A version of this story can be found in the book: Exploding Hushpuppies More Stories from Home.
I’ve discovered you can tell a lot about a person by their reaction to a punchbowl. Like a deviled egg plate or a good dog, most Southern families own one, and most know how to sip from the tiny cups and not dip it back into the bowl and slosh out another serving like a hog drinking from its trough. Punchbowls usually spend most of the year on top of the extra refrigerator in the laundry room, but when we need them, they are ready for action.
Our parties are as varied as we are. We host shindigs, soirees, hoedowns and the occasional hootenanny — which often begins as an innocent Bunco game, but switches gears when Mara Mae wants to show everyone pictures of her ex’s new wife and someone realizes it’s their old sorority sister. Suddenly, your neighbor is standing on a chair pantomiming something that happened in Gulf Shores in 1986, and it all goes downhill from there. That’s a hootenanny, and no punchbowl is required.
We can have formal balls, elegant dinners beneath the oaks and even small-home baby showers with crepe paper streamers, but the level of frivolity of them all gets bumped-up a notch when you pull out your punch bowl. People go crazy over the diminuative cups and most appreciate that you’ve color coordinated the punch to match your décor. Of course, there’s no need to say it, because you already know, if it’s a wedding reception, you match the punch to the bridesmaid’s dresses — if this is news to you, let me take this opportunity to welcome you to the South.
I pulled out my old church cookbook, because I needed a recipe for those who may be, “weak for the drink” and the only version I found that looked good was actually submitted by a good friend, Mrs. Hayes, but it was for a crowd of 150. I didn’t feel like doing the math to scale it down to only 35, so I went to the next cookbook that was sure to have an appropriate clean-as-a-whistle recipe, “Baptist Dishes Worth Blessing” copyrighted 1978 by The New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Can’t go wrong with that. There are some punch and casserole queens in that book.
I selected an entry by Mrs. Melvin J. Poole (Linda), which was perfect. Lime punch would match my Christmas table, and I already had lime Jell-O on my Jell-O shelf, but then again, who doesn’t?
I froze a portion of the punch in a little ring, with bright red cherries dotting the top. If I needed a talent for a beauty pageant, I just might stand on stage and plop an ice mold into a big batch of punch. Ta-da! I’m that good at it.
We can have soirees that serve cold crisp water or hot hard hooch, but when you pull out the punch bowl, you add an air of dignity to the event. It’s like having your grandmother walk into the room. People stand up straighter, use their indoor voices and men remove their hats.
No wonder punch bowls are used for cotillion dances. It calms all the goofy 7th graders down and forces them to practice the most civilized opening line ever, “Would you care for some punch?”
This story first appeared on AL.com and in the Mobile Press-Register, Birmingham News and Huntsville Times.
Your punch and the punch bowl set are beautiful! Nothing more festive! You’re right, it does take a party up a notch. Every family had a punch bowl when I was growing up. Any women’s thing was sure to have one on the table, especially at showers. I think it was about my junior year in high school that they were replaced by CocaCola in the little green bottles and peanuts in a silver bowl with special spoon to scoop them into our hand and then into the bottles. It was the latest teen girls party thing. I hunted for ages for a cool glass punch bowl and cups when I first started using eBay and chose a mid-century modern one with a sleek shape, narrow at the bottom going straight up to wide at top, with ribbed glass. Used it for Oprah’s vanilla punch for Christmas parties for years. Passed it along to a d-i-law when we moved and downsized. I miss it. Don’t have anywhere to store it but do miss it.
How beautiful your parties sound. I’ve used the little coke bottles before and everyone has a fit over them. Whether it’s punch bowls or cokes, it’s the effort that makes guests feel special. Vanilla punch? I’ll need to look that up. Sounds delicious!
Leslie Anne, I have a vintage glass punch bowl that I have used for several years. Your silver one is lovely and perfect for Southern showers. My Mom made the best punch ever that involved sherbet, many sweet memories of parties and showers from long ago. It is common now at our baby and bridal showers to serve mock champagne. It is good, but just not the same.
