Derby Divas

 

Before all of the great additions and renovations to Churchill Downs, back in the late 80’s early 90’s, groups could book a “Day at the Downs” the week before Derby in Millionaires Row. Tickets to the actual Derby were usually all sold out to corporate event planners, sponsors and those who had them left to them in a will,  or you paid a scalper a fortune for them. The Thoroughbroads were members of the Louisville Welcome Wagon chapter, so they attended that annual ” Day at the Downs” event. Millionaires Row was where the stars, celebrities, politicos, horse owners and trainers enjoyed the race day during the Oaks and Derby, so this was always a real treat. Attendance was huge and all were dressed in their finery.

The men wore spring suits, some even seersucker ones. They accessorized with bow ties, braces (suspenders), pastel shirts and straw hats. The women were in silk floral dresses or monochromatic fitted suits. Classic jewelry, tasteful shoes that you could stand in all day and of course a hat added to the attire. The hats were the show stopper though, few came without one and some felt go big or go home was the rule of the day.

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Most of the Thoroughbroads had corporate guests to entertain, but Robyn and Scarlett shared a table every year with another couple from Texas. The tickets included a mint julep in a collector Derby glass, a race magazine full of well designed ads that showcased the best Louisville and Kentucky had to offer along with stories on many of the thoroughbred farms and their winning horses and winning prospects for sale. A delicious lunch buffet of traditional Kentucky favorites and access to betting windows in the room with you along with other conveniences made the day effortless.

The horses were beautiful along with those betting on them. Many times, Robyn , Scarlett, their husbands and the Texas couple, Pat & Tony, would pool their bets on a long-shot. Sometimes they would even bet on the first horse coming back over the finish line after the race. They would scream and holler out on the balcony and confuse everyone watching since the race had already been won. It was amazing how many of those on confused lookers would join in randomly picking a horse’s number out of the straw hat and putting in their two dollar bet to join in on the creative fun. Those pots usually paid better and you didn’t have to know anything about the horses. With enough mint juleps you will bet on anything.

This day however, Tony from Texas and Scarlett decided to pool their money on a grey long-shot to Win Place Or Show by paying $2 on each spot across the board, which would mean $6 per bettor. It is supposed to always be good luck to bet on a grey and this one was wearing pink silks along with the jockey, so Scarlett was convinced this one was a winner. Sure enough, as the gates opened that horse took off…and off and off…not a great sign, for he would lose his stamina if he gave it all he had that early in the race. Well, he kept going and the lead kept growing and as he rounded the last turn, Tony from Texas kept saying” Scarlett, Scarlett, Scarlett!” but Scarlett could hear nothing over her loud screeching and jumping up and down in those tasteful high heels. They had already figured out that if their horse won they would win $1500.00 each. Not bad for a $6.00 bet. As this lovely grey animal, all dressed in pink, got closer and closer to the finish pole Scarlett screamed louder and Tony from Texas kept saying ‘Scarlett!” but alas, tragedy would strike. The horse just fell over on the track, the jockey was not hurt but the horse did not get up, in fact it didn’t even move. All were confused as other horses passed by and another won that race. Track personnel, trainer and owner along with an ambulance came to the scene and a big white cloth barrier was put up around the horse and people…it was grim. All fell silent in the stands and on the balconies. The jockey could be seen pacing back and forth with crop in hand and very distraught. The ambulance drove off, the barrier was removed and the people walked away head bent.

One minute things can be going your way and another not so much. It was not the loss of the race, it was the loss of the animal, which was a loss of a dream. Scarlett and Tony from Texas turned and hugged each other tightly and for a longer than usual length of time that day. As life would have it, over the years long hugs would be doled out among these 6 friends. They would be given for the loss of a job, the loss of one’s health, loss of a parent, a couple moving to another state and the loss of a husband. Long hugs from good friends get you through difficult times. Strong friendships are something to be cherished.

Only 3 of the “broads” still live in Kentucky, but I bet all of us on Derby day sip on a mint julep or two and remember our “Days at the Downs”…memories that will last our lifetimes.

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Derby Week Fare Recipes You Can Enjoy Serving Guests

Benedictine Dip or Spread

Remove seeds from 1 cucumber, grate and drain well by pressing all of the liquid from the cucumber. Add the liquid only to an 8 oz. pkg. of softened cream cheese. Stir in 1 tsp. of lemon juice and a small finely grated onion to taste. Add just enough quality Mayonnaise (we like Duke’s) to help it spread easily. Then color with one drop of green food coloring and chill before using. This is a Kentucky favorite!

