Back to My Roots

Last weekend I had the pleasure of leaving town for 24 hours to attend the 40th birthday party of my best friend from college. Like me, she’s a child from the seventies, so she threw herself a disco-themed party, replete with disco balls, strobe lights, three hours of the best tunes from the era, and three costume changes (Hollywood starlet, Wonder Woman, and Mrs. Robinson).

My gift to my friend was to prepare an appetizer table full of delicacies from circa 1975, if I may be so liberal as to call them that. It’s amazing really, that most of us grew up at all, given what we were eating back then. During a hilarious phone call a week before the party, we came up with this menu:

  • Ripple chips with sour cream and french onion soup mix dip
  • Celery sticks stuffed with green olive cream cheese
  • Deviled eggs
  • Skippy and Fluff tea sandwiches on Wonder Bread
  • Bowls of candy from the era including candy dots on paper and Pop Rocks
  • RC Cola, Orange Crush, and Fresca

Some of the items we nixed for ease and lack of keeping-warm abilities included pigs-in-blankets and fondue. I must say, I regret not serving the port wine cheese spread or Cheese Whiz canapes. The added color would have been pleasing.

As far as my experience of making this food, it was harder than I expected, even the only thing I cooked was the eggs, (which thanks to an immediate and thorough soak in cold water, were peeled with ease) and the seasoning was limited to the egg filling (salt, pepper, and a dash of paprika on top).

I was truly flummoxed, however, by the tea sandwiches, which I didn’t think to test ahead of time. If I was making a contemporary version of these, I’d have chosen a firm white bread like Pepperidge Farm, but we were remaining true to the times, so we went with the ultra-soft variety. I discovered that spreading the marshmallow Fluff was very hard to do without ripping the bread. To keep the bread intact, it had to go on too thick.

The peanut butter was easier, what with it being all laced with hydrogenated oil. I opted to leave the crusts on since the bread ripped when I tried to remove them. I stacked the sandwiches on a tray, only to discover about 15 minutes before leaving for the party that the over-filled ones had slid apart and leaked Fluff onto each other and the tray below. AAAHHHH!

I was forced to sacrifice about half of them in order to create a new platter with only the “pretty” ones. This time I stuck a toothpick in each one to keep the bread together, and left them in a single layer.

I had thought this job would be a no-brainer for a professional chef like me, and hadn’t put that much thought into it. But alas, planning and attention to detail must be paid to all food for it to turn out well. The guests were amused by the spread, and more importantly, they ate most of it. Maybe it tasted good, or maybe they were just hungry from all that dancing.