Lately I've noticed that all things
old suddenly seem new again.
Tory Burch and Trina Turk
have made millions by knocking
off Palm Beach and Greenwich
matron's closets. It's amazing
how many of the things that I
grew up with are back including
stereos, LPs, and even 8-Tracks!
Well... almost everything.
It seems that my mother's favorite
decorative style, i.e. "Colonial" or
"Early American" has yet to make a
comeback. In my youth Ethel was
consumed with maple, chintz, and
knotty pine. During the sixties, she
shifted from aqua (turquoise) and
rust to the more modern palette of
Avocado Green, Harvest Gold, and
Federal Blue. Mother was addicted
to anything that in those tones!
I'm not sure what started this national compulsion of historic proportions. Bringing Up Baby, Holiday Inn, Christmas In Connecticut, or I Love Lucy's move to Westport? It seems that post war our American affection was for all things revolutionary.
Mother embraced all of the iconographic elements of this decorative phenomena. Drums, spinning wheels, iron stoves, and militia men held places of honor in our home. Often as lamps topped with gigantic
ruffled crinoline lampshades.
History reproduced, literally.
Later on, Mother evolved to a higher plane. By the mid seventies, Ethel embraced all things Williamsburg.
Our annual spring vacation there was a pilgimage to mecca. As she visited, Ethel would pick up a plethora of decorating ideas. On our new cherry "Queen Anne" coffee table sat the Craft House, Ethan Allen, and Pennsylvania House catalogs. Ready as needed for quick reference, inspiration, or stylistic affirmation!
The final crescendo of Mother's colonial compulsion came when my beloved parents purchased their dream home near the James River and retired there in 1979. For over twenty years Mom and Dad strolled up and down Duke of Gloucester Street every afternoon. At all other times Ethel was never happier than when she was sitting
on her screened porch in 90% humidity surrounded by perfectly trimmed boxwood, flowering dogwood, and blooming azaleas.
Mother embraced Virginia and it's colonial heritage. She enjoyed nothing more than entertaining in her new abode. For many years a steady stream of their northern friends made the pilgrimage south annually.
Mother loved to immerse her guests in "colonial" splendor. She set her table with octagonal ironstone, purposefully dulled pewter, hurricane shades, and polished brass candlesticks. Along with Smithfield ham from across the James River, Mom's favorite menu item was Cream of Peanut Soup. Not only a conversation starter, it's actually quite delicious. Below is her cherished recipe.
Go ahead, try it and take a walk down
Duke of Gloucester Street with me!
Cream Of Peanut Soup
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1/4 cup butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 quarts good chicken stock
2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 3/4 cups light cream
Saute onion and celery
in butter until soft, not brown.
Stir in flour until well-blended.
Add chicken stock
Bring to a boil.
Remove from heat.
Rub through a sieve.
Add peanut butter and cream,
stirring to blend thoroughly.
Return to low heat, do not boil.
Garnish with chopped peanuts.