40-3. Ladies Bridge Lunch: Fannie Farmer, Joys of Jell-O and Palm Beach Entertains

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In my book, I tracked the status of ladies bridge lunch partly by tracking it in the Fannie Farmer series of cookbooks over the decades. She, after all, played an historic role in establishing food traditions and I go into that in the Prologue to the book.

With the decline in bridge on campus, by the 1965 edition Fannie dismisses Bridge Luncheons with one four and one-half line paragraph beginning “Bridge luncheons are often one-course affairs . . . .”

By 1979 no bridge lunch at all. She manages with the euphemism “prettily” to convey the idea of “ladies lunch” without using what by the late 70s was a politically incorrect term for women–“Lunch is always a relaxed, pleasant time to entertain, to set the table prettily and to make a dish that is a little different.” One of the accepted platitudes about ladies lunch had always been that women like being served things that were “a bit different” — men not so much.

As to Joys of Jell-O, a series of pamphlets by the Jell-O company were as routine as Fannie Farmer new editions every decade. This edition of the Jell-O pamphlet  asks: “Just how many brands in your kitchen go back over seven decades?” Good question and such a pretty pictures!  There’s a whole chapter of recipes that can be served either as salad or dessert. Just garnish with a dab of mayonnaise for salad, whipped cream for dessert !  Incidentally, coleslaw has been made fit for ladies lunch by embedding it in Jell-O–no more drippiness.

Palm Beach Entertains belongs to the category of fund-raising cookbooks. This one was published by the Palm Beach Historical Society. I only realized I’d completely neglected research in this whole special area of cookbooks when it was too late to do anything about it.  Came across this one while volunteering at the Florida Historical Society Library in Cocoa village. As befits wealthy and classy Palm Beach this is not an amateur production and is edited by Maurice Moore-Betty, a prominent chef of the day.

I really like this menu for a bridge luncheon a la Palm Beach–Seafood Quiche (a standard), Zucchini Salad and Masked Figs (both “a bit different). The menu is a step up from typical ladies lunch, yet easy to make. If I ever get up the energy to pull together a bridge luncheon for eight once more before I depart this planet — I’d consider this menu!

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