“PLEASE ACCEPT MY RESIGNATION. I DON’T WANT TO BELONG TO ANY CLUB THAT WILL ACCEPT PEOPLE LIKE ME AS A MEMBER”.
Telegram sent to the Friar’s Club of Beverly Hills, Groucho Marx, 1959
I'm back. After a Six Month Break. And there I was bragging that I had never missed a monthly post since the Spoon began- all those years ago, back in 2007. Since those halcyon days, the world, frankly, has gone stark raving bonkers and the pressure to answer emails 24/7 (as our American cousins would put it) or slog away until the early hours of the morning has become immense. Somebody once gave me a copy of “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People": it’s in the growing pile somewhere; I’ve mislaid it. Social Media's ghastly too- although I quite like Instagram. My little sister is urging me to commit ‘Facebook Suicide’ (apparently the latest trend; she's a hot advertising business guru), but as I'm an online antiques dealer, I'm not convinced- just yet, that this would be a sensible way forward.
And then this little number turned up on American eBay. It’s “Private Recipes from Private Clubs" by Beverly Anderson Barbour, one of those elusive, rather expensive, second-hand titles which usually (VG with D/J) go for several hundred dollars. And there it was winking at me with a buy it now price of ten pounds. And free shipping to London. Reader, did I press that button.
“Private Recipes From Private Clubs” was published in 1976, presumably in a small print run, and as the blurb on the inner flap says, “...will help gourmet cooks as well as the professional chef, prepare dishes formerly exclusive to members only.” It’s a back-lit window into a vanishing world unless you happen to be a member of the Denver Petroleum Club of Colorado, the Offutt Officer’s Club of Nebraska, the India House of New York, the Witchita Country Club of Kansas, or the Atlanta Athletic Club of- you guessed it- Atlanta.
I’ve already spent several happy hours pouring over the marvellously out-of-date recipes, punctuated with furry, over-exposed photographs in glorious monochrome: the Glen Oaks Country Club’s recipe for Lobster Stuffing shows a trout- scales, head, and tail still intact- decorated with a frosted plastic (?) tree stuffed into a tomato, from which hang cute little leprechaun men with long white beards, not unlike Smurfs. Food photography was a science in need of development back then. I am sure that the New Orleans Country Club’s recipe for Rum Mangoes was- still is- delicious, but in the fuzzy 1976 photograph it looks, frankly, like a bowl of fermented sick, as does, I fear, the silvered dish of Cacahuate (“an unusual and very inexpensive Mexican cocktail dip that warms the tongue...”) as served at the River Oaks Country Club, photograph courtesy of Peanut Associates Incorporated. There’s cream. There’s curry powder. There’s tinned consommé. There’s lobster. There’s sherry. There’s the unashamed promotion of ‘Flavor Enhancer”, aka Monosodium Glutamate. We’re in the world of tax deductions, expense accounts, and the Seven Year Itch.
As a nod to the foreigners, two non-American clubs are included. The Lansdowne Club of London, England and The Sanno Club of Tokyo, Japan. Personally, the rather downmarket Lansdowne is one of my least favourite places in London, partly because of the unpleasant reception I once had there from the surly front of house staff, coupled with the terrifying concept of Scottish reeling amongst hideous reproduction portraiture; and the Sanno appears to be some sort of recreational facility for off-duty American military personnel stationed in Japan, controlled by the US-Japan Status of Forces Agreement.
Anyway. I’ve picked out a few recipes that you might want to have fun with:
Members of the Denver Petroleum Club celebrate the announcement of their new building’s construction, 1953
Denver Petroleum Club Dressing (from Private Recipes from Private Clubs by Beverly Anderson Barbour, 1976)
“ All of the members of the Denver Petroleum Club are connected with the petroleum industry in one way or another...The cuisine of the club reflects its members’ backgrounds...it runs from Country Gravy (made by adding chopped onions and bacon to chicken fat and then adding as much clour as there is fat...right in the pans the chicken was fried in) to fine French fare... Colorado is famous for its trout, and although the club is able to get some fresh fish in Colorado, better luck and consistency come with the purchase of fast-frozen products. Each local Colorado trout must be purchased through a processor. The club credits a neighbour, the Garden of the Gods Club in Colorado Springs, with an interesting chef’s secret. It’s possible to make a Truite a Bleu with frozen trout!”
Mayonnaise: 1 1/2 cups
Parmesan cheese, grated: 3 tbsps
Lemon Juice: 2 tsp
Pepper, freshly ground: 1/4 tsp
Garlic Powder: 1/4 tsp
Water: 3 tbsps
Salt: to taste
Flavor Enhancer (ie MSG): few grains
Blend well until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed. The mixture should be the consistency of thick cream. Allow to marinate for a few hours.
Gilbert Roland and Constance Bennett at the Beverly Hills Tennis Club, 1938
Beverly Hills Tennis Club Antipasto
"One member called it “an oasis in Beverly Hills.” But the Beverly Hills Tennis Club is approached on bicycle, not camelback, as early as 8am by many of the 163 members who come to pay court to the body beautiful. With a large number of doctors, a few movie industry personalities, and the normal sprinkling of health food enthusiasts, the membership has to be one of the most diet-conscious in clubdom.”
Olive Oil: 1/4 Cup
Garlic, peeled and crushed or chopped: 1/3 clove
Green Beans: 2 oz
Mushrooms: 1/2 lb
Onion, chopped: 1 small
Green Pepper, cut into strips: 1
Carrots, cut in strips: 1-1/2
Zucchini, cut in strips: 1- 1/2
Cauliflower, broken into flowerets: 1/4 head
Celery, cut in strips 1- 1/2 ribs
Tomato Sauce: 1/2 cup
Catsup: to taste
Salt: to taste
Pepper: to taste
Oregano: to taste
Sweet Basil: to taste
Tuna: 1 7oz can
Sardines: 1 can
Ripe Olives: 1/3 cup
Green Olives: 1/2 cup
Cook all except last 4 ingredients together until vegetables are tender but still crisp. Before serving, garnish with tuna, sardines, and olives.
The Somerset Club, Boston; founded 1846
The Union Club of Philadelphia’s Crabmeat Dewey
“...Change is not the order of the day at the Union League, and one of the institutions no one would ever tamper with is the New Year’s Day stag reception and open house. Fisthouse Punch and a buffet help to kill the pain from the night before. The punch is an effective combination of blended whiskey, Jamaican rum, Champagne, peach brandy, orange and lemon juices- combined and cut with soda. Members force their medicine down like good soldiers.”
Butter: 3 tbsp
Flour: 3 tbsps
Light Cream: 1 qt
Sherry: 1/3 cup
Newburg Sauce: 1 qt
Pimiento, diced: 1
Mushrooms, diced: 6
Egg Shade or Yellow Food Coloring: 2 to 3 tsp
Lump Crabmeat: 1 lb
Salt: to taste
Pepper: to taste
For the Newburg Sauce, melt butter and stir in flour. Gradually add cream. Simmer for five minutes. Add sherry. To make Crabmeat Dewey, heat Newburg Sauce, add pimiento and mushrooms; simmer add colouring. At the last minute add crabmeat, salt, pepper, and additional sherry, if desired. Serve on rice or toast points or in individual shells.