There are, however, occasions where one simply must bring a prepared dish -- or three. I always offer to do this so that my husband has some known items he can consume, and my friends are very considerate in avoiding this things he can't have, like citrus, cow dairy, tomatoes, mint, and chocolate.
This special occasion was the Gatsby Summer Afternoon, put on by the Art Deco Society of California at the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate in Oakland every year on the second Sunday in September. This spectacular event fills a five-acre lawn with antique cars, fancy picnics, a dance floor with a live band, and, in its 31st year, over 1000 paying attendees, all dressed to the nines. We've been to about the last 20 of these marvelous occasions.
Our hostesses set up on the lawn across from the mansion.
With vintage Japanese china plates, carefully collected.
The "safe for James" table.
I brought (l-r) a Motor Loaf, a German Potato Salad, and a Depression Cake recipe I found on the Zest Bakery blog. Other contributions on the "safe for James" table included devilled eggs, fresh mixed berries, and some amazing fresh mochii from JapanTown in San Francisco.
The Motor Loaf is a delicious specialty of the charming San Francisco Tal-Y-Tara Tea & Polo Shoppe. Since Zest makes a wonderful whole grain loaf that's gluten- and dairy-free, I decided to attempt making a version that my husband could enjoy.
Carving up the loaf was a challenge. From the back side, you can see my version crumbled. My old Joy of Cooking had instructions for carving out a hollow loaf, but I found nothing on the interwebs, and muddled through. Next time I will simply slice off the entire top and the entire bottom, then hollow out the middle so that it can be cut into dainty sandwich slices, and reassemble the sides and bottom with toothpicks. As fragile it was, I did not dare remove it from the mid-century modern tray on which I transported it.
You can see the sides caving despite the toothpicks. Not Martha Stewart perfection here!
For the sandwich fillings, instead of cream cheese, I used plain goat cheese thinned with a bit of water -- a teaspoon of vermouth might be even better. One set had smoked salmon with dill and another set had good old tinned ham with chives. The sandwiches get wrapped in waxed paper and popped back into the loaf. The top keeps them naturally fresh all afternoon, as you motor about.
The Depression Cake turned out well for a first time venture.
I really should test everything beforehand but this looked so perfect for 1930s! And it was totally safe for my husband as written. The recipe mentioned pecans in the title but omitted them in the text, so I threw in a cupfull. It called for 2 cups of cold coffee, which seemed a bit much. The batter was more like a pudding than a cake. Next time I will try 1.5 cups, or be more cautious adding it. It took extra long to bake, and was more like an English pudding than a cake. But rich and tasty in a fruitcake way.
My friends ate everything happily.
And a good time was had by all, including James, relaxing at left in pinstripes and boater.