Salad Luncheon Days

local cookbooksFor me, springtime isn’t just the greening of the earth and watching nature awaken in color as I enjoy the warmer weather, it’s also a time to gather with other women in church basements and eat salads.

Even though it’s been a few years for me now, there was a time in my young adult years when springtime meant attending several salad luncheons every year.

I went with my mom to her church’s luncheon, with my mother-in-law’s to her church, and to the little country church where I attended at the time. A good share of the local women’s groups and churches held a spring luncheon that was open to all the ladies. This was about 30 years ago, about an hour from the Twin Cities when it was still farmland and small towns.

I really enjoyed these luncheons. First of all, anything called a ‘luncheon’ sounds appealing to me. The dictionary says a luncheon is ‘a formal midday meal’.

It was one of the last of the women’s social events that still went on year after year. The quilting bees, missions circles, WCTU, and ladies aid groups of my grandma and mom’s days were evaporating. And, I loved being ‘one of the ladies’. I’ve always been an old fashioned girl at heart, so the idea of women dressing up and eating dainty food was all good to me. Good food and fellowship. Lots of cream cheese and visiting.

Women came out in droves to these! After Christmas and Easter, this was the next big event at church. I knew some women who made the salad luncheon circuit attending every church and auxiliary in the county. I was a busy young working mom at the time, so these luncheons were a pleasant break from my busy life.

The church basements looked sunny and inviting with the springy colors worn by the luncheon goers and the simple yet cheery centerpieces of real or silk flowers gracing each of the long tables. Every place setting had a tiny paper cup of mints and nuts, and a printed program. Oh yes, it wasn’t just about salads, it was about a nice program too. There would be special music by a local singer or trio who sang several songs to an out of tune piano, someone might read a poem about spring and there’d also be a special speaker from the Twin Cities. I remember hearing missionaries, authors and a radio personality. Usually there’d be a theme like ‘bloom where you are planted’ or the ‘Proverbs 31 Woman’.

Let’s talk about the food! Those salads! Endless bowls of every kind of salad you can imagine and some you never imagined…all lined up on a long table served buffet style. For this salad lover it was as pleasing to the eye as well to the palate. There were old fashioned jello and potato salads. There was the newer taco salads and fresh vegetable salads, and salads so full of cream cheese and whipped cream they could pass as a dessert. At the end of the buffet table were yummy bars and cookies. Everything was homemade!

The salads served were clearly not anything you’d see a group of guys eating in the hunting shack or put out for Super Bowl eats. These are salads that more likely to be enjoyed by the women folk. Maybe it has something to do with hormones. The reason I don’t know, but us women can’t get enough of salads with more than four ingredients.

As I’m writing, I have in front of me, the local church and community cookbooks I’ve collected from the area and era of my luncheon memories. I see the recipe for the salad with cottage cheese, dry jello, whipped cream, pineapple chunks and mini marshmallows, (a favorite of mine which my husband has a name for that I refuse to put in my blog). Another salad calls for sauerkraut, bologna, tomato and apple. One has pimiento, onions and green beans. The peas, cheese and mayonnaise salad was faithfully served at every luncheon. As was the grated carrot, tuna with potato chips one. I’ll pass though on the macaroni, chicken and apple salad. Others borderline on being a dessert such as the pie filling, crushed cookies, cream cheese and banana delight.

Today salad luncheons are still being held and many boast of the 45th plus year. Some have their own facebook page! Maybe when I retire, I’ll take a road trip and do the luncheon tour. What fun that would be to meet other luncheon-lovers and enjoy salads together! If I ever do this, you’ll be the first to know here at Little Lady Yellow House were salad means much more than lettuce drizzled with French dressing.