Published in 1964 by the Junior League of Nashville, Nashville Seasons has a split personality. But then again, it was the 1960s, an interesting time in the American culinary landscape where home cooks were quite over casseroles and post-war convenience foods, but hadn’t yet remembered what good food actually tasted like. As a result, good food was often confused with fussy food.
One of my favorite websites, The Food Timeline, describes this era of American cooking, saying,
“The 60s encouraged showy, complicated food with French influence (Julia Child, Jacqueline Kennedy), suburban devotion (backyard barbecues), vegetarian curiosity (Frieda Caplan) and ethnic cuisine (soul food, Japanese Steak houses). This was also the decade of flaming things (fondue & Steak Diane) and lots and lots of junk food (aimed at the baby boom children).”
While the 1950s were a time when women were bombarded with the idea that cooking was hard, time-consuming, and something to be rushed over, the 60s ushered in a new edition of The Joy of Cooking, Jacqueline Kennedy’s lavish White House dinners, and Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. All of these contributed to the idea that a) it was worth taking the time to cook and entertain, and b) even you could pull it off.
(Side Note: I’m visiting Washington, D.C. this summer, and am planning a special trip to the recently reopened National Museum of American History to see Julia Child’s kitchen. This excites the bejeezus out of me.)
One side of Nashville Seasons documents the tables of Nashville’s most affluent, grandest old families, families who prefer elegant entertaining, rich food, and fine wine. The first section of the cookbook features etchings of the city’s graciously landscaped plantation-style homes, followed by menus served by their residents.
So, there are a lot of canapes, foie gras, and caviar, but Nashville Seasons isn’t all quite so grand. There are plenty of more middle-brow recipes for everyday meals like Perfection Salad, a vegetable aspic that calls for shredded cabbage, canned peas, stuffed olives, and unflavored gelatin, molded into 12 individual servings, and Mrs. Cooper’s Atomic Meatballs (which contain absolutely no spices or seasonings of any kind, so I’m not quite sure why they’re “Atomic”).
This week, I’m preparing a menu that blends the fine dining and everyday meal aesthetics of Nashville Seasons. And I’m definitely making an aspic, though I’ve chosen one a little bit less scary than Perfection Salad. But in return for actually eating aspic, I’m going to let Brady pick whatever dessert he wants.