Crab Muffins

1 6 oz. can of quality crab meat

1 jar of Kraft Old English Cheese

2 sticks of softened butter

A dash of garlic salt & a dash of Worcestershire Sauce

1 Tbsp. of Vermouth or Sherry

1 can of chopped water chestnuts

1 pkg. of Thomas English Muffins

Mix all ingredients together and spread on opened English Muffins and place them on a cookie sheet interior side up. Bake 20 minutes at 350 until muffins are crisp. Pull them out and cut them into eights and serve. DO NOT MICROWAVE! They do freeze well for later use too.

 

Seafood Salad

 

 

The Cookie Exchange

One of our alternate “Thoroughbroads” started a tradition during the holiday season we all looked forward to each year…a cookie exchange. Yes, you have heard of them, but Diane’s were exceptional every year. Each guest baked 13 dozen cookies, 12 to share with others invited to the exchange and one dozen to munch on at the party and take home if not eaten. We all went home with a covered laundry basket full of freshly baked cookies to enjoy over the holidays or share with friends, so none of us missed coming!

We arrived at Diane’s home in either an ugly sweater or a casual outfit adorned with that holiday jewelry or accessory you can only wear a week or so in December. A few wore handmade items their kids had made in school, others wore stylish necklaces (remember this was the late 80’s, so big and boldly bedazzled was in), and some showed off their holiday socks given to them the year before by some older relative. Each of us was greeted by our hostess with a champagne flute full of an Asti cranberry punch and to make sure we had a lively time that punch bowl was kept full. Nothing better to put you in a festive mood, we all agreed.

Diane’s dining table was set with foods of all kinds. Our hostess, being from the South, made sure you were not going to leave hungry and we were encouraged to eat more than one plate. A beautifully baked spiral cut ham was the centerpiece every year and served with homemade biscuits and Durkee’s dressing. A hashbrown casserole or cheese grits were a staple along with corn pudding and the infamous green bean casserole. Traditional comfort foods seem to always be wanted at that time of year, so now was the time to splurge. You behave yourself all year until Thanksgiving and Christmas come, then those of us from the southern states expect the old traditional favorites. The cookies we all made were served as our dessert, but our favorite goodie was our gift of Diane’s famous chocolate covered cherries…two huge ones to a red box tied up with a beautiful white ribbon. They were divine and she would not share the recipe. She had learned how to make them one year and sold them to her husband’s company for their client gifts one Christmas. She told me privately that she had made enough money to buy her own brand new Volvo that year! She knew she had a hit on her hands and I don’t blame her in the least for not sharing the recipe with us…after all, a gal has got to do what a gal has got to  do in order to drive a brand new Volvo, right?

Years have passed since those fun times and many of us have moved away from each other, but some of us have stayed in touch. And every Christmas I still get a red box tied with white ribbon and two chocolate huge covered cherries from my gal pal of over 28 years. I smile as a slowly savor each bite and value our friendship.

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I plan on making these tea cookies I saw for next Christmas…but for this year I will share my mother’s Frieda’s Dish Pan Cookie Recipe she acquired from her elderly neighbor, Madge, in the North Carolina mountains in the late 80’s…you will need a dish pan to make this much cookie dough, but it makes DOZENS to give and they are delicious and easy!

Preheat oven to 325

4 cups all purpose flour

2 cups sugar

2 cups brown sugar

1 tsp salt

2 tsp baking soda

2 cups cooking oil

4 eggs

2 tsp vanilla

Mix all of this together now add and mix well 1 1/2 cups quick oats and

2 cups of corn flakes

Drop only 1 tsp of dough on a cookie sheet until you have filled it up with dollops about 1 1/2 inches apart..they spread while baking. Bake at 325 for only 8-10 minutes until lightly brown, then remove with metal spatula and let cool on a piece of wax paper. Continue until you have used all of the dough…you will be surprised how many it makes, and how quickly they get eaten.

 

 

Beaches, Breezes & Booze

Robyn was our world traveler. Not only had she lived in a multitude of towns in the mid west, but she and her husband planned vacations that we all envied. Many of us plan these trips in our head, but not all of us actually travel out of the country often. His work had made it necessary for them to not live long in one place, so I guess it was second nature for her to be an adventurer.

They loved all inclusive island resorts with beautiful beaches, great foreign foods, unique people and an opportunity to relax in the sun, read a book or explore nature. We loved her stories over a great lunch at her home. Many of the lunches she hosted reflected the foods she had enjoyed on one of her island trips. This day would be no exception.

Having come back with a smile and a tan, she met us at the door with The Pusser’s Painkiller. A delicious concoction we enjoyed way too many of. It tasted so yummy you just kept pouring another glass, (the recipe follows).

Well, over a number of grown up cocktails, it becomes truth serum and our wild escapades we did share. She started by telling us about a toga party at the pool, then we all got into the first boyfriends, first kisses and best kisser, first honeymoons or in some cases – second or third, most memorable sexual encounter… you get the picture.

