I have three first cousins engaged. Our year has commenced with showers, parties, and soirees of all sorts to wish the best for our new brides and grooms to be. As the cousin, groomsman, and /or florist to these events, I have been thrilled to also open my home for two of the three happy couples: once for a “New Year’s Day Party” and another for a “Meet and Greet” for folks to meet the bride and groom.
Traditional New Year’s fare was served for said day’s party, and we toasted the happy couple “best wishes” over collard greens, ham biscuits, black eyed peas, ambrosia, and tassies galore. For the “meet and greet,” I turned to my Mimi’s generation for menu inspiration – a nod to yesteryear to toast to the future.
Here in the Deep South, many showers have been thrown with the same menu for generations. For a new generation who appreciates the ones before, I garnered the spirit of petit fours, ambrosia, tea sandwiches, and spiced nuts to present my guests, my grandmother’s friends and my friends alike, with a spread harkening the classicism of the Old South’s food and flare with a turn towards today’s style… a few traditions with a twist!
Cheese straws… staples of any Southern get together. Now, I love cheese straws, and each town and hamlet across Dixie has their “cheese straw lady” who makes the best. I can name a handful of ladies from Hawkinsville to Newnan and back who can pipe a mean cheese straw, yet for twist on the traditional standby, my friend, Michele Allen, created Parmesan Crisps… light and airy, deep with flavor and perfectly elegant and apropos with my citrus hued theme. Easy to make and beautifully presented, I think these Parmesan Crisps may be the modern version of yesterday’s cheese straw.
Petit Fours… instead of a cake, petit fours make for the perfect, bite sized snack at a shower. Once again, I enlisted the help of Michelle Allen for her famous petit fours. Michelle and her mama, Mrs. Charlene Heidt, make THE BEST petit fours! Gorgeous icing in any color, monogram, or design can be yours for any party! I use them for showers, parties, gifts, and personal dessert splurges any chance I can! The slightest touch of almond makes these succulent and tasty. I’ve told Michelle and Mrs. Charlene that I would gladly dive into a pool of petit fours and eat my way out! The cake itself is delicious and the icing is just right, and I don’t really like icing! I’m more of a cake purist when it comes to frosting and icing, but these little cubed delicacies are a mainstay at this Farmer’s events.
Tea Sandwiches… now these have been stacked on Southern sideboards for centuries! Rooted in England’s tea time lore, the Deep South has claimed the Tea Sandwich as one of its own. Antebellum as porches and columns, tea sandwiches, in various forms, have been the snack of choice for showers and ladies luncheons throughout the years. Another friend of mine, Sara Jo, has the knack for taking a tradition and twisting it for today. Her Tea Sandwiches are prime examples. Creamy pimento cheese on hearty rye, cucumbers and cream cheese on sourdough rounds, chicken salad with black sesame crusted wheat, and slightly sweet honey glazed turkey with cranberry bread are gentle reminders of yesteryear but with a fun take for the present. Besides looking good, these little wonders taste good, and, since we eat with our eyes first, that’s not such a bad duo!
Ambrosia… the food of the gods! If the residents of Mount Olympus feasted on ambrosia, then I truly believe they were well fed. With a citrus theme for my Florida cousin’s shower, ambrosia was totally appropriate. I served it too at my cousin’s New Year’s shower to ring in the New Year with the golden symbolism of health and good fortune for which the fruit stands. Good fruit makes good ambrosia. Sweet “Honeybelle” oranges, pineapple chunks, and lightly sweetened coconut is all you need. A garnish of pomegranate seeds and mint leaves make this simple, highly elegant, and very healthy dish ready for serving. Michelle does a great job with hers and mine is a similar take – no marshmallows, artificial sweeteners, or iridescently red cherries packed in syrup… just good fruit for a divine dessert. Try blood oranges for a further twist or even tangerines, tangelos, mandarin and Satsuma oranges. No need to head to Olympus when fabulous citrus is in season and at hand!
Last but not least, a can of party nuts on a cut glass tray was not present at this Farmer’s party. Pecan and Gorgonzola Sandwiches were the nut du jour, another dish from Michelle’s repertoire. Tangy gorgonzola sandwiched between buttery pecans – deelish! With this year’s pecan crop falling all around us, using these quintessential Southern foodstuffs are quite en vogue, en style, and a la mode from the start to the finish of the meal. Pecan and Gorgonzola sandwiches are a modern update to the ol’ can-o-nuts. Try them at your next gathering!
One can only infer that I don’t hesitate to call in my sources when entertaining, especially from the likes of Michelle and Sara Jo. They too know the importance of hyper-seasonal eating, Southern classics, and charm of older recipes with a twist for today! From this Farmer’s wedding shower filled home to yours, I hope this year boasts as a time to interweave yesteryear into this New Year!