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September 25, 2021

My Traveling Shoes

Taking my traveling shoes down from the top shelf of my closet, I was surprised to find almost two years of dust had collected on their shiny beaded tops. These shoes have walked me through airport, ship and train terminals for almost 10 years. Comfortable they are, those navy-blue shoes, much like a friend for as many years.

I was on my way to visit friends, the Lambings, who moved two years ago from Bonny Doon to South Carolina, a move I still can’t comprehend. Travel by train is my way of choice, however, with so many connections from here to there, I chose to take to the sky for this trip. And when I stepped out of the plane into the muggy heat of Greenville at midnight, I swore then and there, I would never move from Ben Lomond—never.

I had been traveling all day, first from San Jose to Texas and then on to South Carolina. The flights were uneventful except for one thing. The food we were served was unidentifiable. I had been asked which I would like: the protein meal or the vegetarian meal. I chose the protein which was turkey; the other, egg salad.

I wrestled with my ice-cold sandwich which was shrink-film wrapped and contained a slice of Swiss cheese and a brown slice of seemingly smoked something I have never seen before, stuck between a very thick roll that contained no butter, mustard or mayo. Lettuce? unthinkable.

On the tray were five small plastic containers, one of which held another unidentifiable something which had no smell nor taste; little round translucent pellets and three yellow raisins I believe, held together by a white thick substance. Six grapes and 12 blueberries were in another container, while another tried to mimic a pudding of some sort. Finally, a bland-tasting yogurt and a paper-wrapped health bar seemed to be the dessert of the day. How I longed for my jar of extra crunchy Skippy’s peanut butter at home in my pantry.

In the 1960s, Pan Am airlines served the same meals to all classes of their passengers.  However, in the 1970s, the quality of meals changed. Flight Attendants served steak or lobster to their first and business class passengers and coach passengers received ‘roast beef.’ Fish or chicken were options.

My hubby traveled Business Class and one of the perks of Qantas Airlines was access to the luxurious ‘Captain Cook Piano Lounge’ up a narrow flight of stairs at the top of the plane. This area held a bar, swivel chairs around small tables and a piano. Stewardesses (their title at the time) served cocktails, appetizers and delicious open-faced sandwiches, and should you wish, your meal could be eaten there as well. Passengers would play cards and interact among themselves, making for a wonderful flight experience.

Downstairs in first and business class prior to three-course dinner service, the stewardess would drape your tray with a starched white linen napkin and passengers were presented trays of appetizers which contained caviar on toast, smoked salmon, various smoked sausages, open-faced mini-sandwiches and, of course, glasses of fine champagnes, wines and beer. On some airlines, you could even request your favorite label of those libations. Nuts and dried fruit of all kinds were served in small crystal dishes. Salads and entrees were served on china and liquids were in glassware. Coffee, tea and hot chocolate came in cups and saucers. French pastries, as well as cakes, pies and mini cheesecakes, were offered. The latter, cheesecake, which I had not tasted before, became my favorite. After dinner came the European custom; cheese boards were served with large selections of the world’s finest cheese along with port wine or an aperitif of your choice. Finger bowls with warm water and a towel followed. Not hungry when dinner was being served, you could request your food at a later time. The only restriction after all of this, no cigars were allowed.

Passengers prior to the 1990s wore suits, ties, hats and heels. Today I looked across the aisle where a 20ish looking woman had both knees sticking through her styl’n $90 Levi’s and not once through the four-hour trip, even while eating, did she put down her iPad. 

I find myself living in a different world today, one where I constantly wish for the ‘good old days.’  Wasn’t it Thomas Wolfe who wrote “You can’t go home again?” Oh, if I could. If only I could.

Mini Cheesecakes

Preheat the oven 325 degrees. Mix 1 ½ cup of graham cracker or shortbread cookie crumbs with 3 Tbsp. of cooled melted butter. Divide among 18 muffin cups and press on to the bottoms.

Mix together until smooth:

  • 3 (8-oz.) packages of cream cheese softened
  • ¾ cup granular sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

Then add three medium eggs, one at a time, on low speed.

Pour mixture over cups and bake for 25 minutes or until almost set.

Prior to baking, I like to add a fourth of a teaspoon of strawberry syrup to the center of each muffin and swirl with a toothpick for a pretty and tasty garnish.


Colly Gruczelak, a Ben Lomond resident, loves people and loves to cook. Contact her at [email protected].

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