THE COUSCOUS WAS a disaster, the gravlax fair, the escarole soup delicious, and the Pavlova dessert impressive. The Gourmet Lunch Club has had its successes and failures with recipes, but its friendships and camaraderie have been enduring ingredients.
For more than 25 years, each September through May, the club women have been meeting at each other's homes to share recipes and a planned menu.
The hostess chooses the menu, and each member volunteers to make a dish. International, regional American and popular family dishes have been some of the choices. Menus have come from favorite cookbooks, gourmet magazines and library research. Meals have ranged from formal to casual, al fresco dining.
The hostess decorates the table in keeping with the theme, and on occasion members are invited to dress in costume.
Once in a while, the group deviates from its regular luncheon meeting. They have had cookie exchanges before Christmas, and conducted progressive dinners and invited their husbands.
One luncheon meeting was held at Baltimore Culinary Institute, where the group learned how the professionals do things.
Interested in all aspects of cooking, several times the Gourmet Lunch Club attended a hands-on hearth-cooking seminar conducted by Sue Latini, food historian and hearth-cooking instructor at the now-closed City Life Museums' 1840 House. Latini is a Ferndale resident and former club member.
"I enjoyed the gourmet club's visits to the 1840 House," Latini says. "They were very interested in the opportunity to compare early American methods of cooking to their modern methods. I found the members to be willing and capable hearth-cooking participants."
Members have also taken the opportunity to learn from one another. Napkin folding, vegetable carving and cleaning squid are some of the skills they have shared.
At meetings, they discuss recipe books and restaurant reviews, and share information on cooking equipment and supplies.
Former member Carol Wagner, a Ferndale resident, was the founder. In 1974, Wagner publicized the fledgling group to find members. Four women turned up for the first meeting, at the YWCA, located at the time in the heart of Glen Burnie on Baltimore & Annapolis Boulevard.
The YWCA sponsored the new group, and provided typing and duplication of recipes.
Member Hattie Boyer, who was employed by the YWCA at the time, became the liaison with the group. YWCA membership was required of club members at the time, but the club has not been associated with the Y since the early 1990s.
Membership once stood at 14, but the number proved unwieldy for some homes to accommodate. There is a set limit of 10 members -- and a waiting list. The club draws members from throughout the county, and has one member living on the Eastern Shore.
Men also are welcome to join; the club had one male as a member several years ago.
In December, the group celebrated its 25th anniversary with a luncheon at the Elkridge Furnace Inn. Many former members from Linthicum and Ferndale attended, including Libby Stewart and Latini. Joyce Stone, a former Linthicum resident living in Mount Airy, also was there.
Woman's club meeting
Terry Lehr will discuss the Adopt-a-Stream program, for which she is project manager, as well as streams around Linthicum and the airport, as guest speaker at the regular meeting of the Woman's Club of Linthicum Heights at 10: 30 a.m. Tuesday at the clubhouse, 110 N. Hammonds Ferry Road.
A weekend meeting to accommodate members and guests unable to attend the Tuesday session will be held at the clubhouse at 10: 30 a.m. Saturday, with different speakers and topics and a theme of Arts, Hearts and Flowers.
Wayne Shipley will discuss the progress and opening of Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts. Also appearing will be Jim and Judy Cifala, planning committee co-chairmen for the Linthicum event in the American Cancer Society Relay for Life fund-raiser on June 2 and 3; and Laura West, a former club president who will discuss the club's support to her sister during cancer treatment.
West also will demonstrate how to create a decoupage-designed glass plate that can be done at home. A light luncheon of soup and sandwiches will be served.
Information: Mary Foster, 410-850-4630.