Thursday, March 29, 2012

Reggie's Car and Driver Story

When Reggie was a boy living in Washington, D.C., in the 1960s, his father was a senior member of both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.   One of the perquisites of his father's position was that he was supplied with a car and driver for his sole use during the week.  In addition to picking my father up at our house in Cleveland Park every morning and dropping him off again at the end of the day, the driver—whose name was Henry—would also ferry my father around town to meetings, do minor errands for him, and take him to and pick him up at the airport when he traveled out of town.

This was the Imperial that Henry drove with pride

When Henry wasn't attending to my father's transportation needs, he spent most of his time at the garage of the federal office building in which my father worked, hanging out with the other drivers, and polishing his car, of which he was extraordinarily proud.  And he had every right to be, because it was—in retrospect—a true beauty.  Henry drove an ocean-liner-size, black-and-chrome, four-door 1958 Chrysler Imperial.  For readers who are younger than Reggie, and who may not be familiar with the Imperial brand, it was the Chrysler Corporation's luxury marque brand and was positioned to compete directly with General Motors' Cadillac and Ford's Lincoln brands.  The Imperial's heyday was from the late 1950s through the 1960s.

In addition to driving my father around town on business, Henry and his 1958 Imperial were also available during working hours for my father's personal, non-business related use.  That included ferrying members of my family around town, too, from time to time.  My mother, MD, would occasionally use Henry's services when she went out on an afternoon's shopping trip or to a ladies' social gathering.  She would also sometimes have Henry pick me or my siblings up at school or at friends houses after a play date, at least when she was otherwise engaged.

I doubt that in today's far stricter times such personal use of government property and services would be allowed, but in the mid-1960s it was unexceptional, and expected.  It was, in reality, the norm for quite a few of the children that I went to school with and played with, many of whose fathers were also senior government officials or appointees.  Having a car and driver available to these men and their families was part of the package.

In the fall of 1966, when I was ten years old, I got carried away by having seen a Disney movie called "Almost Angels" about the Vienna Boy's Choir that was shown on Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color, and I auditioned for and was accepted into the Washington National Cathedral's junior boys' choir.  This required attending the choir's weekday practice sessions and Evensong service performances in the Cathedral's Bethlehem Chapel.  Although the Cathedral's campus was but a few blocks from our house in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington, my attendance at the choir's rehearsals and services was complicated by the fact that I was enrolled in a country day school in Virginia at the time, about a forty minute's drive away.  On the days when the choir was not in session I took a school bus to and from the country day school, but on the days when the choir was in session it required that someone pick me up at the school in the mid-afternoon and deliver me to the Cathedral's campus in time to attend the choir's sessions.

The National Cathedral, where I sang as a boy

At first this task fell upon my mother, who came and picked me up on the two afternoons a week that the choir was in session.  However, she soon began to chafe at this commitment and decided that it would be far more convenient and preferable for Henry, my father's driver, to pick me up at the school and drive me to the Cathedral's campus instead.  As a result, Henry and I came to know each other rather well.  Henry called me "Master Reggie" and I called him, well, "Henry."  This was, after all, the mid-1960s, and south of the Mason Dixon line.

I enjoyed being picked up at the school by Henry in the Chrysler Imperial and driving into the city and to the Cathedral campus in the large, shiny black car, sitting in the back seat wearing my school uniform and talking with Henry in the front, who would be wearing his uniform of a black suit, white shirt, black bow tie, and chauffeur's cap.  That is, until Freddy Fonsworth, a rather mean-spirited classmate of mine, saw me being picked up one day.  The next morning, in front of my other classmates, he loudly exclaimed that the car I was being picked up with was grotesquely old and laughably out of style, and that only a "stupid jerk" would ride around in such a car.  I felt the hot flush of embarrassment when he said this.  It had never occurred to me that the car, which was almost nine years old at the time, was so out of date versus what everyone else was driving then (this was back in the day when most affluent Americans kept their cars for no more than two or three years at a time).  But once Freddy pointed it out to me I knew immediately that he was right, and that Henry's Chrysler Imperial was an outmoded, out-of-date, fin-bedecked embarrassment.

