Stirring up memories
The All-Day Christmas Dinner
December 15, 2005
1951—fifty three years ago. A
long time ago? Yes, but many folks remember it well; remember it like it was
Broadway, the lovely ingénue Audrey Hepburn made her stage debut in Gigi.
Guys and Dolls had feet tapping. And Ethel Merman was wowing them in Call Me Madam.
In New York City
and Little Rock, in Los Angeles and Bainbridge, we listened to
Arthur Godfrey singing “Slow Poke,” or Rosemary Clooney asking us
to “Be My Life’s Companion.”
was more than singing going on in Bainbridge that Christmas season. In basketball, the “undefeated
girls’ team of West Bainbridge charged to victory over the Faceville
lassies 51-23.” The boys
didn’t do so well. In a
“nip and tuck round with the Faceville five,” they lost by 38-34. Faceville made their last goal in the
final two seconds.
Shoppers heading downtown could pick up a
cowboy hat for the young buckaroo on the list. That would set them back a dollar
ninety-eight. An elegant robe for
Mom was going for $12.95 at Grollman’s. A dress shirt for dad? About three bucks, and a dollar would
buy that ubiquitous Christmas tie.
folks were already looking to the New Year. The Chamber of Commerce announced
the annual banquet on January 18, 1952 would be held in the dining hall of
Southern Airways on the grounds of the old Bainbridge Army Air Base.
we all listened to the radio, listening for more than Mr. Godfrey or Miss
Clooney—we listened for war news, we listened for the reports from cold,
snowy and desolate Korea—where
Americans were fighting.
the ears mostly closely held to the radios were those of the young men arriving
at Southern Airways. They’d
come here from all over the country to train to be pilots.
such young man was Glenn Gunsallis.
Fresh from Penn
Glenn arrived in Bainbridge in mid November awaiting the training class that
was to start in early January. He
found friends in Alabama
to visit for Thanksgiving, but like many of the fellows he was looking forward
to a lonely Christmas Day. Maybe no
more company than that radio and Rosemary Clooney.
he didn’t count on Michael and Mary Perrone. Michael, also at the school for training,
was a bit older than Glen and married.
The Perrones lived in a long set of apartments called Taylor Homes
set aside for married couples. They
had two little children and lots of love. Knowing how lonely the holiday might
be, Michael invited Glenn and two other trainees—Wayne Whatley from Texas and Del
Picher fresh from Arizona—to
come over for Christmas Day. If
they would bring the beer, then Mary and Michael were good for the food.
Glenn remembers that as one of the best meals he’s ever enjoyed. It lasted all day. The guests arrived about noon and Mary
brought out the first dish. They
gobbled it up. Then Mary brought
out the second. They gobbled it
up. Then Mary brought out the
third—and the fourth, and the fifth.
She kept going until it was evening and the lads could eat no more.
day, a few weeks ago Glenn, who is the Regional Library Treasurer drove with
Library Chairman Donna McGlincy and me to a meeting in Colquitt. As we passed some lonely, abandoned
buildings along the highway, Glenn broke into the conversation.
those buildings; they were called Taylor
Homes…” Then he told us the story of Christmas
of 1951 and his kind hosts.
dish lingers in Glenn’s memory.
He says he’s never had it again, but he can still remember the
delicious beef roll Mary offered on that long day. He gave a try a recalling its name , and
I gave a try at spelling it. Glenn
challenged us to find a recipe.
a few days later, Donna succeeded.
She gleaned this from one of her recipe books.
Involtini di Bresaola
3/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
3 tablespoons chopped arugula, plus
some whole leaves for garnish
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
24 paper-thin slices bresaola
the cheeses, chopped arugula, garlic and lemon zest. Mix well.
a bresaola slice on a work
surface. Dip a spoon into cold
water, then scoop out 1 1/2 teaspoon of cheese mixture and place in the center
of the meat slice. Starting at one
end, roll up the slice and place it seam side down on the platter. Repeat with the remaining bresaola and filling. Arrange on a platter and garnish with
whole arugula leaves. Chill for 30
minutes before serving.
says it sound like it. But there is
a problem. The problem is the bresaola. Bresaola is made from raw beef that
has been salted and naturally aged. The meat, which is eaten raw, has a
delicate flavor; it is also very hard to find, since all that is available in
this country is imported. If you,
like me, are determined to try the recipe, you can find the delicacy at La
Laterna, an Italian food market on Capitol
Circle in Tallahassee.
did consult one of Bainbridge’s outstanding Italian cooks and my good
food standby Lynda Todaro. When I
told the story, Lynda suggested this recipe from her repertoire. It’s a
similar dish, but uses readily available round steak.
Involtini alla Todaro
(Sicilian skewered meat rolls)
3 pounds thinly sliced top round
1/2 cup chopped green onions (white
1/2 cup sliced mushrooms
1 peeled garlic clove
2 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or pecorino
2 or 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
the meat is not extremely thinly cut, pound it with the side of a saucer. Cut meat slices into small
pieces—about 2 or 3 inches across.
the onions, mushrooms and garlic clove in a small amount of olive oil. Remove the garlic clove and add 2 cups
breadcrumbs and the Parmesan cheese. Take one slice meat and wrap it around a
small quantity of the crumb mix.
Dip in olive oil and roll in remaining breadcrumbs. Put on a skewer alternately with a bay
leaf and onion wedge. Cook on a
grill or under a broiler.
warns, “It cooks quickly.”
So watch it!
recipes replace the mushrooms with currants that have been plumped for five minutes
in hot water.
Let me know,
Glenn, if this hits the spot.
you have memories of Taylor
Homes or Southern Airways
or Mike and Mary Perrone please
share them with me.
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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network