Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Being Proper for a Change

The Proper Bostonian occasionally does proper Boston things, just to keep her hand in. Yesterday she met two old friends for a committee meeting over tea and cookies at the Chilton Club, a gracious, exclusive social club for Brahmin ladies on Commonwealth Avenue. It was founded more than a century ago and named to honor Mary Chilton, the first woman to march down the gangplank from the Mayflower. Men are legally allowed to join, but they know better.

You'll be relieved to know that I dressed like a grown-up. I was not covered in car hair, for a change. And I behaved. For example, I didn't bring any papers; papers are forbidden at the Chilton Club since they are indicative of doing business (crass!) rather than socializing. So I jotted a brief note or two on my iPhone (ringer turned off) while another friend pretended to consult her "journal."

Yes, we were technically having a "business" meeting so we should have been kicked out, or at least shushed and reprimanded, since I doubt they do any kicking at the Chilton Club. But, fortunately, we three were incapable of anything but chattering and enjoying ourselves for the first three-quarters of our time together. As usual, no one could have accused us of accomplishing anything. We squeezed some of that into our last 15 minutes or so.

Strong Earl Grey tea at the Chilton Club is served from a flowered china pot on its own little silver tray, by a nice woman in an old-fashioned uniform with a white apron. Another aproned staff member brought a bigger tray with a plate of cookies (three apiece), flowered cups and saucers, silver spoons, glass pitchers of milk and cream, a plate of lemon slices, packets of sugar, and little paper napkins — remember, Proper Bostonians may be elegant, but they can't help being practical and frugal, too. New Englanders, after all. I wouldn't have expected anything else.

We had the front parlor — apricot walls, American antiques, clusters of comfortable, flowery chairs and settees, and a broad view of the Mall — all to ourselves. That was a good thing, because my two otherwise-proper friends, including the one who is a member, tend to get rather sharp when they disagree, as they often do. I find them both smart, funny, and endearing. And then I try to change the subject. Also, certain four-letter words were said — not by me — that are not proper even in the alley behind the Chilton Club.

Aside from that, it was cozy, gracious, and pleasant all around. I wouldn't mind spending more time — especially teatime — in the luxurious, mostly bygone world of Brahmin Boston, although it is hardly my natural habitat. (But after more than 30 year of living in Back Bay, I seem to be adapting.)

We all loved the cookies. There was a plain shortbread, a nice meringue, and the most wonderful oatmeal raisin cookie I've ever had. It was crispy outside and soft inside, and I could taste butter... and coconut.

I would like to have that recipe. I would really like to have it; I need it, in fact. How can I get it? I think I may have to ask my housekeeper, Wendelina, to call the Club and speak to the kitchen. Would Wendy do that for me, do you think? She spends most of her time sulking under the bed or lolling on a chair giving me surly looks. (It's so hard to find decent help in this century, same as the last one.) But perhaps I can bribe her with a sardine.

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