I would have preferred at the time that Henry
had driven a more up-to-date model

The next day, when Henry picked me up at the school, I asked him why it was that he drove such an old car, and wouldn't he prefer to drive a newer, more modern model?  He responded, "Why, no, I wouldn't, Master Reggie, because there ain't no finer car than this here Imperial.  They don't make 'em like this anymore.  My manager keeps tryin' to get me to take a new car, but I turn him down every time he asks, because I love this car.  I don't ever want to have to give her up."

Later that evening, when I came home after choir practice, I had the following exchange with my mother:

"Mummy, why don't you pick me up at school anymore, but rather send Henry to pick me up instead?"

"Because it is more convenient for me to have Henry do it.  Why do you ask?"

"Well, I'd rather that you picked me up instead of Henry."

"What?  I thought you of all people would enjoy being driven around in a chauffeured car!  What's the matter with Henry?"

"It's not Henry . . ." I said, trailing off.

"So what's the matter, then?" she asked.

"It's that the car he drives is so old and weird looking, and it embarrasses me to be seen being picked up by it at school."

My mother rolled her eyes and snorted, and said, "For Chrissakes, Reggie, what's the matter with you?  That car is the love of Henry's life and he's very proud of it.  It's a wonderful car!  You should be grateful that you are picked up at school and driven to choir practice by Henry—like some little Pasha.  I am not going to pick you up at school simply because you are embarrassed that Henry doesn't drive a later model car.  Forget it!"

To my eyes today, the 1967 Imperial looks almost as
antique as the 1958 model, except its blander and more boring

And so I did.  But I never quite got over my embarrassment at being picked up at school and dropped off at choir practice by Henry in his enormous 1958 Chrysler Imperial.  And I felt ashamed of myself for feeling that way, when Henry was so obviously proud of his car and his profession as its driver.  By making fun of me in front of my classmates, Freddy Fonsworth had succeeded in sucking all the fun out of my trips with Henry, and I came to no longer enjoy them, as I was convinced that every time I got into the car's back seat I was followed by a chorus of derisive laughter from my schoolmates as they saw me drive away in the ancient, contemptible Chrysler Imperial.

I lasted only a year in the junior choir, before dropping out and resuming my normal school-day routine and traveling back and forth to school on its regularly scheduled school bus runs.  I only rarely was driven by Henry thereafter, usually in the company of my mother or my father.  Within a year or two my father left the Johnson administration and returned to private practice, which brought to an end his days of having a car and driver assigned to him to ferry him and his family members about town.

Today, when I see school children at Manhattan's private schools being picked up by drivers after school in black shiny cars, I recall my own experience and think how fortunate I was to have been regularly picked up at school by Henry in the afternoons when I was in the Cathedral's junior choir.  And I kick myself for not appreciating at the time how fortunate I was, and that there would come a time all too soon in my life when I would only dream of having such a car and driver at my disposal.

I got a chuckle out of the headline to this advertisement!

Particularly if it were a triple-mint condition, perfectly maintained, gleaming black and chrome 1958 Chrysler Imperial, with Henry in the front seat prepared to take me wherever I wanted to go . . .

All vintage Imperial advertising courtesy of the Online Imperial Club; the vintage postcard is from Reggie's own collection.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Duncan Phyfe (or Equivalent) at Darlington House

When furnishing the principal rooms at Darlington House we have aimed to do so in a manner appropriate to their early-nineteenth-century architecture, a style that is today known as Federal or neoclassical.  We have sought out works from the period's leading cabinetmakers based in New York City and Albany, New York, the cities where the original occupants of the house would have shopped when furnishing their stylish and sophisticated rooms in New York's Hudson River Valley.