I remember very little, except what I shared due to the alcohol. But, I do remember us laughing ourselves silly and being full of embarrassing questions directed at the storyteller of the moment. Tears of laughter make you remember those special moments spent with your gal pals, no matter what your age, you revert right back to a young girl in high school at a spend the night party and just beginning to become a free spirit.

Free spirits we would all remain, for we were girls of the late 60’s who would become the “Thoroughbroads.”

 

A special note added from Robyn…As I said before, I moved about 3 hours from Louisville outside of Ashland. I was in Flatwoods. Home to none other than Billy Ray Cyrus. After I was settled in my new home, I suggested the ladies take a road trip and visit me. I invited them to come in April because I knew the hills would be covered with dogwoods in bloom making for a beautiful drive.

Steve and I were just back from Mosquito Island in the British Virgin Islands. I decided on a Caribbean theme for lunch. When the ladies arrived, we started with Pusser’s Painkillers. A little background on this. Pusser’s is the brand of rum used in this drink. Pusser is a corruption of the word purser. In the British Royal Navy, it is the purser who is responsible for handing out the daily ration of rum. This became mine and Steve’s official beginning of Summer drink. We always fixed it on Memorial Day weekend.

After lunch, I took the ladies across the river to West Virginia ( where I grew up ) for a little shopping. We went to Pilgrim Glass. They got to see glass being hand blown and purchase some lovely pieces. I hope they know how much more valuable those pieces are because sadly Pilgrim is no longer in business. They closed because no young people wanted to learn this skill. As we were leaving, I pointed to the mountain top above us. I told them that’s where the airport is located. Since there is not enough flat land, they chop off the top of the mountains to make flat spaces for airports. No kidding

I was only with this wonderful group of ladies one more time. It was a bridal shower for Scarlett. She had found a great guy and was getting married again. As I sat and listened to various conversations, I felt like a visitor. I was no longer a part of this group.  Time to let go and move on. It was a great run while it lasted.

“The Pusser’s Painkiller”        Without ice, blend shake or stir:

1 oz. cream of coconut              1 oz orange juice

4 oz pineapple juice                   2 oz Pusser’s Rum

Pour into a BIG glass filled with crushed ice and grate fresh nutmeg on top.

AND MAKE PLENTY!

 

Recipes:

Caribbean Chicken & Veggie Kabobs

(serve with your favorite corn bread)

8 large garlic cloves minced

2 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground turmeric

2 tsp dried mustard

2 tsp ground cloves

2 tsp chili powder

1 tsp aniseed

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1 inch pieces

1 ½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into 1 inch pieces

4 red onion cut into 1 inch pieces

6 yellow squash cut into ½ thick slices

4 zucchini squash cut into ½ inch slices

1 ½ cups olive oil

1/3 cup fresh lime juice

12 bamboo skewers soaked in water 30 minutes

Combine all dry ingredients in small bowl. Place chicken parts in a glass baking dish along with veggies and sprinkle with half of the spice mixture. Add half of the olive oil and half of the fresh lime juice and marinate covered in refrigerator 6-8 hours.

Alternate on skewers the chicken and the veggies.

Prepare the grill for medium heat and season the kebobs with salt and pepper and grill until cooked through to the bone turning them a few times for a lovely char on both sides. Transfer to a platter. Serves 12.

 

Black Bean & Rice Salad

2 14 ½ oz cans of chicken broth

½ cup water

1 lb package of long grain rice

2 bay leaves

2 15 oz cans black beans drained and rinsed

2 red bell peppers diced

1 green pepper diced

1 medium red onion diced

1 medium bunch of cilantro chopped

½ cup olive oil

3 Tbsp orange juice

2 Tbsp red wine vinegar

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

Lettuce leaves to hold salad

Bring chicken broth and water and add rice and bay leaves to a boil. Reduce heat and cover to cook until liquid is absorbed (20 min)

Transfer rice to a large bowl and fluff with a fork. Mix in black beans, bell and red peppers, red onion, chopped cilantro, oil, orange juice, vinegar, cumin and chili powder. Season to taste with salt and pepper. (can be made ahead and refrigerated covered) Mound salad on individual lettuce leaves and garnish with some fresh cilantro. Serves 12

 

This meal can be served with Fried Plantains. We enjoyed the recipe in this added picture…Truffled Banana Fritters

 

 

 

The Kentucky “Thorough-Broads”

Six women from cities (other than Louisville, Kentucky) meet in “the ‘ville” in the late 80’s and early 90’s. They become fast friends and enjoy a once a month Friday luncheon where they don’t solve the world and each other’s problems, but listen and give advice over a wonderful meal by their hostess. Thus, the “Thorough-Broads” prove that being an East end housewife has it’s challenges, but friendship support and good food can make memories that last a lifetime.