Recently my friend, the poet Lauren Russell, asked me to suggest an A Reunion of Ghosts-themed menu for her mother’s 39-year-old book club.
I put on my thinking toque, trying to come up with book-related food. At first I was stymied. For the most part the narrators in Reunion, three baby boomer sisters who are unhappy to the point of planning to commit suicide, pay little attention to their nutritional well-being. Gourmets they’re not. Their idea of a great home-cooked meal is spaghetti doused with Kraft’s blue cheese dressing. Barely functioning alcoholics, they have been known to glug vodka straight from the bottle.
Finally I came up with a menu that includes puns (the Alter sisters’ favorite form of humor) and jokes as well as a fancy version of that spaghetti dish. The recipes below will serve 6. Adjust accordingly. And if anyone out there can come up with additions or substitutions, please let me know via the comments.
Cocktail: Vodka Tonics, Alter Style (recipe provides 2 cocktails per guest):
1. Purchase 12 mini-bottles of vodka
2. Pour contents of mini-bottles into a pitcher
3. Add to pitcher 1 3/4 quarts tonic water and juice of one lime. Stir. Refrigerate.
4. When ready to serve, pour contents of pitcher into the individual mini-bottles, screw tops back on, and serve. Reserve remaining vodka tonics for later.
5. To be faithful to the book, guests may wish to consume their cocktails while sitting on a bathroom floor.
German pretzels with mustard dipping sauces.
(In Reunion, the family’s patriarch, Lenz Alter, synthesizes the first poison gas used in warfare. Lenz, who is based on the chemist Fritz Haber, actually synthesizes chlorine gas, but mustard gas was just around the corner…and serving chlorine dipping sauce would be too mordant even for me.)
Bite size squares of date nut bread iced with cream cheese
(To avoid spoilers, I’ll just explain this choice by saying that a certain character in the book is fond of the date nut bread and cream cheese sandwiches that used to be served at the now-defunct Chock full o’ Nuts restaurant chain.)
Main course: Pasta with Blue Cheese Sauce (from www.food.com):
2 cups half & half
4 T butter
1 head garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
1/3 – 1/2 C crumbled bleu cheese
1/3 – 1/2 C parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1 lb. pasta (the Alter sisters would use spaghetti, but penne may be more elegant)
Prepare the pasta. While it’s boiling, melt butter in sauce pan over med-low. Add onion and garlic and saute about 5 minutes. Pour in half & half, let heat through. Whisk in blue and parmesan cheeses. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sauce will thicken a bit upon standing. Toss with cooked pasta and serve.
Dessert: Suicide by Chocolate Cake (from www.cooks.com):
1 chocolate cake mix
1 sm. box instant chocolate pudding
1 (12 oz.) pkg. chocolate chips
1 1/2 C milk
1/2 C chopped pecans
vanilla ice cream