Wherever you dine these days, whether it's a dinner with friends, or meal at your favorite hangout or restaurant, you usually start with an appetizer. What the more highfalutin among us call hors d'oeuvre. Back on the block, since we didn't know any better, we would pronounce the thing phonetically, and it would come out as "whores ovaries." No one said we we gourmets.
When we think of appetizers, we think of "finger foods" normally served before the meal. And they can be very simple or complex depending upon the occasion. Appetizers trace their lineage back to Ancient Rome where the upper class, called "patricians," dined on eggs, fruits and other tidbits before the main course. Americans did not get into appetizers on a big scale until the 1950s. In a way, this can be traced back to James Beard's first cookbook, Hors d'oeuvre and Canapes, published in 1940, and which started the whole trend. Before then canapes and their ilk were the province of high class gentlemen who would dine on such with a glass of sherry before going into the dining room.
In this country, appetizers came into their own with the advent of the cocktail party. If you ever watched the TV series, Mad Men, all you'll see is guys in suits with skinny ties, and gals with bouffant hair does munching on appetizers and snacks while drinking scotch and martinis. And the appetizer that exemplifies this is none other than my favorite, the clam dip appetizer. Easy to make and easy to serve. This recipe, the one given below, first appeared on a broadcast for the Kraft Music Hall of Fame in the 1950s. It is said that within 24 hours after the broadcast, New York City stores had sold out all their canned clams.
CLAM DIP APPETIZER
1 (8-ounce) can minced clams
1 garlic clove, peeled and cut
1 (8-ounce) Philadelphia brand package cream cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
Ground pepper to taste
1. Drain clams, reserving 1/4 cup of liquid.
2. Rub a mixing bowl with garlic.
3. In the bowl, combine clams, clam liquid, cream cheese, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper. Mix well until blended.
4. Chill until ready to use. Serve with crackers or potato chips.
Yield: 4 servings or more.
Photo: courtesy of tastykitchen.com
Labels: Ancient Rome, Black pepper, Clam dip, Cook, Dips, Hors d'oeuvre, James Beard, New York City