll find yourself cooking it just for the aroma. A very good substitute is Cache River Rice, which we have ordered in bulk for a great price. The recipe I used for this dish is actually printed on the Cache River Rice bag, but it calls for canned mushrooms, which I wouldn’t eat if you paid me. Instead, I sautéed sliced baby portabella mushrooms in butter (remember to double the amount of dry mushrooms, as they will reduce to approximately half their volume with cooking). Among the benefits of this recipe is the ability to cook it ahead of time and re-warm before serving.
Beef tenderloin with blender hollandaise
Everyone will undoubtedly have their own opinion on how to best prepare this main dish, but we swear by two tomes: Julia Child’s The Way To Cook and Joy of Cooking by Rombauer, et al. Julia will teach you how to cook the perfect tenderloin and the Rombauer’s have several great versions of hollandaise sauce. My favorite is made in the blender with egg yolks and melted butter in about 30 effortless seconds (seriously). [Hint: save the egg whites for an awesome omelet using leftover/reserved beef tenderloin, mushrooms, and blue cheese.]
Our neighborhood Earthfare has the most fabulous seedless watermelon right now. It is the palest peachy pink, but sweet like a honeydew, so don’t overlook one in your local market simply because of the color. For the frozen yogurt, I used about two cups of South Carolina peach slices that were stashed in my freezer from last summer and Stoneyfield Farm’s delightful Vanilla yogurt. The key is the Braun ice cream maker, which churns out dessert in about 30 minutes.