Southern ladies love a club. Not a club with flashing lights, pulsating music, and fruity cocktails but a club where they join other ladies who like to dress up, meet, gossip, and do whatever it is that ladies do in a club.
Southern ladies reach a point in their life when nature calls and they have to join a club. It’s in their DNA. It’s instinct and it’s been bred into the southern female of the species from generation to generation. Just as the English Setter is born to point and the mama bear must travel down from the Alaskan mountain to load up on salmon for the winter, a Southern lady has to join a club. Sometimes they answer the call of the styled and join several.
My hometown of Hattiesburg, Miss. has a Junior Auxiliary club. My wife was in the Junior Auxiliary and might be the only member in the history of that organization to have been held back a grade. Jackson, Miss. has a Junior League. I am not sure of the difference between a league and an auxiliary, but I can tell you that there are a lot of meetings involved with both.
My mother was in a few clubs, though she was a schoolteacher and didn’t have a lot of time for meetings and the like. My grandmother, however, was the queen of clubs. Her generation was the club set. They actually had a club whose sole purpose was to talk about, and evaluate, the other clubs they were in.
My grandmother chaired the garden club. I’m not sure what they did at their meetings, but I don’t think any of those little old ladies ever picked up a trowel or a hoe. It’s hard to dig in the dirt while you’re sipping tea and eating little sandwiches with the crusts cut off.
The same grandmother belonged to a sewing circle, though I never saw anyone ever thread a needle. Mostly they drank tea and ate little sandwiches with the crusts cut off. She was in a bridge club, too, and they did play bridge, but they did so while sipping tea and eating little sandwiches with the crusts cut off. She was also a member of the Sunshine Club, something called the Study Club, the Lydian Circle (a group of Methodist women who produced cookbooks), and I seem to remember something called the Galaxy Club— Eunice St. John was into “clubbing” way before the disco era popularized that term.
It was a club-filled existence. In her heyday, my grandmother would attend two or three meetings a week. They wore hats and gloves and used their fine china (which they called “china”), sterling silver (“silver”), and their fine linen napkins and placemats (“linens”). In addition to the aforementioned little tea sandwiches with the crusts cut off there was coffee and petit fours. In the latter days, roll call became an entertaining portion of the club or circle meeting as no one could remember which of the members were alive or dead.
“I think she moved to California.”
“No Eunice, she’s dead.”
In the pecking order of ladies clubs, The Daughters of the American Revolution and the Colonial Dames are the zenith. I’m not sure what they do in their meetings, but if you hang around long enough, I’ll bet someone will hand you a little tea sandwich with the crust cut off. My grandmother was some type of grand poobah in the DAR (which should be pronounced in a very drawn-out drawl “dee-aaa-ah”) and my mother was on the board of directors of the Colonia Dames. Had I been a girl, there would have been no saving me from club purgatory.
I don’t know the difference between a “club” and a “circle” but it seems that churches have more circles than clubs. When I was a kid, my church had about 15 weekly circle meetings listed in the bulletin. There is now one. They— like everyone else— are now breaking their members into “small groups” which doesn’t sound as cool as a circle, and they probably serve donuts and chicken tenders instead of little tea sandwiches with the crusts cut off.
There are game clubs, too. Bunko is popular these days. You can bet no one is sipping tea at a bunko meeting. I called my wife’s monthly game night meeting, “drunko.”
Last week I attended my first ladies club meeting. This was in no way, shape, or form a little old ladies club. It’s a club that was formed from another club. They call themselves The Saucy Sustainers— a small group of Jackson Junior League alums who formed a book club of sorts. They choose one cookbook every year and each lady chooses a recipe from that book and brings a different dish to the monthly meeting. This year they chose “An Italian Palate” and they invited Wyatt Waters and me to join them for lunch.
Our host, Sara Williams, told us to be there at noon, and we both arrived promptly. The ladies had been there for an hour preparing the food. Italian wine was flowing and someone had found the chapter with Limoncello in it. It was a very festive atmosphere. There were no sandwiches at this club meeting. They were eating manicotti, spinach flan, fig cake, various pasta dishes, and several other Italian recipes from our book. It was a blast. No talk of gardening or sewing— just food, fellowship, and fun.
If I were a woman, and nature called me to join a club, The Saucy Sustainers would be right up my alley— no hats, no gloves, and no little tea sandwiches with the crusts cut off anywhere in sight.
Baked Cheese Treats
1 large loaf French bread
1 /2 pound sharp cheddar cheese
1 /2 pound white cheddar
3 /4 cup mayonnaise
1 /4 cup sour cream
3 Tbl whipping cream
1 tsp Creole seasoning
2 Tbl minced green onions
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbl minced red onion
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 /2 tsp black pepper
1 /4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Remove crust from French bread. Cut bread into 1 1 /2-inch thick circles, then cut the circles in half creating half moon shaped slices of bread.
In a mixing bowl, combine remaining ingredients (except parmesan cheese) and mix well. Top the pieces of bread evenly with cheese mixture and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
Refrigerate for 30 minutes, or until ready to serve, or freeze until ready to use.
Sprinkle the bread with the shredded parmesan and bake five minutes.
Can be held warm for 20-30 minutes.
Yield: 30-36 treats