Prom season is here.
For the past three years I have served a formal dinner to large groups of my daughter’s friends in our backyard. The first year we hosted a prom dinner I was a little troubled. The restaurateur in me was wondering why these kids weren’t going out to eat— whether at my place or another restaurant. Then I thought back to my senior prom. My date and I didn’t go anywhere for dinner. To my knowledge, no one did.
In 1979, I, like my friends, drove to my date’s house, had the long, nervous walk to the front door, followed by the awkward sitting in the living room with the father holding a three-pound corsage, waiting, waiting, waiting for my date, who I suspected was hanging out in her bedroom with her sister making me wait on purpose.
This was followed by the pinning on of the boutonniere, the inept placement of the three-pound corsage, and the walk back to the car under the father’s glaring stare. We then drove to someone’s home to have our photograph taken, and then to the dance. Once the dance was over, that was the end of the prom.
Today’s prom is an entirely different animal. I don’t know what it’s like in your part of the world, but for the past three years at my daughter’s school— and at several other private and public schools in this area— it has gone down like this: All of the girls get manicures and pedicures the day before. The day of the prom they have their hair styled— either by a professional or a friend— then they meet at someone’s home to apply make-up and get dressed.
Next the boys all show up at my house. The nervous walk to the door to meet the parents is history. They travel in packs these days. Boys don’t realize how lucky they have it, they just show up and then the parents appear, too. We fed 48 kids at our home Saturday night and had more than 50 parents there before dinner taking pre-meal photos.
Again, these boys have no clue what we went through. All of today’s parents are happy and smiling while they take photographs of their children with their dates and various other combinations of friends and family. The dads of the 21st Century are jovial and friendly. The dads of the 1970s were stern and mean and struck a note of fear deep into the souls of nervous young boys. You’ll be glad to know that the three-pound corsage is alive and well and still dangling from high school girls’ wrists.
My favorite part of the new prom ritual is the dinner. For the past three years, the dads have plated the food in my kitchen and the moms have served the tables in our backyard. The first year we did this, I was totally against it. I was in one of those why-don’t-they-just-do-it-
When the dinner is over there are more photographs taken before the kids board the party bus or limo. That wasn’t a misprint. Prom kids today ride in a limo, or a thing called a party bus— which looks exactly like what one would think something called a party bus would look like. Being the father of a daughter I have yet to fork out funds for the rental of said party bus (which holds more than 30 kids), but I can report that one night’s rental costs more than the sticker price of my first new car.
My date rode to the prom in my beat-up brown Pontiac Sunbird. Today’s kids ride around on the party bus for about one hour and then go to the prom, where they dance for about an hour before boarding the party bus once again to go change and get ready for the breakfast. In my day we danced for four solid, sweat-filled, disco-crazed hours.
Note (old codger statement forthcoming): I grew up in the disco era, and as bad as that music was (and it was really bad), it still might be better than what they’re dancing to today.
That’s two dresses and two meals, if you are keeping score. The breakfast is held at someone else’s home. Another change of clothes is needed before going to the after-party. I can’t report on what any of those activities are like because I have been in bed long before the breakfast-dress change and my wife takes on parenting duties for the second half of the evening.
My wife is in her element during prom season. She is the reason we have pulled off three successful dinners in a row. She works hard in the weeks prior to the event and even harder the day of the event. This year the weather forecast called for 100% chance of rain just 48 hours out from the party. She agonized, but she must be living right because the evening was dry and as close to perfect as one could imagine.
In the end, parental involvement, at least at this level, seems to be a good thing. The dishwashing celebration after all of the kids left— staffed by parents with “our music” (no disco, just good old-school funk) playing at full blast— was fun, too. A cynic might see the glass half empty and say, “Those parents do too much for their kids.” I would invite them over to the next prom dinner (in three years when my eighth grader reaches that age), and show them a group of dedicated parents and several tables full of appreciative kids, a good time being had by all.
Miniature Shrimp and Grits
Shrimp and grits became popular in southern restaurants in the late 1980s. This is a preparation that allows them to be hand held.
1 /4 cup quick grits
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp salt
1 tsp creole seasoning
Combine grits, cream and seasoning in a small covered baking dish and cook in a 300 degree oven for 45 minutes. Remove and cool slightly.
1 1 /2 cups flour
1 Tbl sugar
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp Salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 /4 cup shortening
1 recipe grits
1 /2 cup buttermilk.
Combine all dry ingredients and using a fork, blend shortening into the dry mixture.
Whip together the egg, buttermilk and grits. Fold wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and blend well. Do not overmix.
Roll out biscuits to 1 /2-inch thickness and cut 2-inch circles.
Bake at 375 degrees for 18 minutes.
Top each biscuit with one of the BBQ shrimp, drizzle on a little of the sauce, and serve
Yield: 16-20 grit cakes
2 Tbl clarified butter
20 large shrimp, peeled and split in half lengthwise
1 tsp cracked black peppercorns
3 /4 cup BBQ Shrimp Stock
Melt clarified butter in a skillet and add shrimp. Sauté for two minutes Add cracked black peppercorns and BBQ Shrimp Stock and cook until shrimp are just done. Make sure the cold BBQ shrimp stock is stirred vigorously before adding to skillet.
BBQ Shrimp Stock
½ cups white wine
1 cup Shrimp Stock
2 Tbl Creole Seasoning
1 1 /2 Tbl Worcestershire sauce
1 1 /2 Tbl lemon juice
3 tsp paprika
2 tsp garlic, minced
2 tsp liquid crab boil
2 Tbl creole mustard
1 bay leaves
1 tsp Hot Sauce
Bring all ingredients to a boil, immediately remove from heat and cool (can be made 2–3 days ahead of time).
Yield: 2 cups