Recently on Facebook one of my high school friend posted a “You know you’re from Ft. Lauderdale if…” and mentioned a children’s clothing store here which, by the way, is STILL here! It was every mother’s favorite and the #1 hated store of many little girls. My mother was one of those ladies. I was one of those little girls. When I was really little my dream of party dresses was pink and frothy. With layers of tulle and organza in the palest of pinks. That dream went hand-in-hand with my baton twirling dream. When I told Mama I wanted baton twirling lessons instead of tennis lessons, well, let’s just say she looked at me as if I had two heads. She’d smile and then promptly reply, “We’ll see. One day.” Which I learned meant, “Oh, yeah. You can have that… when donkeys fly.” I wanted to spin and twirl that baton just like the girls in the Miss America pageant; throwing the baton high, High, HIGH in the air and tossing my head back with a satisfied, confidant smile on my face when it came spiraling down like a flash of light and I CAUGHT IT. But that wasn’t to be. Formal ballet classes from a Russian ex-ballerina were the closest I would ever get to any kind of stardom. So when the day came that Mama took inventory of my closet and made the announcement, “Cielo! You need another party dress!” I was sucked into the magical vortex of fairyland pink one more time. We got into the car and as we drove down Las Olas those visions of creamy pink organza and rosy silks swirling around my head. And then we pulled into the parking lot of that hateful store, Flora Ottimer. God, but I hated that place! It was so…white. I don’t think any of the little girls I knew liked it either. It was just one more bitter disappointment we all had to endure. We had resigned ourselves to the daily school and play clothes picked out by our mothers but a party dress was altogether different. I mean, a girl can dream, right? There were two women who worked in that store. Jo, who was friendly and nice. I always implored the Virgin Mary, (she’s a girl…she’d understand), that Jo be working the days we went in. She understood the dream of every little girl who wanted to be swathed in miles of frosting pink tulle. The kind of foamy, fluffy 100% sheer polyester that would go up in flames in a heartbeat if someone even walked by you with a lit cigarette. Yes, sweet Jo was on our side. She knew we would NEVER see that dream come true but she was so damn nice about it that it almost made it okay. And then there was Betty. We all hated her. She was thin and mean. She had a flat, short haircut…like a boy. She took pleasure in our disappointment. But worse she always, always, ALWAYS timed it so that right when you were down to your panties and socks, just sticking your toe into some hideous dress SHE’D YANK BACK THE DRESSING ROOM CURTAIN so everyone could see you and say, “Everything all right in there?” She’d just stand there with the dressing room curtain pulled wide open and stare at you with a little smile on her tight, pinched face. When we were older we called her “Betty Bitch” under our breath. In retrospect I do believe she batted for the other side.
Anyway, in spite of all the ominous signs I held on to my hope. We walked in thru the back, everyone did, enveloped in the welcome chill of air conditioning. And that’s when it happened. Mama looked up at the wall and gasped with wonder and excitement. “Pink, pink, pink!”, I furiously hoped. Then I looked up. “Oh, sweet Jesus”, I thought. “What fresh hell is this?” Well, maybe I didn’t think those exact words but I certainly felt them! There, displayed on the wall, spread out in all it’s ghastly glory was THE ugliest dress I had ever seen. Truly. Although now I realize it was one of my nicest dresses but I sure didn’t think that at the time. It was red wool, short-sleeved with a maybe one inch band of red and green plaid wool around the bottom of the sleeve. The dress had a jewel neckline with tobacco colored leather piping. The front sported two pockets, the flaps of the pockets in the red and green plaid each with the thin leather piping AND EACH WITH A BUTTON COVERED IN WOVEN BROWN LEATHER. I know it cost a small fortune. It was an absolute classic. But these were not the clothes Barbie wore. Noooo. These were the clothes Caroline Kennedy wore. Lots of Florence Eiseman outfits. Cotton knit sundresses and short sets with a sail boat sown on the front. Or an applique of a piece of watermelon with black seeds studded in the bright fruit. That was our summer wear. Winter would have us in cardigans over cotton turtle necks splendidly adorned with tiny, stupid, little dogs or birds, corduroy pants, and solid, plain leather shoes. Winter formal wear consisted of wool or flannel dresses in Black Watch, Royal Stewart or MacLachlan plaids, white tights and black, patent leather Mary Janes. At summer parties one might find us in a dotted Swiss, Pima cotton or seersucker party dress.
Well, I never got baton lessons, I never got to take jazz or tap, I never got to have a TV dinner and I never got to wear long, drippy earrings or a long, flowy BLACK lace veil to mass like my mother and aunts. We never had hotdogs and the Charles Chip truck never, NOT ONCE, pulled into our driveway. I also never got my pink, cotton candy dress. Life is like that. This is what we got for dinner instead of frozen pizza and frozen french fries.
yield: serves 4
- 1 large chicken, quartered. Ask you butcher to quarter it for you if you’d rather not do it yourself. And don’t get a hen. The only thing tougher than a hen is the leather on that dress!
- 1 lemon cut into eighths.
- 2 1-pound bags organic carrots, peeled, quartered and then each piece cut again lengthwise.
- 1 large onion, peeled, cut into eighths, root and stem cut off
- 1 head garlic, cloves peeled and rough chopped
- 1 good drizzle of olive oil
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- Pre-heat oven to 350°.
- Spray a large baking pan with non-stick spray.
- Scatter the carrots, onions, lemon and garlic evenly over the entire pan.
- Place chicken over vegetables and lemon and drizzle olive oil covering chicken. Use your hands to rub the olive oil in if needed.
- Scatter thyme, salt and pepper over the pan and bake in oven for a good hour and a half.
- Baste chicken and vegetables with the pan juices every 25 minutes or so.
- For the last 20-25 minutes let the chicken roast without basting so the skin crisps up.
- Chicken is done when the juices run clear or the internal temperature registers 160°-165°.