Many American military posts might be considered remote to some who live in the large metropolitan areas of the U.S. Those who have been assigned to foreign countries often can feel isolated from familiar scenes, foods and language. Military families learn to take advantage of the special opportunities in remote areas to make their own fun. Though I would not consider Ft. Sill, Oklahoma a remote area, it is about an hour away from the next larger city (Oklahoma City) and two hours away from Dallas, TX. In 1974, there were some, but not many fast-food restaurants, department stores or specialty shops. For anything very exotic, the big cities were the place to go. For many of us at the time, those excursions were few and far between because most families had only one car and that one car was in use for work each weekday.
To entertain ourselves and to enjoy the company of old and new friends, we started a monthly Supper Club. Initially, it was six couples also attending the Field Artillery Advanced Course – all of whom happened to have been classmates at West Point in the Class of 1969. As we began the club, we decided to make it an international dinner club. Each month, the couple hosting the dinner at their home would tell those attending what the theme would be and each couple would bring a complimentary dish to add to the meal. It could be quite a puzzle finding the ingredients to some of the international dishes, since there were few options for ingredients besides the commissary on post or a couple of small grocery stores – there were no internet purchases available or international groceries in which to shop. Substitutions were often required.
We had an Oriental dinner one month for which we chose a recipe called “Spring Soup”. It was odd to read the recipe and maybe, even odder to eat – made of peas and lettuce! Never made that recipe again. We had to find a special butcher to prepare the meat needed for the entrée, but we had a fun evening tasting the delicacies.
When dinner was over, we played some games. We made up a game we called the “Dictionary Game” that we loved and made us laugh ourselves silly. One couple once had a scavenger hunt around their house, clues and all, and we spent a lot of time looking under the furniture and behind the curtains for our prizes. Weren’t they brave to let us look everywhere – didn’t find any dust or anything out of place. They must have spent a busy week cleaning the house besides preparing our dinner.
The dinner parties were so successful that several years later, after most of the men had gone to graduate school, we arrived at West Point to teach in various departments and the Supper Club was resumed. It was a slightly different set of six couples, but most of the same old crowd. For most of the dinners, the wives and husbands worked together to determine the menu and to prepare and serve the food at their home each month. At one dinner, the men decided that at the next get-together, they would do the preparations without help from their wives. Sounds great!!
By this time, the dinners had lost their international flair. Surrounded by the mountains of the Hudson Highlands, West Point was more isolated than Ft. Sill.
The “guys” dinner was to take place at the Rice home, so Bill took the lead with the entrée. He asked for my cookbooks and proceeded to look through them to find just the recipe he wanted to make – with no help from me. He, eventually, found just what he was looking for. He liked the photo of the entrée and picked…Beef Wellington. I read the recipe and innocently asked if he was sure he would like to make that recipe. “Of course.” was the immediate response. I did the shopping, but he was in charge of the rest of the preparations.
On the day of the dinner, I was to spruce up the house while Bill spent his time in the kitchen. Our 18th-month-old daughter was, for the first time in her life, propped up on the couch to watch Sesame Street and whatever else followed on the public television station. It worked well; she loved it! It was soon clear that Bill needed some help in the kitchen. It was a small kitchen, more like a short hallway with no room for even a table, so trying to roll out the crust for the large beef tenderloin turned out to be quite a task; the rolled-out crust was so large that there was no room in the refrigerator to keep the crust cool until it was needed. Since it was November and a cold day, we finally hit upon a great idea – cover the crust and place it on the picnic table in the fenced-in backyard until it was needed. First, the beef and the duxelles had to be cooked and then those small stuffed tomatoes in the photo in the cookbook. There was no recipe for the tomatoes, but they were pretty so Bill made up a recipe. By the time of the dinner, we had both been in the kitchen for eight hours and could barely keep awake to serve and eat dinner. Our guests said it was delicious.
I don’t remember what all the other men brought to complement the Beef Wellington. Dessert did stand out – all these years later. It was Bananas Foster – flaming bananas. Fancy!
It was tasty but had just a little glitch… when it flamed up, the fire went so high that it scorched our dining room ceiling. We lived in the Gray Ghost quarters on West Point and were quite concerned that we would be fined when we left for our next assignment. Luckily, the inspector didn’t notice!
Remembering Marianne 1945-2021