I was invited to Texas for the weekend by my bestie, Selene, and I have to tell you when Texans say “Go big or go home”, boy howdy, do they mean it! Not only was it all the classes reunion but also the 100th anniversary of her school, a prestigious all-girls school in the heart of Dallas. The first event was brunch and I knew it would be special and all that is lovely but when we pulled up to the valet parking at the school I knew I was mistaken. Based on the stunning, fit women gracefully exiting their shiny, mile long Mercedes on long, lean legs I could see this was going to be over the top and in a really good way. We all strolled in together; heads held high with that feminine confidence sexy, expensive heels give you. Entering the mammoth tent where the brunch was to be held we stopped in astonishment. The tent was cavernous, HUGE, and outfitted with industrial sized air conditioners to keep these Southern beauties happy.
There were over 1000 women when we arrived and by the time we sat down there were 1500. Each graduating class had their own tables, two, three, four depending on the class number. All around us were screams of joy and excitement as women found classmates they hadn’t seen in years and years. While Selene was being bombarded with hugs and the now ubiquitous scream of “Owe mah GOSH!! Ah cain’t believe yore hee-yur!!!!! Ah hadn’t seen you in a million yee-urs!!” I thought, “Well. I’d better get going.” I knew all this would just swirl around Selene in a fast and pretty jumble and all of a sudden, just like your wedding….BOOM!! It would be over. Phone in hand I started clicking away; taking photos of the tables, the flowers, Selene with her friends, the gargantuan overhead screens each with slideshows of students past and surreptitious photos of our guest speaker, Law-ruh.
Yes, gentle reader. Our guest speaker was the lovely LAURA BUSH!!!
After I had taken 237 photos and we were invited to be seated I stared at the best part of MY morning. Our first course was tomato aspic along side a small butter lettuce salad. It was exquisite and I am a fool for tomato aspic. Shining like an oval ruby on my plate, I couldn’t wait to dive in. Kathy, one of the girls at our table, said to her table neighbor, Carol, “Owe mah gosh! Tuh-may-tuh a-yes-pic! Ah luuuuuve tuh-may-tuh a-yes-pic! Mama used to make it awl the tahm!” My kind a girl. And my kind of salad. In the South aspic is considered a salad. With temperatures often soaring into the hundreds, the oppressive heat and heavy wool cloak of humidity can really beat a girl down. Cool, savory aspic is just what the doctor ordered. I.Love.It.
This is the recipe Mama used for her luncheons. Mama never actually made it; our beloved Frankie made and served it. The recipe is from Charleston Receipts. Frankie never put the celery in it. Something about the two textures not being compatible. But it’s delicious and pretty and since you rarely see aspic served don’t you think it’s time to resurrect it?
yield: 4 servings
- 2 envelopes plain gelatine
- Few Bay leaves
- 6 whole pepper corns
- 1 large, sweet onion sliced
- 4 cups tomato juice
- 2-3 ribs celery, finely chopped (optional)
- 2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
- salt to taste
- Soak gelatine in 1/2 cup cold water
- Put other ingredients in saucepan and bring to a boil, simmer for 15 minutes. The juice will reduce to a pint.
- Add gelatine and vinegar.
- Wipe out individual or large mold lightly with salad oil, it makes it much easier to turn out.
- Strain mixture and put in tin or glass mold.
- Chill overnight.
- Serve with maybe a tablespoon of shredded mozzarella and a basil leaf or two scattered on top. Marinated artichoke hearts marry very well with this. As does a small butter leaf with a teaspoonful of pesto mayonnaise.