I love a good theme party. Parties in general tend to get a big thumbs-up from me, especially when they involve food. But there’s something about being given a subject to work with, a set of criteria to keep in mind, that gets my creative juices flowing…flowier. What can I say? I guess I like a challenge.
So when a friend of mine invited me to a Liz and Dick viewing party, where guests were asked to dress in cocktail-ish attire and bring a dish or drink reminiscent of the swinging 60s/70s, I was in!
I was born in the 70s, and was aware of the tail end of the decade. (Hey, this girl saw the original “Star Wars” in the theater! Well, at the drive-in, from the back of a VW bus, in a nest of blankets and placated with homemade popcorn and finger Jell-O. Guess my folks didn’t expect me to enjoy, or even stay awake, for the movie. How wrong they were!) When I look back at that era, I think of a sort of tacky decadence full of dry bunt cakes, suspicious dips, and gelatinous-looking mystery loafs, all garnished to within an inch of their lives. I think of fruit manipulated to look like something other than fruit, or simply hollowed out to be used as the serving vessel for its own zhooshed up innards. And for some reason I remember there being toothpicks everywhere.
In researching 70s cuisine to make sure my memory wasn’t steering me wrong, by sheer coincidence (I swear!), I stumbled across a recipe online for a dip served in a pineapple. It gets better. Attached to the outside of said pineapple were chunks of cheese and olives, affixed with, you guessed it, toothpicks. How perfect was that?! Answer: very nearly. See, according to the rules of the Cookbook Challenge, my monthly recipe has to come from an honest to goodness, printed and bound cookbook.
No problemo. When it comes to dips, I knew my girl Betty would have me covered.
I would simply make the tangy pineapple dip shown above, and adapt the skewered fruit-as-hors-d’oeuvres-tray idea I’d seen online to match it. This meant, for the first time in my life, I would be working with whole pineapple. Yippee!
A few nifty facts about pineapple, for the trivia heads in the audience:
- Enzymes in raw pineapple juice are great at breaking down protein, so it makes an excellent marinade. On the other hand, those same enzymes can play havoc with gelatin-based desserts.
- What we tend to think of as the fruit of the pineapple is actually a collection of smaller fruit from multiple flowers all pressed together. How does this work? I have no idea. That first bit alone was enough to blow my mind! Further research only served to reduce it to an ooey gooey mess.
- It can take up to two years for a plant to flower, and then the fruit takes at least another six months to ripen after that. That’s a long time to wait! Guess I won’t be adding Pineapple to my patio garden any time soon.
- A pineapple does not ripen after it’s picked, so what you buy is what you get. Choose carefully! Look for yellow starting at the base to know it’s ready. (The yellower, the better.)
I know I ought to have prepared the dip first, so it would have time to sit in the fridge and develop flavor while it set up, but I didn’t. I was much too excited about tackling the pineapple!
All the instructions for cutting into pineapple that I found online said to cut the top and bottom off first, then use my knife to shave the skin off the sides. One problem with that strategy: I needed my pineapple to be mostly intact. I did, however, begin, as recommended, and lobbed off the top of that sucker.
I then used an ice cream scooper, with some help from a sharp knife (the core of a pineapple is tough!), to pull out the innards. I’m not gonna lie; it was something of a hatchet job. It didn’t matter, though, because I was going to hide all of that with an old sour cream container (I buy sour cream almost as much for the free plasticware as for the ingredient itself) and fill said container with that lovely dip. The online recipe suggested using a bowl, but the beauty of using a container with a snap-on lid is that it’s portable. After all, I had to get my lovely creation to that theme party!
Next, I made the dip. It was fairly straightforward, and went thusly:
I started with the cream cheese
Then came the yogurt and the honey.
Isn’t the honey beautiful against all that white? It makes me think of stained glass.
Next I added in the ginger and the can of crushed pineapple. I would have loved to use the gorgeous fresh pineapple innards I’d just scooped out, but the recipe called for canned, so canned it was.
I whizzed that all together and then put it in the fridge to sit. I then began cutting my fruit and cheese.
I decided to do the actual assembly of my dish on-site, as I couldn’t figure out how in the world to transport a pineapple that was prickly with cheese-and-fruit kabobs! So, with all of my ingredients prepped and ready to go, there was just one more thing to be done.
After all, what’s a theme party without a costume?(That’s me doing my best “Drunk Elizabeth Taylor”, in keeping with the tone of “Liz and Dick”. The photographer wasn’t satisfied with it, though, and instructed me to pose “nice”. lol)
I arrived at the soiree and almost immediately was handed a glass of bubbly. With my free hand, and with the hostess sneakily eating my ingredients in the name of “helping”, I assembled my tacky 70s dip-in-a-pineapple.
I think it fit in quite nicely with the deviled eggs, chocolate-dipped strawberries, and cucumber salmon…things. What do you think?
There is no moral to my post this month. I learned no great life lesson (although I did learn a lot about pineapple). This has simply been a straightforward account of me taking an easy, unassuming, yet delicious dish and gussying it up with over-the-top trappings that, while fun, it really didn’t need. If that doesn’t capture the spirit of the 70s as I remember it, I don’t know what does!
The biopic, by the way, Liz and Dick? Awful . Abysmal. And not even in that “so bad it’s funny” kind of way. It was just sad. Do not watch.
There. If you need a moral to this story, let that be it. Spare yourself that 90 minutes and use it to do, oh, anything else.
Until next month!