Before reality TV, people visited with each other in real life. My Grandma Kinney loved to entertain. Grandpa called Grandma's women's club her "kaffeeklatsch" That's Dutch for "coffee talk" or "coffee gossip." In Yiddish, it would be kibitzing. Or maybe Kaffeeklatsch was just Grampa's funny made-up Dutch-English. It was a standing joke that my Irish Gramps adopted Dutch lingo from Gram but never bothered to learn it correctly. At any rate, I loved it because Grandma would serve her delicious coffee cakes. There were also weird salads to be endured, but somehow even the horror of Tomato aspic brings to mind happy times.

Let's discuss a few memorable kaffeeklatsch recipes.

Appel Streusel Kuchen (Apple Coffee Cake)

Enter into the Irish-Hollander mix, my German husband who brought his mom's apple recipes. Both hers and my grandmother's cinnamon-apple coffee cake used good Michigan cooking and baking apples like tart Granny Smith, Rome, Macintosh, Jonathon, Jonamac, Ginger Gold, or Spy. Cakes were baked in a round Bundt pan or Jell-O ring and drizzled with powdered sugar icing to finish. Depression-era cooks used a creative baking pan workaround--recycled soup cans which gave teacakes a signature round slice appearance.

Boston brown bread

This is a recipe that may sound a bit odd but it's delicious comfort food. Two essential ingredients are molasses and raisins (you could also use Medjool dates with lower sugar in lighter diet-friendly recipes).

Besides being a more nutritious sweetener than sugar and better for weight loss, molasses tastes much richer. My father insists that blackstrap is better than sorghum molasses and it does have a stronger taste with hints of licorice. Other unusual features included buttermilk to substitute for milk and cornmeal added to regular flour. Boston brown bread is steamed not baked.

Ladies' Luncheon molded salad

If the Boston brown bread weirded you out wait till you try a molded salad. In the 1960s Jell-O didn't mean a sweet mix of fruit, gelatin, and marshmallows. It meant vegetables, eggs, diced meat and cheese mixed with unflavored Jell-O shaped in a mold. These were the "crown roast" of the ladies' luncheon menu. Gram's recipe blended lime gelatin, cottage cheese, grated carrots, hard-boiled eggs, celery and sometimes bacon bits.

Tomato aspic was a blood-red molded salad with veggies that jiggled and fell apart when you cut it in a thoroughly disgusting way.

Frosted sandwiches

It became an Olympic event to create the most outlandish appetizers for the kaffeeklatsch. Women would get hors d'oeuvre recipes from magazines and test drive them. A cringe-worthy one I recall was frosted sandwiches which taste even odder than they looked. These meat and cheese concoctions spared no expense of calories and featured 7-8 layers of white bread, Velveeta or Kraft Old English spread and pickle or olive loaf. The entire thing was "frosted" with Kraft Roka Blue or Pimento cream cheese dyed pink, green, purple, or blue (depending on holiday). Slices would be cut and then cut again into finger sandwiches.

Pity the poor little girl who thought they were strawberry frosted petite fours and tried one accidentally.

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