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East Coast USA, United States
Lowcountry porch sitter. Appalachian Mountain lover. Finger Lakes dreamer.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Women of the Round Table and Lemon Chutney

Single sex venues, the purposeful ones like sororities, all girl schools and colleges, garden clubs, and service groups have always intrigued me.  My interest probably dates back to my grandmother's active role in her local women's garden club, the YWCA, and statewide beauty pageants.  I joined a sorority in college mainly out of deference to her and my mother's insistence that it would be character building (and it was just that and an extremely positive experience that sustains many life long friendships today).

Save my twice monthly women writers group of ten people it had been quite some time since I participated in an all female function of great magnitude (200+ people). That changed last month.  I had the occasion to attend an all ladies forum to grab a quick photograph of a friend during a lunch time delivery of a key note address.  The occasion was a quarterly meeting of a women's group on Hilton Head Island (WAHHI) where local celebrity Orchid Paulmeier had been asked to provide remarks on her life, family, work and post Food Network Challenge Season 7 experience. All I needed to do was capture one photo with my iPhone. That was the sole purpose for my attending, but what came of that experience was something far more rich in texture than a picture taken for distribution via social media.

My immediate thought was to simply stand at the back of the room, snap the photo as Orchid's story unfolded at the podium and bail.  But that was not the way it was to be.  Upon arrival I was informed that the group would dine first and that the speaking part of the agenda would follow. I'm sure I sighed out loud at this news as it meant I'd be spending most of my time hanging in a lobby of a hotel known for its extremely decrepit WiFi service waiting for an opportunity to capture this single shot.  But that was not the way it was to be either.  A member of the group informed me that I would be joining the luncheon as a late notice from another member had left an empty seat at one of the tables and that it would be their pleasure to seat me as their guest.  I may have sighed out loud on that note as the reality had now set in that the rest of the day's plans would shift forward by a couple of hours.  It's not that I'm inflexible in shifting the course of my day nor that I was in any way opposed to attending, it's just that I had a window of time to take advantage of dog day care and several other meetings I'd planned this particular day.  All of which were remedied with several quick cell phone calls.

So, I was directed to seat myself at table 7. I note upon approach that the ladies at this table were fifteen plus years my senior so I immediately knew the conversation would be enlightening (rather I would have a chance at some positive dialogue with them as I fail miserably in settings where the conversation is dominated by kids and clothing)...I immediately went for the comical approach of sitting myself in the obvious empty chair at the table saying "Hello, I'm Ann-Marie Adams, the stand in for "Jane Doe," thank you for including me at your table." I was fortunate that the women who flanked either side of me took the responsibility to introduce me around the table to those nearest them and to seeing to it that I was engaged in the conversations around the table throughout the course of the meal.  Which leads me to this post.

Because no conversation with me excludes the discussion of food...I cover every imaginable angle of food...favorite local restaurants on Hilton Head, recipes, the food served at the luncheon, etc...all within the first thirty minutes of sitting at the table and somewhere along the way the woman sitting next to me (a former independent book store owner, whom I fell in deep like with immediately for her quick reference of book titles and clear recognition of several of the contemporary works I had the occasion to read) mentions that she and one of the other women at the table had enjoyed consuming a lemon chutney they'd made the year before.

Chutney, one of those amazing components that accentuates everything that it is paired with.  I lean toward the savory of spreads in my palate of preferences and the simplest difference between jam and jelly is that it tends to be savory in nature (that and vinegar).  I immediately request the recipe and she indicates she'll mail it to me.  By this point between the lively discussion and the promise of a chutney recipe I'd almost forgotten my purpose in presence at this gathering. Needless to say I secured the shot and was energized by the solidarity I'd experienced with these women (no longer strangers).

Seven days later the recipe arrives.  A photocopy of a recipe accompanied by a hand written note. The Lemon Chutney recipe hails from Laurie Colwin's book More Home Cooking in a section titled The Glory of Chutney. I scan the recipe and immediately note that the preparation seems very much like canning...reminding myself  approaching this chutney recipe would go well as my previous canning adventures have not always met with great success.   So the chutney gets made and then put away to rest for about a month or two to ripen.  I've already plotted it's first uses...with baked salmon, spread across toast points with cream cheese, and served with cottage cheese pancakes.

A round table of engaging women and a recipe in hand, some might say I'm rich indeed. I'd say the universe created a moment that continues to reap rewards.  That lemon chutney will make it to the table for the holidays, be given away as gifts and no doubt be copied again for some other endeavoring foodie.

Life Enrichment is like a travel and learn program...offering infusions that make every day life thereafter far more interesting! ~ Ann-Marie Adams, Reflections on a Meaningful Life