A photograph of a serving table in our collection
acquired from Bernard & S. Dean Levy in New York City
Image courtesy of same

Although we have examples of furniture that bear the labels of several well-known cabinetmakers of the period, we also have pieces of furniture that—while unlabeled—were sold to us by dealers of the highest reputations as being "from the workshop of Duncan Phyfe or an equally competent workshop."  As many readers of this blog well know, Duncan Phyfe (1768-1854) was one of this country's most elite cabinetmakers of the first half of the nineteenth century, rivaled at the time in New York only by Charles-Honoré Lannuier (1779-1819) and the brothers Michael Allison (1773-1855) and Richard Allison (1780-1825).

A similar serving table attributed to Duncan Phyfe in
Furniture Masterpieces of Duncan Phyfe
by Charles Over Cornelius, 1922

Phyfe's large workshop produced a prodigious output of superlative work that was scattered far and wide in the young nation.  Although Phyfe produced furniture well into the 1840s, he is rightly and best known for the earlier furniture his workshop crafted in a highly restrained, neoclassical style.  It is in those first two decades of the nineteenth century that we concentrate our collecting at Darlington House.

The handsome catalog from
the Metropolitan Museum's current exhibition
"Duncan Phyfe: Master Cabinetmaker in New York"
Photograph by Boy Fenwick

Only a small fraction of Phyfe's workshop's output was labeled, much to the bedevilment of collectors, dealers, and curators seeking verified attribution of his output.  The current landmark exhibition of Duncan Phyfe's work at The Metropolitan Museum in New York contains examples of furniture that are labeled Duncan Phyfe, documented as having been produced by Duncan Phyfe, and attributed to his workshop.

A mahogany tilt-top stand in our collection
at Darlington House
acquired from Thomas Schwenke, Inc., of
Woodbury, Connecticut
Photograph by Boy Fenwick

Reggie understands that there is a lot of furniture in the market attributed to Duncan Phyfe that has no basis for being so, but he also knows that there is furniture out there where a credible case can be made for such an attribution.  Although he would like to believe that the pieces in his collection that are possibly attributed to Duncan Phyfe were produced in the master cabinetmaker's workshop, he recognizes that some or all of the pieces he owns may well not have been made by Phyfe.

Shop and Warehouse of Duncan Phyfe
168-172 Fulton Street, New York City,
unidentified artist, circa 1817-1820
Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art
Image courtesy of same

What is clear in examining each such piece in Reggie's collection, though, is that if it was not made in Duncan Phyfe's workshop it was made by a cabinetmaker of equivalent or nearly equivalent expertise who was closely following—if not outright copying—forms produced by Phyfe.

A pedestal-end mahogany sideboard, circa 1810,
in the collection of Boscobel Restoration, Inc.,
Garrison-on-Hudson, New York
Image courtesy of same

One of the first pieces of furniture we bought for Darlington House is a mahogany sideboard, circa 1810, that is nearly identical to one in the collection at Boscobel Restoration.  That collection was assembled for the house in the late 1970s by Berry Tracy, who was then Curator-in-Charge of American Decorative Arts in the American Wing of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Title page of the 1810 price book, once owned
by Duncan Phyfe, in the collection of
The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
New York, New York
Image courtesy of same

A photograph of an unattributed but similar sideboard is featured in the catalog for the Met's exhibition.  The same form of sideboard appeared on the cover of the June 1810 Revised Pricebook for Manufacturing Cabinet and Chair Work that is on display in the show and that once belonged Duncan Phyfe.  Also, a 1930 photograph of a nearly identical sideboard (current whereabouts unknown), documented as having been supplied by Duncan Phyfe to a Mr. William Bayard, is in the Met's catalogue.

The William Bayard Duncan Phyfe sideboard, 1807,
published in The Antiquarian, March 1930
Image courtesy of The Mteropolitan Museum of Art

Although our sideboard does not bear Duncan Phyfe's label, it—along with the others shown here—is an example of what reputable dealers can credibly be expected to attribute to the workshop of Duncan Phyfe or an equally competent workshop, such as that of Michael Allison, whose workshop produced labeled examples of the sideboard, one of which is in the collection of the New York State Museum, at Albany.

