Over the past week or so, I’ve had flashbacks of long-ago holiday dinners spent around the big table in the dining room of our family home on Galena Street. The faces that I see gathered around that table aren’t just those of my mom and dad, siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins. There are two other people seated there: Val and Paul Marcil.
We received word last week that Val had died in Arizona (having been preceded by Paul a few years earlier), where the Marcils moved when I was a teen. But during their many years of living in Worthington — the years of my growing up — Val and Paul were extended family. Their only son had left the nest and most often didn’t make it home for holidays, so they spent many an Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas at our home. And if it wasn’t a holiday, they might be at our home for a bridge game, coffee gathering or birthday party.
Even though it was before my time, Val and Paul also assumed the responsibility of delivering a very special gift from my parents to my older siblings early one Christmas morning. They arrived with a puppy that was appropriately named Jingle Belle.
As many longtime Daily Globe readers might remember, Val was an accomplished poet who penned regular rhymes that appeared in this newspaper’s editorial page. She also created verses that adorned my birthday party invitations for a year or two, and I have my suspicions that she was also the one who composed the lines on the 1963 Christmas card that announced my addition to the family. (The accompanying photograph featured me popping out of a box with a giant bow on my almost-bald head.) Alas, the card is buried in a plastic bin somewhere in the recesses of our attic, or I would share it with you here.
So Val Marcil has long been part of my life. I haven’t seen her in person for more than two decades, but we continued to exchange the occasional letter and Christmas card. She was always eager to hear tidbits of news about her extended Rickers family.
As I was doing some research for an upcoming story a few days ago, I paged through the “Worthington Album” compiled by former Daily Globe Editor Ray Crippen. The book magically flopped open to a long-ago photo of my mom, Dorthy, and her good friend Val, and the text noted that they were both regular contributors to the Daily Globe.
And so, in honor of both these wonderful women, I turned to the pages of mom’s “Mixing & Musing Cookbook” and found a menu they used to entertain, probably sometime in the early 1970s, judging by the party’s theme. I can picture them in our Galena Street kitchen, debating the menu. (The dessert, by the way, would be appropriately green for upcoming St. Patrick’s Day festivities.)
Mom wrote: Back in the days when the “Smile” motif was new, Val Marcil and Mrs. Mixer-Muser entertained at a SMILE bridge luncheon… We used Smile bridge tallies and scorepads, Smile posters and mainly, we really smiled when we finally decided upon this menu. (After trying and discarding five different dessert recipes.)
Baked Crab and Shrimp Dish
Combine 1 medium green pepper, chopped; 1 small onion, chopped; 1 cup chopped celery; one 6½-ounce can crab, flaked; one 7-ounce can shrimp (or fresh frozen shrimp, which is better); ½ teaspoon salt; 1/8 teaspoon pepper; 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce; 1 cup macaroni rings or shells, cooked; and 1 cup mayonnaise (NOT salad dressing). Top with butter crumbs.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serves 6 to 8
Frozen Mint Dream Dessert
Crush a 1-pound package Hyrox or Orea filled chocolate cookies. Combine crumbs with ½ cup melted butter. Put into two 9- by 13-inch cake pans. Chill.
Filling: Combine 1 large can evaporated milk, 1 cup sugar, ½ cup butter and 2 squares baking chocolate. Cook in heavy saucepan 10 to 15 minutes, until thick, stirring and watching closely (or use microwave). Let cool.
While filling is cooling, spread ½ gallon plus 1 pint mint chip ice cream, softened, over crumbs, dividing it between the two pans. Freeze again, then spread with the cooled filling. Freeze once more, then top with 2 cups cream, whipped, and chopped toasted almonds. Freeze. Let soften out of the freezer a while before serving.