50. Bridge Table: After thoughts on Chapter 50 of my book

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the title of which is: “Perfection Salad & Fannie Farmer Re-visited”–about the Ladies Bridge Lunch theme in Bridge Table or What’s Trump Anyway?

If you haven’t read the book, you might well ask, “Why on earth is Fannie Farmer in a book claiming to be about playing bridge?”  The short answer–in my reading of bridge history, contract bridge never would have been the fad it became without the ladies-only-bridge-lunch-clubs of the 1930s-1970s. Ely Culbertson may have influenced that generation of ladies to move from auction to contract bridge, but Fannie Farmer influenced what they ate at lunch.

You can read FOR FREE both the Introduction and Prologue to Bridge Table or What’s Trump Anyway? thru the link on the right.

In the book I quote author Jody Shields’ article “Let’s Do Lunch” who claimed the simple custom of the at-home lunch “became a revolutionary social event” in the history of women. They began as part of the women’s club movement of the mid-19 century, intended to enlarge women’s lives beyond home, studying literature, taking up charitable causes and women’s suffrage. Clubs have to meet some place and women then simply did not go to restaurants on their own and so the at-home lunch became the meeting place for clubs of all kinds.

I can’t prove it, but I imagine at some point some cheeky woman said — “Why can’t we meet sometimes just for fun? Play whist or something like that?”  And so the ladies bridge lunch was born–and evolved.

These days the ladies bridge lunch of old is in somewhat of a decline–but every place I play bridge these days still does offer food of some kind. Food is simply a part of sociable bridge.

I play with one weekly club that meets in the morning with coffee and some kind of doughnuts or other breakfast pastry–and then at least once a month goes out to lunch when bridge is over.  Another meets every month at a local restaurant that gives us space to play bridge before and after lunch.  I think this is very common throughout the country as an alternative to entertaining at home.

At the senior center bridge club which includes men as well, we bring a bag lunch to eat before bridge starts, and there’s coffee and iced tea and cookies available for nibbling all afternoon.

The full treatment at-home ladies bridge lunch may be a thing of the past but I say some kind of food is absolutely required in the world of sociable bridge.  I ordinarily never turn down an invitation to fill in as a fourth for bridge except a couple of years back when the club only offered a glass of water during playtime. I found myself making up excuses not to join them. So what was that about? I certainly wasn’t hungry or could have eaten before I got there. I just felt all afternoon there was something missing–uneasy almost.  Like a smoker missing holding the cigarette when she quits, I imagine.

If I could live long enough, I fully expect a return of the ladies-at-home-bridge-lunch–but in a new format. Hostesses who won’t want to do it all themselves, will perhaps offer their home (and drinks) and guest players will bring finger food for grazing all afternoon or evening, in lieu of  a nicely-set luncheon table.

I bought a new cookbook recently on just that theme to include in this Blog #50, but can’t find it! It was about “grazing” foods for a night of cards or gaming–so I believe a trend is in the making.

This Blog #50 is the first of the last three blogs (50, 51, 52) ending the Bridge Table Chronicles series.


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