Cover label on the catalogue of the exhibition
at The Metropolitan Museum of Art,
Yale University Press, 2011
Photograph by Boy Fenwick

For those of my readers who appreciate the cabinetwork of Duncan Phyfe, I highly recommend a visit to the current show at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where it will run through May 6th.  It then travels to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston for its final stop, where it will run from June 20th through September 11th.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

The Perfect Cocktail Jigger

As I wrote in my previous essay, Reggie is partial to the joys of a gin martini.  Reggie is not only fond of gin, Dear Reader, but of spirits in general, and he enjoys consuming such liquids regularly, if not daily.  Although he adores the imbibition of spirits, he is careful to regulate the amounts he pours down his gullet by measuring his portions in a silver jigger designed specifically for said purpose.

The perfect cocktail jigger

In his opinion, there is no more delightful jigger with which to measure (and in Reggie's case limit) the pouring of devil booze into one's glass, and ultimately down one's throat, than the vintage silver "STOPLIGHT JIGGER" once made by the Gorham Manufacturing Company, and shown in the above photograph.

Standing but two and three-eighths inches tall, the silver jigger is conveniently divided into three portions of one ounce, two and a half ounces, and three and a half ounces, and provides a most useful and clever correlation with a street stoplight.  The smallest portion, identified by an image of an enameled green stoplight, is equivalent to a single shot ("Go ahead!"); the middle portion, with a yellow stoplight, is equivalent to a double ("Careful!"); and the largest portion, with a red stoplight, is hefty enough to get one snockered when administered in a single dose ("Stop, you fool!").

Reggie has been a fan of the Gorham silver stoplight jigger for many years, having first acquired one several decades ago.  We keep (and faithfully use) one at Darlington House and another in our city apartment.  The one at Darlington can be seen sitting on a cocktail tray featured in my Lenten Ashes post last year.

Reggie likes the stoplight jigger enough that he bought two more of them this past weekend at the large antiques show he attended in New York.  Now he has on hand said jiggers to give as gifts to fortunate friends when circumstances call for doing so.

The pair of silver stoplight jiggers I picked up
at the Pier Show last weekend

The Gorham Manufacturing Company is today but an unfortunate shadow of its former self and long ago ceased making its stoplight jiggers.  However, these delightful little measuring devices can readily be found at antiques shows and online, and in Reggie's view are a worthy (and appreciated) addition to any household's cocktail tray.

Photographs by Boy Fenwick

Monday, March 19, 2012

Thank Goodness I Gave Up Such Foolishness . . .

. . . as giving up martinis for Lent this year.

As some of my Dear Readers may remember, last year I struggled with forgoing the pleasure of a daily gin martini in observation of Lent.  Not so this year, I'm relieved to relate.  At my (advancing) age there aren't all that many vices that I have left in my much-deplenished arsenal, so the prospect of giving up one of the few remaining ones that I have was sinply too much for me to bear.

My "new" vintage Reed & Barton cocktail shaker,
taken in front of a portrait in our city livingroom

Not only am I no longer all that interested in most other vices (that was then, this is now), but the physical toll (not to mention the impact on one's dignity) of engaging in such activities (particularly in public) these days simply doesn't have the appeal for me that it once did.  Ah, well.

But I still drink alcohol (and coffee for that matter), and I plan on continuing to do so until it isn't pleasurable for me anymore.  And I can't imagine that happening any time soon, either—absent an unwelcomed intervention of some sort (perish the thought!).

This past Saturday, while attending a large antiques show at Pier 94 in New York City with Boy and his divine assistant, Nancie Peterson, I found this charming silver-plated Reed & Barton cocktail shaker.  Priced very attractively, it was probably made in the 1950s and is whimsically constructed in the shape of an old-fashioned milk can.  Which is entirely fitting, I might add, as an ice-cold gin martini (very light on the vermouth, please) is—as they say—mothers milk to this particular writer.

