The story goes that one New Year’s Eve before I was born, my mother and brother were sitting around with nothing to do. My mom wanted to make the evening more memorable, but money was very tight. There wasn’t enough money for anything extra, so my mother looked in the refrigerator and found 2 or 3 wieners (she called them “weenies,” but most people call them hot dogs), some cheese, and some dill pickles. She also had toothpicks.
My mom had a great capacity to be creative, and my brother said at her memorial service that she could make a good meal out of practically anything. That night was no exception. What happened that New Year’s Eve became part of a family tradition that continues to live to this day. Literally, to this day since it is New Year’s Eve as I write this.
My mom sliced up the hot dogs, the cheese, and the dill pickles and alternated the slices on the toothpicks until the toothpicks were full. She then arranged her creations onto a plate and served them to my brother for their New Year’s Party. When my brother asked what they were, my mother quickly replied that they were Hors D’Ouevres.
Fast forward several years. Times were better. My father had regular and stable work. I had been born several years earlier and was old enough to be aware of what was going on. My mother sat down at the table with a piece of ham, a block of cheese, and some dill pickles. She sliced and diced and started alternating the ingredients on toothpicks. I asked if I could help, and after ensuring that my hands were washed, she let me help her make the Hors D’Ouevres. This became our tradition. We would spend over an hour, sitting at the kitchen table, chatting while we assembled the little deli kabobs until we completely filled a plate with three layers. The plate would be covered with plastic wrap and placed in the refrigerator until that evening when we would have our family New Year’s Eve party.
Often, the hors d’ouevres and chips and dip, along with Seven-Up mixed with whatever juice was on hand was the only food at our family party. Over the years, we tried a few new things like caviar and cream cheese on a Ritz cracker or nachos assembled in the oven, but “The Toothpicks,” as my mom called them, always had a starring role. The quality of the meats and cheeses used in our little toothpick treats changed from time to time, but they remained prominently displayed upon our New Year’s Eve table. I think I was 13 years old before I learned how to spell hors d’ouevres. Until then, I spelled it ordurves.
After I graduated from college and got my first job working at a large teaching hospital, I was invited to a holiday party. We were instructed to bring a plate of hors d’ouevres. It was with great confidence that I assembled a plate of toothpick kabobs and took them to the party. I didn’t realize that the circles I now socialized in were a far cry from my simple, hillbilly roots. Many people commented about how much time it must have taken me to assemble them. Some people ate them, and voiced approval. Others made snide comments. My feelings were hurt, but at least I wasn’t one of the three people who brought spinach dip in a bread bowl.
That was the last time my mother’s hors d’ouevres made a public appearance, until now. They have, however, continued to be part of my family’s New Year’s traditions. Each year, my children would wash their hands and gather around the table to help me slide alternating meat, cheese, pickles, and sometimes, olives, onto toothpicks until we have a large dinner plate filled with three layers. The plate is covered with plastic wrap and stored in the fridge until the appointed time. Each time we do this, I feel my mom sitting next to me, and remember all the talks we had while we assembled the hors d’ouevres. When my kids eat one before it makes it to the plate, I hear my mother’s voice as I good-naturedly tease them with the same words she always said to me: “We’re never going to fill up this plate if you don’t stop eating them!”
Baker’s Man and I like olives, so sometimes, we stick either olive slices or whole olives onto the tooth picks, too.
Have you ever made similar hors d’ouevres? If so, leave a comment and let us know what you did.
I hope everyone has a safe and happy new year. Thanks for stopping by.