I knew these club meetings were important, because Grandma told me so. The Sarah Society raised money for the church through their annual chicken noodle dinner/bazaar and mincemeat sales. ("Mincemeat", you ask? "Delicious", I answer. "Is it meat?" you ask. "Maybe.") I only recall raisins, nuts, lemons, spices and lots of apples. The church kitchen buzzed with ladies chopping, stirring and canning hundreds of quarts of mincemeat, my Napoleonic Grandma in the middle of it all, giving orders.
Country Club? How I longed for people to think my Grandma and mom were members of the "real" country club, where people went for drinks and supper (which they probably called "dinner".) But their Country Club was more of a monthly chat fest for the neighborhood farm wives, held in the afternoons at one of the member's homes, no cocktails involved.
I knew these club meetings were important because I watched and was pressed into duty as Grandma got ready when it was her turn to be the hostess. She was a dynamo, anyway, but she went into overdrive, and took me along with her. There was a lot of cleaning to be done, snack sets to be washed, tablecloths to be ironed and chicken salad to be prepared.
Club meetings were a time for showing off culinary skills and new recipes -- I believe Grandma saw it as a competition. Fancy cakes, fabulous jell-o creations and chicken salad. I don't think I can remember a meeting without chicken salad -- maybe it was in the by-laws.
My grandma made very best chicken salad. I know because she told me so. Chunky chicken, grapes, celery, crushed pineapple, nuts and Miracle Whip. Lots of Miracle Whip. Pile it on white sandwich bread with a piece of lettuce sticking out "just so", slice off the crusts and cut it into two triangles. Perfection.
I still make it almost like Grandma did. I leave out the Miracle Whip, but try to include the attitude.
Here's my latest variation. For lack of a more creative name, I'll just call it November Chicken Salad. Thus,
November Chicken Salad6 cups cooked chicken, diced
6 ribs celery, chopped
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
2 nice apples, chopped (I used Ambrosias -- they are delicious!)
1 1/2 cups walnuts, toasted
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
juice of one lemon
2 cups low-fat sour cream
1/2 cup sugar
Toss everything except sour cream and sugar together. Stir sour cream and sugar together and let sit a few minutes; stir again, pour over salad and mix well. Chill. Serve on white sandwich bread with a piece of lettuce; cut off crusts and divide into triangles, just because.
I had planned on writing something deep and moving about chicken salad -- like how even though people make chicken salad in many different ways, it's all good.
But in the end, you know what? It's chicken salad. Not much more needs to be said.
Chicken salad is a happy memory, and one I am thankful for.