All the usual suspects that one expects to see out at such shows were there, including well-known decorators, magazine editors, fellow collectors, and smart antiques dealers shopping for inventory.  It was fun stopping and speaking with a number of them, albeit briefly and in passing, as none of us had much time to gab, since we were all there determined to hunt for treasures among the rather mostly dross-like offerings.  One must move fast at these shows, right out of the opening gate, as the offerings tend to get picked over very quickly by eagle-eyed, early-bird arrivals.

The underside of the shaker still retains
its original label

Fortunately I found this cocktail shaker on one of my early rounds of the pier, and I scooped it up with nary a second thought nor a dither.  As I said, one must move fast under such circumstances.  What a delightful and welcome addition this shaker is to my small and frequently used collection.  With but a little bit of silver polish and a modest amount of elbow grease it will soon gleam anew.

Tell me, Dear Reader, do you have a favorite cocktail shaker?

Next: the perfect cocktail jigger

Photographs by Boy Fenwick

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The Great Staffordshire Leaf Bleach

Today's essay is a "before" and "after" story.

As you may recall from an earlier post, Dear Reader, this past Boxing Day Boy and I bestirred ourselves for an annual post-Christmas visit to a large (and admittedly rather dismal) antiques groupe shoppe across the river in pursuit of sale-priced vintage Christmas ornaments and any other flotsam and jetsam we might serendipitously find at suitably bargain-basement prices.

Our little leaf-shape dish
in its "as found" discolored state

While in said shoppe, in addition to finding a well-priced box of vintage ornaments, Boy spied and bought an early nineteenth-century green feather-edge creamware leaf-shape dish similar to several already in our collection at Darlington House.

One uses common hydrogen peroxide,
readily and inexpensively found at any drug store

As was shared in the earlier essay, the "new" creamware dish that Boy found was dirty and discolored, almost brown.  He ultimately decided to buy it, after a little dithering, because he suspected the dish would benefit from a hydrogen peroxide bath to restore it to its original intended whitness.  As readers of this blog may know, hydrogen peroxide is the preferred medium for benignly removing discolorations from china.  One must never use chlorine bleach for such purpose, Dear Reader, as it is far too harsh and can irreparably damage the china.

Don't you find Boy's rendition of a
skull and crossbones suitably frightening?

One must fully submerge the discolored piece in hydrogen peroxide (full strength, right out of the bottle) in a covered plastic container for a minimum of twenty-four hours, and up to a week or more, in order to allow the liquid sufficient time to extract the discoloration out of the body of the piece.

One week later, the peroxide has absorbed
much of the leaf's discoloration

If the piece is rather discolored, as our little leaf dish was, it will turn the clear liquid yellow, as can be observed in the preceding photograph.

After its bath, the china is then
heated in a warmed electric oven

Once the piece has been soaked, place it for ten minutes in an electric oven (but not a gas oven, as that supposedly can lead to an explosion) that has been pre-heated to two hundred degrees Fahrenheit (and not higher).  Warming the piece at that temperature and length of time will bring the remaining discoloration to the surface of the piece in the form of tiny brown crystals.  Once the piece has cooled to room temperature, you can easily wash away the crystals with soapy water and a soft brush.

Our little leaf-shape dish, now white as snow

If the piece of china one is seeking to clean is particularly discolored—as was the case with our little dish—it may require repeating the soaking/heating/washing process several times before the china's discoloration entirely vanishes.

See!  The little leaf dish in the foreground is
now as white as its companions in our collection

So, Dear Reader, when you are out and about at yard sales or antiques malls and come across a piece of pretty, albeit discolored or crazed, bit of china, do not reject it out of hand.  For, with but a little bit of planning and effort, you can usually restore it to its original "as new" condition.

