Stirring up memories
The all-day Christmas dinner
December 15, 2004
1951—fifty three years ago. A long
time ago? Yes, but many folks remember it well; remember it like it was
On 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.
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.”
There 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.
Some 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
And 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
Perhaps 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.
One such young man was Glenn Gunsallis. Fresh from Penn State University, Glenn arrived in Bainbridge in
mid November awaiting the training class that was to start in early
January. He found friends in
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.
But 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
come over for Christmas Day. If
they would bring the beer, then Mary and Michael were good for the food.
Today, 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.
One 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.
“See those buildings; they were called Taylor Homes…” Then he told us the story of Christmas
of 1951 and his kind hosts.
One 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
Just a few days later, Donna succeeded. She gleaned this from one of her recipe
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
Combine the cheeses, chopped arugula, garlic and lemon zest. Mix well.
Lay 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.
Glenn 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.
I 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
If 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.
Sauté 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.
Lynda warns, “It cooks quickly.”
So watch it!
Some 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.
If you have memories of Taylor Homes or Southern Airways or Mike and Mary Perrone please share them
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Trilla Pando is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance & the Story Circle Network