I love the shimmer of a glass punchbowl, but my mother’s cracked in half at a party – while filled with punch, so now I’m afraid to use one. I can’t believe I didn’t put that in the story! another time. Thanks Pam.
Love the story and it brings back so many memories from growing up to now. I love your silver service bowl and cups, very elegant. I had a beautiful antique glass punch bowl for years. The last time I used it, not so long ago, I washed it, in lukewarm water as I always did and I heard a loud pop. It cracked right across the middle. I never used it again for fear of what happened to your mom. I miss that beautiful punch bowl! And, I sure remember the days of the little green bottles on a serving tray………..Happy New Year Leslie Anne.
I talked to my mom and she thinks the crack first occured while washing her bowl with warm water after it held chilled punch – just like you did. She bought my silver punch bowl for me in an antique store in Blue Ridge, Georgia. I just love it. It isn’t too big, just right.
That punch looks delicious and the cherries in the ring was genius. AND that cookbook. I can’t even find words for it. I have quite a collection and that one is missing!!!
I love a punch bowl and you are right it does indeed kick up the behavior a notch. I fear the replacement of ones with a spigot will never have the same party element. I fear when I am gone mine will be sent to Goodwill, but I am still here…
Oh, the spigot jars! I have a few and usually put lemon/citrus slices in there with water for casual parties, but it never pours out fast enough and everyone gets frustrated. The punch bowl is the common sense way to go. Thanks Sandy!
As a teenager, we were having a birthday party for someone in the neighborhood at my house. There were about 5 of us girls hosting the party, all between 13 and 15. The oldest decided she should be the one to pour punch out (in the yard) as we might drop the glass punch bowl. In the process of pouring the punch out, she tossed, dropped her mother’s punch bowl. Her younger sister and the rest of us just howled and have never let her forget that.
I don’t make punch often anymore, but I do bring out the silver punch bowl to chill champagne for brunches and bridal parties!!!
Oh, the horror! A smashed punch bowl will definitely make a memorable party. Champagne chilling is a noble use for the bowls. My mother keeps giant seashells in hers when not in use for liquids.
Born and bred in the deep south. Had my first cup of punch from a silver punch bowl at a very young age. Felt so grown up. Attended and gave many events where punch was served. I inherited a crystal bowl and use it at Christmas for eggnog. Love your stories about the traditions of the south.
Eggnog! Mmmm! I made eggnog punch a few Christmases ago. It was so good and everyone drank every single drop. Thanks for chiming in, and I raise my tiny little punch cup to you . . . cheers!
No proper Phi Mu rush party at the College of Charleston was complete without serving some form of pink punch in our beautiful punch bowl (donated by somebody’s mama). The pink had to match the pink carnations and the pink monogrammed towels in the loo. Your story just made me realize I loaned my punch bowl to the Sigma Alpha girls at Clemson (women in agriculture), and those sneaky girls hijacked it. Somebody probably packed it up with their things when they graduated with nary a thought that Mrs. Roxanne loaned it to them!
Go fetch it, girl!
I remember the sherbet punch for weddings, baby and wedding showers but the best punch that I recall (dimly) was the poor young couples get together punch. We were all young parents with no money and we would assemble at a neighbor’s house for a party. The children would be stacked like cord wood in one of the bedrooms because we couldn’t afford sitters. Then we’d build a large punch bowl filled with all of the “adult beverages” we had in our cupboards along with Kool-Aid or punch. One of the more ladylike mothers would bring an ice ring. Before the adult beverage punch was served, we’d toss in a can of fruit cocktail with juice. It was pretty awful but we did imbibe it in very small cups.
Ha! I don’t think that recipe would make the final cut of the Baptist dishes worth Blessing, but it sounds like good fellowship of one kind or the other! And may God bless the ice-ring bearer!
No one should ever guess where the Frozen Banana Punch recipe came from when the bananas are “mashed”-the South of course!
Loved the beautiful punch bowl sets and pretty punch and ice ring plus the vintage cookbook picture.
How true and clever of you to catch that! Mash those nanners!