Of course this doesn't apply to all pieces of discolored or crazed china one finds, Dear Reader.  No, some of it (or much of it) may be too far gone or simply not of a quality worth the effort to attempt to clean it.  But out-of-the-way places can yield special finds, such as the leaf dish that Boy found on Boxing Day, on which such an investment of time and effort is indeed well spent.

All photographs by Boy Fenwick

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Divine Diane Dorrans Saeks

A number of years ago, before Reggie dared test the waters of bloggerdom with his silly scribbles, there was a luminary in the blogosphere that he followed as a regular reader and sometime commenter.  To call her a "blogger" is a meagre understatement, for she is far more than that—she is a whirling dervish of creativity, style, and elegance, and a person of the most exquisite and sublime taste imaginable.  She is a sparkling beacon in the design world, a jet-setter of the most rarified sort, and an author of more than twenty iconic design books.  Her name is Diane Dorrans Saeks.  She can be found at her marvelously absorbing blog The Style Saloniste, as a contributor in the pages of shelter and lifestyle magazines, and on the bookshelves of virtually anyone who follows and is interested in the world of design.

Diane Dorran Saeks at one of her many book signing parties

Back when I was still but but a commenter on others' blogs, Ms. Saeks urged me to start up my own blog, and she encouraged my rather mundane efforts at it, confident that I could do better and one day be something of worth (or at least amusement) to the 'sphere.  I count Ms. Saeks—along with Mrs. Blandings, Emily Evans Eerdmans, and the Blushing Hostess—among my earliest champions and as someone to whom I will always be indebted for giving me the courage to strike out on my own and follow in the shadows of her vaunted and very well-shod blogging footsteps.

Ms. Saeks' blurb in the current issue of House Beautiful

Imagine my surprise and rapturous pleasure to find Ms. Saeks' quote in the current (March) issue of House Beautiful in which she notes the blog you are now reading, Dear Reader, as one of her "current obsessions."

Reggie is all agog and astonished as such an accolade, and he returns it with lavish praise and blushing thanks to Ms. Saeks, a beacon in the worlds of design, elegance, chic, and grace.

Thank you, Diane Dorrans Saeks.  I am truly honored and grateful for such approbation.  You are, in a word, divine.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Most Pleasing Receipt of Charleston Receipts

Several weeks ago our friends Jasper Lambert and Francesca Montmore spent the weekend with us at Darlington House.  They arrived bearing gifts, as all well-mannered houseguests do.

One of the gifts they arrived with was a vintage copy of Charleston Receipts, a recipe book compiled by the Junior League of Charleston, South Carolina.  Originally published in 1950, Charleston Receipts is the oldest Junior League cookbook still continuously in print.  No changes have been made to the original 1950 version of the cookbook, except for some minor editing and reformatting over the years.  The version we received was printed in 1993, the year of the cookbook's twenty-eighth printing.  The 350-page book contains 750 recipes, sketches of regional interest by Charleston artists, and numerous Gullah verses.  Gullah is the Creole language spoken by what the book refers to rather quaintly as "Afro Americans," who are the descendants of slaves and live in the Carolina Lowcountry.

Reggie has a soft spot for cookbooks published by charitable organizations, churches, and schools to raise money for worthy causes.  The cookbook Francesca arrived with is a delightful and appreciated addition to his collection of a dozen or more such volumes, including several others published by other Junior League chapters.

Here is how the Junior League of Charleston describes their cookbook on its website:
Called the Bible of all Junior League cookbooks, Charleston Receipts features recipes that have served Charleston hostesses well for decades and is considered a “must” in any cookbook collection. Described by Food & Wine as “reflecting the nostalgia for the Old-South that prevailed among low-country aristocrats during the postwar (Civil War) era,” Charleston Receipts features a recipe collection as colorful and timeless as the area that it represents. The recipes were influenced by the family cooks, many of whom spoke the Gullah dialect, a centuries-old Atlantic Creole language that is illustrated and preserved throughout the pages of Charleston Receipts. For its outstanding preservation of local and regional culinary customs and its benefits to the local community, Charleston Receipts was inducted into the Walter S. McIlhenny Community Cookbooks Hall of Fame in 1990.

