Saturday, August 21, 2010

A wartime table

Rosa Morgan
During World War II while my dad was stationed in the Aleutians, my mother lived on a houseboat in Lake Union with her friends Carmen Fett and Jean Elliott. This is a description, by one of the guests, of a dinner she served to some friends from his post who came through Seattle in the summer of 1944.

The supper table was beginning to assume an inviting pattern now -- twin candle sticks at either end, individual matted table coverings set out and centered with simple pale blue plates beautifully designed in their right (Wright?) proportions. Next came slim wine glasses and gleaming silverware set off by rough textured napkins. As if the sight of all this, and the intoxicating aroma wafting from the kitchen of spaghetti and meat sauce coming to a turn wasn't enough to inflame the senses and set the taste buds aquiver, Carmen had to bring in a bottle of Mexican tequila and insist we try one of her "Tequila Cocktails" before dinner. They were very dry and very delicious, kind of like Sauterne wine.

And then we sat down to a dinner for which I should have lived so long. There was spaghetti and meat sauce topped with Parmesan cheese, hot buttered corn on the cob--the first we had tasted in a long time. Then there was a magnificent salad bowl --the character of the ingredients preserved intact instead of all chopped up and minced and mixed together in the usual hodge podge most women like to pass off as a salad. There was French bread, sliced on the diagonal, rubbed with garlic and toasted -- and a bottle of red wine. At this point I was almost moved to remark that the only thing missing would be brandy with the coffee and dessert. Luckily, I contained myself, for Rosa marched in with a tray containing coffee and a decanter of Portuguese brandy, followed by cherry pie served on those Mexican dancer dishes.

Well-fed soldiers
And as the candles burned low, over a third brandy and a fourth, we remained around the table in pleasant conversation not disturbing the wonderful still life of debris between us. With a little coaxing Rosa brought out some of her photographs -- a carefully censored cross section, I'm afraid, for there appeared to be more of Otto's pictures than her own.

The evening moved on in this fashion and rounded out to its inevitable conclusion. Whether it was politeness on the part of the hostess--certainly reluctance on ours--nobody seemed willing to suggest it was time to take leave. Jean finally came bubbling in about 2 am or 3 from her party and that seemed the logical point to break off. ... You can't thank a person for an evening such as that. It can't be bought nor can it be paid for.

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