Charcuterie… the new cheese & crackers!

Whether Mom was feeling rushed, or it was getting near the end of “pay period”, she could count on one meal to solve her problems – Kraft slices and bologna, layered over a crusty white roll. Those pyramids of culinary delights stretched her budget and her timeline! All the family knew is that she’d planned the perfect Saturday night supper!

As a young bride on a limited budget, I “cheffed up” Mom’s basics by introducing European delicacies. Salami and mozzarella slices were artfully stacked over split Kaiser rolls, then finessed with sprinklings of briny green olives. A light charring under the broiler produced ooey, gooey cheese that would stretch from feast to lips. We’d lean in to slurp up every last wobbly string.

My company-worthy snacks could expand into a full meal by accessorizing with pickles and potato chips. However, there was a secret and practical side to my offerings. I found myself scheming how to clean out the fridge by layering collections of leftovers, then disguising them under a melted mountain of cheeses!

Whether “on the cheap”, or “on the go”, I became proficient at creating offerings that always seemed to call for seconds.

Not to be outdone, our church socials inspired me with their arrays of “open-face” sandwiches. The buffets seemed to extend from here to eternity. Platters offered varieties of stacked meats peeking through tomato and cheese toppings. Endless mixes, like tuna and celery or chicken and cucumber, contributed to what I considered to be “world-class gastronomies”.

Nowadays, simpler meals shared with friends seem to have lost out to Pinterest’s perfect presentations. “Quantity”, how often we gather, has lost out to “quality”. Some feel that in order to have company, they first have to measure up to, “the hostess with the mostest”.

I have great news for the intimidated! The hottest trend in entertaining now is the much-hailed, “Charcuterie Board”. Never in gastronomic history has a simple offering been more over-rated. What our mothers once referred to as, “cheese and crackers” now tops the trends!

Let’s face it. Any four-syllable French word to describe a meal comes across as daunting. “Char-coot-er-ee”, requiring a twirl of the tongue to pronounce, just drips of “classiness”. And when you have to Google the dish to find out what’s in it, that can’t help but add an air of mystery and sophistication.

It’s time for Company. You can do this!

How to serve a “charcuterie”
1. Draw from what you know already, what Mom did for Saturday night suppers. Then, adapt the elements and presentation by shamelessly stealing Pinterest photos and ideas.

2. Cut out the drudgery. Don’t make sandwiches like our moms did. Relax, because YOU don’t do the assembling. After laying out several selections, the order of the day is, “Everyone, help yourself…”

Lazy, and yet classy, at the same time. That’s genius!

2. Instead of using a plate, serve on a piece of wood. A charcuterie board (the hottest trend in gift-giving right now) can be substituted with any wood cutting board. Honestly, your serving dishes will do, but it’s nice to slip in a plank somewhere to make it “authentic”!

3. Just like Mom, you want some carbs (breads and crackers), meats (deli sliced), salty and savory (like nuts or chips), and briny (pickles and olives). Forget about making “salads. Lay out assorted veggies, guests will create for themselves. A combination of hard and soft cheeses, separated by clusters grapes, will offer a colorful finesse to “our “charcuterie feast”.

What easier combination than “no-cook”, “sit wherever you want”, followed up with “easy cleanup”? Afterwards, you’ve got the makings of perfect leftovers”!

Most importantly, what memories will remain long after your impressive array? It wouldn’t matter if your offerings had been any more than crackers and cheese. What counts will be the conversation, the care you showed, the love you extended as you shared your time, your food – that you gave of yourself.

…. Dedicated to Jack and Daisy Keys. Their Sunday evening hospitality looked almost the same every week. Whether it was a visiting guest or someone who needed a little encouragement, their offerings became legendary: toast and tea… with maybe a little something on the side.

Many were touched that their pastors, who’d held several services that day, took the time and effort to be with them. Young couples in ministry were given the chance to be “loved on” for who they were, not how they’d performed.

To this day I hear stories of how lives were changed with the Key’s simple encouragements. Thank you, Jack and Daisy, for putting friendship before finesse, and simplicity before culinary feasts. Your legacy lives on. Some, who would later persevere through hard times, were reminded of the value you’d placed on them.

Don’t know about you, but I just got hungry! Think I’ll call a friend to come over. (More charcuterie tips, and feel-good, food-good stories to come.)

My Table Talk blogs come from a passion to connect. The stories in “A Place at My Table” will inspire! Tap photo for your copy.

I’d love to hear from you. Did this bring back a memory? Add suggestions!

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