As I have written before, our friend Francesca Montmore is a Charleston aristocrat of ancient lineage, formidable brains, and superlative beauty.  She gave us Charleston Receipts because she knew that we would appreciate it, given how much we enjoy cooking, material culture, and all of the stories she has told us about her colorful forebears and about growing up in Charleston.  Charleston Receipts features a half dozen or more recipes contributed by Francesca's great-aunts and her grandmother, and she grew up eating a steady diet of food prepared from it.  Needless to say, although the recipes for Charleston Receipts were provided by the good ladies of Charleston, it was their Gullah cooks who actually prepared the dishes.

So, why do they call it Receipts, instead of Recipes?  Here's how it is explained in the book:

              Throughout the book, as you will see,
              We never mention recipe,—
              The reason being that we felt,
              (Though well aware how it is spelt!),
              That it is modern and not meet
              To use in place of old receipt
              To designate time-honored dishes
              According to ancestral wishes.

Charleston Receipts contains chapters devoted to beverages, canapés, seafood, hominy and rice, hot breads, and the usual assortments of meats, starches, vegetables, and desserts.  Some of the more noteworthy recipes include "St. Ceclia Punch," "Benne Seed 'Cocktailers,'" "Company Oyster Stew," "Hampton Plantation Shrimp Pilau," "Baked Calf's Head," "Jellied Chicken Loaf," "Aunt Julie Gadsden's Egg Soufflé," "Plantation Plum Pudding," "Magnolia Gardens' Pancake Cookies," and "Mrs. Fairfax Montague's Old Time Sponge Cake."  All are redolent of Old-South plantation days and cotillions on the Charleston Battery.

The recipes are straightforward renditions of what today we call comfort food, relying extensively on ample amounts of butter, cheese, mayonnaise, bacon, sugar, heavy cream, and other delicious, calorie-laden ingredients.  One of my favorite chapters is "Short Cuts," made up entirely of dishes that can be quickly prepared and extended, if needed (often with a can or two of cream of celery soup), when extra guests arrive unexpectedly, much to the Gullah cook's exasperation.

The Charleston Junior League cookbook joins other Junior League
cookbooks in Reggie's collection from Louisiana and Colorado

Reggie is an admirer of the Junior League and has much respect for its members, exclusively women, who give selflessly and generously of their time and financial support to the betterment of the communities in which they live.  According to the foreward of Charleston Receipts, the Junior League of Charleston is "committed to promoting volunteerism and to improving the community through effective action and leadership of trained volunteers.  Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.  The Junior League of Charleston, Inc., reaches out to women of all races, religious and national origins who demonstrate an interest in and commitment to volunteerism."

Reggie's own mother, MD, was an active member of the Junior League of Detroit as a young woman, when Reggie was a little boy.  MD found her experience in the Junior League rewarding and satisfying, and she was rightly proud of the League's contribution to improving the lives of those less fortunate than she.  She also acquired much of her childrens' wardrobes during her weekly volunteer work at the League's Nearly New Shoppe in Grosse Pointe, where she would comb through the gently worn offerings and bring home selections for us to try on, at prices that were a fraction of what they would have cost new at the stores that originally sold them, such as Best & Company and the J. L. Hudson Company.

By selling copies of Charleston Receipts over the years, the Junior League of Charleston has raised more than a million dollars, all of which has been used to fund programs in and around Charleston to benefit the community.  It is a worthy organization, indeed.

Reggie is most grateful for having been given a copy of Charleston Receipts by his dear friend Francesca Montmore.  He looks forward to consulting it and cooking from it for years to come.

Reggie urges you to consider buying your own copy of Charleston Receipts, Dear Reader, which can be ordered directly from the Junior League of Charleston here.

Photographs by Boy Fenwick
Related Posts with Thumbnails