28 May 2012

Here Comes Summer!

         Beginning in the 1990s, my mom hosted an informal gathering on Memorial Day for several years running and called it “Here Comes Summer!” (Labor Day was of course “There Goes Summer” for her and all the teachers we knew.)  The same group of in-town friends came each year—Kendra, Renie and her family, the Johnsons, neighbors Chuck and Donna and any of their assorted children who might be in town.  My siblings and I would invite various friends as well, depending on who was around.  In later years, a Catholic priest who’d been added to the guest list invariably arrived with a gorgeous confection from a local bakery, making the same charming joke about having slaved away all day.  Beginning in mid afternoon, we would snack on Ro-Tel dip, deviled eggs, wings, crabbie melts—time-honored treats always made the same way by the same people.  In the early years, burgers and dogs and picnic salads  followed the appetizers, but we might have done away with the “main course” eventually because the appetizers were so, well, appetizing.
         At our New England address, Memorial Day was just as often rainy and cold as it was sunny and warm.  Folks would sit on the screen porch nonetheless; rain or shine, we’d break out the first summer ales of the season, along with specially-made whiskey sours for one of the guests.  In the wooden box I find two Here Comes Summer staples, both attributed to Kendra and Renie (both staples themselves in the family friend department and excellent seamstresses): crabbie melts and Jezebel.  Both recipes are materially interesting, too.  Jezebel (named, of course, after the depraved Old Testament queen) is easy to make but tricky, perhaps, to like.  (It’s basically horseradish and jellies over cream cheese.)  I found two renderings of this one.  The first, likely the original, is on the reverse of a pink “While You Were Out” message sheet, and scrawled in my mother’s writing.  

       Even though my mother eventually copied the ingredients neatly on an actual recipe card, she kept the first copy.  To make Jezebel requires

                  1 12-oz jar of pineapple preserves

                  1 10-oz jar apple jelly

                  2 1/2 oz horseradish

                  4 tsp dry mustard

                  Mix and serve on block of Philly

That is all.  I recall it being served with the Pepperidge Farm Entertaining Quartet: butterflies, sesame wafers, wheat and water crackers. There was always Jezebel left over in the fridge.  I would have a bite or two then think how old school a food it was.
Crabbie melts were the purview of Kendra, who always brought the ingredients and made them in our oven.  The recipe is on a plain card, in my mother’s handwriting; on the reverse, the proportions are slightly modified and  written in my brother Nathaniel’s printing-cursive hybrid.
Nathaniel is no fish eater.  (When he toured Japan with a professional chorus, everyone in the group blew their per diems on sushi.  He ate at Subway and returned home laden with expense money.)
But he LOVES crabbie melts.  I know he copied out Kendra’s recipe for himself; what’s on the back of my mom’s original recipe isn’t exactly clear.   Hers reads:

                                          Crabbie Melts — K & R

         1 stick margarine

         1 Old English cheese spread

         1/2 tsp + mayo [+ = opposite of scant?]

         1/2 tsp garlic powder

         7 oz can crabmeat

         Spread on Eng. muffins
                                    15 min @ 350˚

My brother’s version makes no mention of English muffins and calls for more of everything.  I wonder if it is a “dip” version, perhaps?

         By my count, it is 11 years since my Mom hosted her last Here Comes Summer.  That doesn’t quite seem possible.  Sipping a summer ale as I write, on a very hot day on my shady deck, I wouldn’t want to have the oven on today for crabbie melts.  Maybe this is good weather for Jezebel—that creamy, fruity-cool, sour-sweet, no-cook oddity I always passed up in favor of deviled eggs.


  1. Remembering our "Here comes Summer" times on many Memorial Days gone by. We certainly had our share of cool, rainy porch sitting days. But laughter and love abounded and kept us warm together. Howie, Bets and Pete are celebrating together that warmth at it's deepest. Thanks, Jennie, for stirring our hearts to remember.

  2. Glad to see this blog post come through my Google Reader... :-)