Southern Party Food, just those three words conjure up delight. I’m not sure why I haven’t had more parties. I think I might regret it one day. I have helped with quite a few Southern Parties, but ‘at-our-house-parties’ have mostly been given for the now all-grown-up children. I do however, plan quite a few Imaginary Southern Parties. Sometimes, I will dream of having a table groaning with pick up food hearty enough for the men but in dainty portions for the ladies. Maybe I will have a neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt, with big containers of jelly beans and foil covered chocolate eggs, a bakery cake with all of that icing, big decorated sugar cookies and Pre-School Punch! Or perhaps I will do something unexpected like have a Build Your Own Shrimp and Grits Party– with all of the extras,
- grated cheeses, chopped green onions, diced bell peppers,
- pickled sliced jalapenos, diced ham, halved cherry tomatoes,
- crisp crumbled bacon, fried okra, maybe even slices of Conecuh County Sausage and of course Tabasco®!
I would add baskets of corn muffins, tiny biscuits and cheese crackers alongside a big platter of fresh fruit. And Oh! the stories that will be told! I love the one about a high ranking military man who impersonated Elvis to entertain the troops! I will have a piano and a fair haired young man whose slender fingers softly play familiar tunes like Summer Time, the Tennessee Waltz or Broadway show tunes; perhaps a lady crowned with a cloud of white hair wearing Red Revival® Lipstick will drape herself across the piano singing low and slow. Maybe some of the guests will sway. I’m sure there will be a tall dark handsome man eating a slice of Mimi’s Pound Cake who insults me by saying his mother’s Cream Cheese Pound Cake was better, but I won’t care, after all a man should love his momma’s pound cake best. When the Beauties arrive, lacquered and sleek with twinkling eyes and big wide smiles, the men will hear- ‘Hey good lookin’ – what ya got cookin’ , then they will exclaim over every Brown Eyed Handsome Man. No matter how old we get- Southern ladies love to flirt and flatter. Outrageous stories will be told and re-told, followed by bursts of laughter. Perhaps there will be a jigsaw puzzle set up by a window and every now and then someone will pause to see if they can find solve a piece or two. The dessert table will have a big bowl of Banana Pudding, Pound Cake with Sugared Strawberries and fresh whipped cream standing by; there might be bite size tarts like our famous Pecan Pies. Coffee will be served to those who want it. Small groups will form and a few secrets shared. By the time the party is over, spirits will have been lifted and later we will say- ‘A good time was had by all.’ These are the Southern Parties of my Imagination. We used to call these- At Homes.
Southern Party Food is like none other. It can be quick and easy or so complicated even Escoffier wouldn’t be able to pull it off! The best place to start when planning a party in the South is to weasel recipes from the best local cooks or find them in local and regional cookbooks. Southern cookbooks always tickle me, set my tastebuds tingling and are the cookbooks which fire up my imagination, especially the local Church or Junior League Cookbooks. I went on a tear recently and ordered about a half dozen cookbooks which had been on my wish list for years. I always start at the beginning, just like a best selling novel. I read the prologues, I scan the names of the contributors, the auxiliary, or officers. Then I imagine them planning in soft southern drawls.
- ‘Now Betty Gene, don’t forget to include that Pre-school Punch you always submit for the Beverage section- we can’t have the teetotalers out there thinkin’ we’re all a bunch of winos’ – or
- ‘Tammy Faye, now you know we can’t put together this cookbook without your Great Aunt Mary Sue’s recipe for Cheese Souffle, I know she never made them herself but she guarded that recipe like it was pure gold- which, to be honest it was.’
- Gaynelle, now we must have the recipe for your Sunday Roast Beef and Horseradish Sauce- it won’t be complete without it.’
I am forever amazed at how much drama there is in a single cookbook- recipes which are not for the faint of heart- like Fried Rabbit wherein we must leave to our imagination just who shot that rabbit and where- but the dainty lady who submits it makes sure that you rinse it well- making sure there is no hare in it- uh I mean hair, that all the leaves are rinsed out of the cavity – and ‘Oh my! get the saltbox out to kill the bacteria! I love to dream up scenarios for these formal little ladies who use their husband’s names. These cookbooks bring my Imaginary Southern Parties a special flair. Recipes warn or designate that some dishes are ‘Chafing Dish’ and some are to be served Hot, Chilled or Room Temperature. The Beverages are an amazing array- one Party Punch left me wondering if you would have to use a big galvanized tub to make it up – I’ve changed it up a bit with fond memories of Pre-School Graduation parties, but not the quantities so you can see what I mean!
- 1/2 Gallon of Pineapple Sherbet, 1/2 Gallon of Lime Sherbet,
- 4 -28 oz. bottles of ginger ale – chilled, 1- 28 oz. bottle of soda- chilled,
- 1- 48 oz. can of pineapple juice- chilled,
- 1- 16 oz. jar of maraschino cherries, 1 quart of sliced fresh strawberries.
Mix all ingredients together. Stir and Serve. Yields two punch bowls. *Now, I ask you what size container would you need to stir and serve all of that for two punch bowls??? I can tell you now it would be slopped all over the place if I was making it! However you can take it from me- this punch is famous! I think if the recipe is halved it would be great for my neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt. For my Imaginary Build Your Own Shrimp and Grits Party– I would definitely add these whimsical appetizers from Bay Tables of the Mobile Junior League! I would double or triple the recipe, I do believe they would be just that good!
Jalapeno Gator Eggs
- 1 (12 ounce) jar of jalapenos
- 1 pound of Cheddar Cheese – grated
- 1 pound lean ground sausage
- 1 (10 count) can of biscuits
Drain jalapenos and remove the stems. Cut the jalapenos lengthwise and remove the seeds under running water. Stuff the jalapenos with the cheese. Shape the sausage into patties. Wrap around the stuffed jalapenos. Arrange on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Drain and cool. Sausage Jalapenos can be frozen at this point. Separate the biscuits into two layers. Wrap each around the sausage jalapenos and seal the edges. Place on baking sheet. Bake at 400 degree for 10 minutes. Yield 20 servings. * Note: Some recipes leave out some critical information-for instance, these would be whole pickled jalapenos. The canned biscuits would be the flaky type. I would also use mild sausage since the jalapenos add heat, but hey go for it if you love it hot! Recipes like Jalapeno Gator Eggs- get me in party planning mode- real or imagined! Now I ask you darlin’, which Imaginary Southern Party would you come to? Or, maybe there’s another one…just a few pages away! I’ll keep you posted…
Love y’all, Camellia
All cookbooks were found and ordered from Amazon.com Photographs are obviously mine!